Participants will be able to apply varied dance experiences that show how the elements of dance–body, energy, space, time–are used to express original ideas.

Dance in the Classroom

What You Will Find In Dance


Scroll or click through the cards below to navigate content in this section

Why Dance?

Support physical development and a healthy lifestyle.


Promote social-emotional health and maturity.


Integrate kinesthetic learning with conceptual understanding.


Provide children with multiple perspectives.


Nurture cognitive development and academic engagement.


Help children develop literacy.


Encourage social interaction and cooperation.


Foster critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills.


Click here to download the dance poster and resources for using it as a word wall.



"Before a child talks, they sing. Before they write, they draw. As soon as they stand, they dance. Art is fundamental to human expression." - Phylicia Rashad


dance classroom




Elements of Dance

The BODY moves through SPACE with varying TIME and ENERGY 

Click here to return to the dance menu.








The basic elements and skills of dance include understanding the interactions of the elements of the body, motion, energy, space, and time along with skills in movement composition and improvisation. 


BODY is the art of dance that takes place in and through the human body. MOTION is the movement included in the act of dancing. SPACE is the personal, general, and performance area used by the dancer. TIME is the duration that describes when a body moves or holds still. ENERGY is the quality that describes how the dancer moves.



Dance is B.E.S.T.


Learn the elements of dance!






BODY PARTS: upper body, lower body, whole body, head, shoulder, back, tail, arm, leg, foot, hand, torso, hip, elbow, neck, wrist, knee, spine, ankle, right side, left side, waist, ear, heel, toe, nose, chin 






LOCOMOTOR (MOVES THROUGH SPACE): walk, run, leap, jump, hop, gallop, prance, skip, slide, roll, crawl, skitter, scoot, cartwheel, somersault 

AXIAL (STAYS IN ONE PLACE): stretch, bend, shake, sink, push, pull, poke, bounce, twist, slash, kick, jab, freeze, spin, turn, carve, spoke, collapse, swing, sway, clap, squeeze, swipe, slice






DEGREES OF ENERGY (FORCE): strong, weak, heavy, light, bound, free, active, passive 


ENERGY QUALITIES: smooth, sustained, loose, collapse, weightless, suspend, shudder, vibrate, sharp, percussive, explode, swing 


CONTRASTING ENERGIES: prickly, airy, lazy, timid, tired, proud, angry, sluggish, excited, droopy, floppy, rough, jagged 






SHAPE: straight, bent, angular, crooked, twisted, curved, symmetrical, asymmetrical


LEVEL: high, low, middle 


SIZE: huge, tiny, narrow, wide 


PATHWAYS: straight, curved, zigzag 


FOCUS: direct, indirect 


DIRECTION & RELATIONSHIP: up, down, side, forward, backward, diagonal, toward, away, out, in, around, over, under, through, above, below, beside, in front, behind 






METRIC RHYTHM: beat, no beat, meter, accent, tempo (fast speed, medium speed, slow speed), note value, rhythm, syncopation, acceleration, deceleration, 3/4 time, 4/4 time, 6/8 time


RHAPSODIC RHYTHM: non-metric, breath rhythm, wind, water


DANCE CAN BE PERFORMED: to the beat, in silence, with music playing, with musical instruments, with singing or speaking 



The Brain Dance

from Brain Compatible Dance Education by Anne Green Gilbert


Click here to return to the dance menu.


  • 1. Breath

    Nourish and relax


    Deep breathing is essential for a fully functioning brain and body. The brain consumes one-fifth of the body’s oxygen. All movements and rhythms are based on breath.  

  • 2. Tactile

    Squeeze, tap, pat, scratch, and brush all body parts 


    A variety of touch leads to bonding, sensory integration, proprioception (knowing where the body is in space), and appropriate behavior. ​​​​​​

  • 3. Core—Distal

    Stretch arms, legs, and fingers to open wide then curl up small 


    Actively reaching out with distal ends (fingers, toes, head and tail) connects us to the world beyond ourselves (interpersonal intelligence) and creates full-body extension. Curling back to the core (pelvis and trunk) returns us to our own self (intrapersonal intelligence), creating an awareness of core support for correct alignment and a sense of aliveness.  

  • 4. Head—Tail

    Move head and tail front-to-back and side-to-side separately, then together


    Awareness of the interactive relationship between the head and tail (pelvis) leads to a full use of both ends of our spine, propelling us through space with ease, both on- and off- balance. Releasing tension from the head to the tail enables our central nervous system to fully function. This pattern also strengthens the back, neck, and shoulder muscles used in sitting and writing and when focusing on a book, screen or blackboard. 

  • 5. Upper—Lower

    Move and twist the upper body, then the lower body   


    Grounding the lower half by yielding the weight of the body into the earth allows the upper half to reach into space and relate with people. Grounding the upper half by focusing attention on the movement of breath in and out of the lungs allows the lower half to shift weight and travel through space toward someone or away from danger. Grounding and articulating body halves encourage emotional stability. We learn to reach for goals and set boundaries. 

  • 6. Body—Side

    Move the right side of the body, then the left side of the body in various ways 


    Grounding the right side allows the left side to be fully expressive and vice versa. Right or left dominance is felt; left and right brain hemispheres are strengthened. Body-side movements also develop horizontal eye tracking necessary for reading.  

  • 7. Cross—Lateral

    Move across midline: march, skip, walk, jog, run 


    Connecting body parts from opposite quadrants creates complex, three-dimensional movements such as spirals. Crossing the midline of the body connects both sides of the brain through the corpus collosum, essential for developing high-order thinking and reasoning skills. Cross-lateral movements also develop vertical eye tracking necessary for reading. 

