"Reviews are In!" A Dance Performance Critical Essay

Arts & Other Standards Addressed:
RI Arts GSE's Dance Enduring Understanding 4 Aesthetic Judgment-Knowledge of dance as an art form is used to reflect on and evaluate the work of self and others.

High School Assessment Target: Students interpret, analyze, and evaluate choreography and performance of others. D 4 (9-12) Ext-1 Students demonstrate understanding of dance forms and styles, techniques and elements, and choreographic processes and principles by providing insightful comments about the nature of a particular dance and its meaning and selecting specific moments within the performance that support these assertions. D 4 Ext-2b ...by critically analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating observed or performed dance (using dance terminology).

RI Arts GSEs Dance Enduring Understanding 2 (focus for citation of this GSE is on "analysis" rather than student performance) Cultural Contexts – Purpose and Motivation (intent) are fundamental to dance and can be expressed through traditional, western, and non-western forms and styles.

High School Assessment Target: Students analyze and perform a range of forms and styles of dance (e.g., performing a minimum of two different dance forms or styles with moderate stylistic fluency).

D2 (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.

Written and Oral Communication Habit of Writing: Writing Extensively (LOCAL ONLY) End of Grades 10 & 12 (W-10 & 12-11.1 & 11.2): Student demonstrates the habit of writing extensively by writing with frequency, including in-school, out-of-school, and during the summer; by sharing thoughts, observations or impressions.

RI GSE's for Civics & Government and Historical Perspectives/R.I. History C&G 5 (9-12) - 1 Students demonstrate an understanding of the many ways Earth's people are interconnected by identifying the ways the world is organized...socially, culturally...."

HP 2 (9-12)-3b Students connect the past with the present by documenting various groups and their traditions that have remained constant over time.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing: CCR Text Types and Purposes 2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content. (CCSS/Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, p. 41)


This classic essay structure allows students to try on the role of reviewer for a dance performance.  By identifying meaning and a range of artistic techniques in the performance, the critic also comments on what the choreography, staging, and execution of the dance reveal about historical or contemporary social context for the performance, or the specific ethnic traditions which originate the dance.

Methods / Materials: 

Prompt for 5-7 Paragraph Essay: Identify and explain the values and beliefs of a culture, or the values and beliefs of an historical period or ethnic tradition...as expressed in the artistic elements of an Arts Passport dance performance.

Sample Essay Content:

  1. Identify the performance/place, dance company, title of work and choreographer. Identify the predominant artistic, cultural or ethnic tradition from which the performance originates. OR identify how the dance reflects the culture or history of the era in which it was created.
  2. Explain how these values and beliefs are conveyed by the dancers’ techniques such as movement and execution of choreography (use of body parts, shapes, levels, directions, structural elements of “beginning, middle, end”).
  3. Identify and explain the cultural information conveyed by the dance’s rhythms and tempos and the strength, balance, and coordination of the dancers.
  4. Comment on the dancers and their interactions with music and stage set as well as their interactions with each other and the audience.
  5. Discuss the cultural information conveyed by the dance’s costuming, staging, and music.
  6. Using appropriate dance (and arts) vocabulary, explain which elements of the performance represent the successes or challenges of this production.
  7. Conclude with an assessment of the performance’s richest example of cultural/historical value or belief as conveyed by the dance and dancers, and the significance of that moment to the audience.
Time to Complete: 

"Reviews are In!" requires approximately 12 hours divided among attending the performance, drafting the essay, editing-revision and final/published draft.

Task Type:

Depth of Knowledge: