African Traditions-inspired Performance and Movement Task

Dance Enduring Understanding 2: Cultural Contexts-Purpose and motivation (intent) are fundamental to dance and can be expressed through traditional, non-traditional, western, and non-western forms and styles.

GSE: Dance GSE: D 2 (9-12)-1b Students view, interpret, and perform a range of forms and styles of dance by…”analyzing how dances from different cultures or historical periods reflect the values and beliefs of that context.”

Because Literacy in the Arts depends upon development and demonstration of understandings and capacities similar to the Common Core State Standards for Reading, the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard for Reading is cited below. The field trip dance performance may be experienced as a "text" to be "read," with meaning to be identified or derived. The meaning derived from the performance may be used above as inspiration for new work by students in the arts. Domain specific depth of knowledge in the field of dance such as dance vocabulary and an understanding of traditional dance compared to other forms will be helpful.

CCSS: CCR Anchor Standards for Reading: Key Ideas and Details 2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas. (Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, p. 35; 2010).



Ritual dances of African origin arrived during two hundred years of slave trade to the Americas, from the 17th through the late 19th centuries. Dances from this tradition reference many aspects of African spiritual heritage and ceremony.

The following task was created for an exhibit and performance series at the URI Feinstein Providence Campus-Urban Arts Program "African Spirirtuality in Cuban Art & Culture," which included dance, drumming, music, and spoken word.

The design of the task under "Methods and Materials" may be applied to other field trip performances in this arts/cultural tradition.

Methods / Materials: 

During the dance performance, students may make note of movement that reveals the energy of the dance: fast, slow, sharp, smooth, tense or relaxed. Students may consider whether the energy of the movements might represent an invitation to the spirits to come; might reflect joyous celebration; demonstrate the power of the spirits and communication with the ancestors; or represent competition between dancers who represent the power of magical traditions. Student audience may make note of specific physcial movement where the energy reflects spiritual power and strength.

For an arts proficiency project related to this tradition of dance, follow all or selected elements from the process below:

  1. Create three 8 count phrases that reference the shifts in energy and the movements you observed in a traditional dance performance.
  2. Use your observations to communicate, through movement, an idea important to you regarding invocation, the power of joy and celebration, and/or communication with people you love and respect.
  3. Compose a written introduction for your study that explains how the dance performance you observed reflects cultural values and spirituality rooted in specific cultural or community traditions and how the movements you chose for your phrases reflect the corresponding beliefs, suggested above, from your own experience.
  4. Present your introduction and perform this movement sequence or direct dancers in the performance of the sequence.
  5. Choose an audio-visual format to document this work.
Time to Complete: 

Approximate completion time is 15 hours distributed across the elements of the task, as needed.

Task Type:

Depth of Knowledge: