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Teacher: Diane Adame who teaches at St Patrick School in Rodeo, CA. Diane Adame can be contacted at

Name of Best Practice: Dance Through the Ages

Rationale/Purpose of Event: Primarily to integrate the eight grade curriculum during the study of the Revolutionary War through dance. This also became a dance history/etiquette unit.

Suggested Grade Level: 6-8

Materials Needed: Music for: The Minuet, The Virginia Reel, The Waltz, The Fox Trot, Swing Dance, Cha Cha, 50's and 60's music for the Twist, Swim, The Bird, and the Cha Cha Slide

Dance Through the Ages

The New World had a wonderful mix of different cultures and classes of people prior to the Revolutionary War. Dance was a common bond between the cultures and although there were many different steps and styles of dance there were several that were very common. The Minuet was the most recognizable.

While obtaining as much information about the Minuet as I could find, I discovered that after the War when people migrated West and cultures and classes of people mixed, they soon forgot many of the dance steps so they had to "call" them so people knew what to do. The Virginia Reel was a good example of that. After doing this research I decided to teach many dances such as The Waltz, Charleston, Swing, Fox Trot, 50's and 60's dances all the way to the current Cha Cha Slide as a Dance Through History Unit in my PE classes.

As part of the three week unit, the students went onto the Internet for facts and studied the social aspect, formalities and etiquette of the dance. I see my students every day for 30 minutes and I worked it out with the classroom teacher who agreed to take the students to the lab during her time to do the assignments - mainly which was to find out the history of dance. I provided the classroom teacher with two Web sites to visit:

In addition, I gave the classroom teacher a few questions for each student to answer (due to the limited amount of time spent in the computer lab I didn't want to make this too difficult or long so I only provided a few short questions):

1. What does the term minuet mean?
2. Where is thought to have originated?
3. Who danced the minuet?
4. How did folk dancing evolve?
5. Why did they begin "calling" the movements?

In my PE classes, I gave out handouts with etiquette information on introductions, how to pass and serve food, pulling a chair out for a lady, giving up a seat for a lady (or the elderly), and how to set a place setting. We had discussion of this during class and practiced these as well. Also, students were taught how to set a table, seat someone and serve food for formal and informal occasions. They were also taught how to introduce someone to people of importance, friends, older people and their friends.

At the end of the unit we had a final exam. The "final" asked students to draw a picture of a place setting and questions about the information on the handout. This was graded and not done on the same day as the dance.

In addition to a written final written exam there was a more formal demonstration part to the final. We had the students attend a pot luck dinner with parents and they performed some of the dances. Students provided the food. The Minuet was danced with the air of a Pre Revolutionary Ball with gentleman and ladies present. I invited fellow teachers and family members to mingle with students during the final for introductions and social small talk. Students were allowed to "Dress up" for this occasion to add to the formality of the final. We danced our way through the years.

Additional information:

Due to the length of time it took to serve food and dance I was able to extend the class time by including it with lunch. I have done it in the past with a lot of parental help setting it up just during our PE time. However we only did the minuet, Virginia Reel and waltz. We had only dessert and juice to serve.

During this extended time students set their own place setting then I selected boy names from a hat and girls names from at hat. The boy then had to ask and escort her to the room, seat her at the table and get her something to drink. We then brought food out to serve. There was a buffet type dessert table so they could learn how to handle themselves in formal sitting situations and more casual situations. When the music began each boy escorted the girl to the dance area and began dancing.

Students were assessed on keeping time with the music, using a variety of steps in the waltz, and knowing what dance to do with what music by just hearing it and listening to the beat. Students dressed up in "Sunday" dress. Boys had to wear a tie and slacks, girls in a skirt or dress. Faculty were available to be introduced to or the parents who helped set up.

This could be done as an afternoon or evening event. Every year I do this I get such great feed back that I keep doing more and more. They are so proud that they can waltz now that they play a waltz at their award ceremony and each student asks one of their parents to dance.

While doing the Minuet they (on their own) took on the air of elegance and grace that is shown in movies. I was amazed. Next I'd actually like to find a movie that has some dance scenes in it.

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Posted on PEC: 10/9/2001 and has received 117 votes.

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