  • 8. Vestibular

    Move off-balance with swings, spins, tips and rolls (jump or focus the eyes on hands to recover)


    Moving off-balance activates balance (or the vestibular system). Stimulating the vestibular system strengthens eye tracking, hearing, proprioception, balance, and coordination.

Click the icon below to download the Brain Dance poster for your classroom.

Creating a Dance Lesson Plan

Answering the "why" and "how" in a five-part lesson plan.

Click here to return to the dance menu.


The primary goals of dance instruction are: to strengthen the body, brain, and balance system; to explore creative movement; to lower stress; and to have fun while creating community. Each class integrates a new dance concept (level, pathway, speed, energy, etc.) throughout a five-part lesson plan as described below. 



Body warm-ups (not stretching) are crucial for safely readying the body for strengthening bones, lengthening muscles, and challenging the vestibular system (spinning). The warm-up activities listed in the next section can be used to both prepare the body for movement and to help students experience and identify the lesson concepts. (Scroll down for example warm-up activities.)


Benefits: energizes, focuses and strengthens the brain; warms the body; and integrates primary reflexes.



After warming up, participants explore the lesson concept through a short improvisation or movement "activity," sometimes with a partner.


Benefits: understanding and embodying dance vocabulary and concepts; connecting the body and brain through problem solving; relating to others. 



Young dancers develop skills including understanding and performing correct alignment, coordinating multiple body parts, practicing agility, strength, flexibility, balance, musicality, and performance presence. In this portion of class, students work to improve their turning, leaping, sliding, galloping or skipping skills along with other combinations of locomotor steps as ability improves. Participants might also develop the ability to perform structured dance sequences such as folk dances.


Benefits: assists in the development of memorization, musicality, coordination, agility, balance, strength, and endurance while creating community and connecting to culture. 



Using structured improvisation or choreography, trios or quartets of students work together to create short dance studies based on prompts such as poetry, photographs, shapes, textures, etc.


Benefits: developing creative and collaborative skills; developing critical-thinking skills. 



After dancing, class members physically cool off by slowing down movement to reduce the heart rate. Stretching prevents future injury. After performing their short dance studies, dancers reflect on what they saw, learned, and enjoyed. Class ends with a short closure circle to review the lesson concept, thank each other, and recognize the accompanist (if applicable).


Benefits: developing observation skills; gaining confidence in performing.





Brain Dance


Participants move through the eight fundamental movement patterns of Breath, Tactile, Core-Distal, Head-Tail, Upper-Lower, Body-Side, Cross-Lateral, and Vestibular. These patterns are introduced and integrated into the lesson as dance concepts (level, direction, size, pathway, focus, balance, and energy). Though usually performed standing, the Brain Dance can sometimes be done seated in a chair.


Group Mirror Warm-up


Teachers lead participants through balancing, stretching, and isolating body parts. Students reflect the movements of the teacher as if looking into a mirror. Be sure to change levels and travel through space but move slowly enough to have students stay in sync with the leader at all times. 


Simon Says


Playing Simon Says moves various body parts in different ways and develops listening skills. ("Simon says to stretch your arms up way high." "Simon says to bounce in place." "Simon says to shake your hand.") When students make mistakes, teachers encourage continued participation in the warm-up.


Isolated Parts Warm-up


Warm-up with a body part dance. Teachers use a drum to create rhythm, naming a body part every time he or she starts drumming. Instruct students to dance with only that body part, keeping the other parts still. Ask questions: How many ways can you move that part? What are some new ways this part can move? 


Head-to-Toe Warm-up 


Begin by choosing a movement. Make it travel from your head to your toes and back again. Start with shaking: shake the head, then move the shaking from the head to the shoulders, arms, hands, torso, hips, knees, legs, feet, and back up through the body to the head. Try other movements like floating, stretching, pulling, twisting, and bending. Encourage suggestions. Use a drum or other movements (clapping, tapping, stamping) to accompany students' explorations. 


Carousel Dance Warm-up


Display five to eight prompts at various locations around the room. Divide the class into groups and assign each a beginning station. Set a timer and give students one to two minutes to explore the movement prompt before signaling the transition to the next station. Repeat until students have completed the entire cycle. Coach them on the side to explore multiple solutions to each movement prompt.


Integrating Dance with Core Subjects

The following describes a lesson that integrates movement with learning about the solar system.

Click here to return to the dance menu.



Refer to the state core standards and objectives or see the Danceable Ideas section for more integration ideas!

SIXTH GRADE SCIENCE STANDARD: Students will understand the relationship between and attributes of objects in the solar system. 

OBJECTIVE: Describe and compare the components of the solar system. 

  1. Identify the planets in the solar system by name and relative location from the sun.
  2. Using references, compare the physical properties of the planets (e.g., size, solid, or gaseous) 
  3. Describe the characteristics of comets, asteroids, and meteors. 


  • The SUN is a star of ionized gas. Its gravitational pull causes seasons, climate, ocean currents, air circulation, and weather patterns. The sun supports all life by giving off heat, light, and energy. 
  • PLANETS are classified as either terrestrial (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) or gas (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune).
  • ASTEROIDS are rocky debris. 
  • COMETS are dirty, glowing ice balls made of leftover substances in the solar system. Found far beyond Pluto, comets contain a nucleus and have a tail that increases the closer it gets to the sun. 
  • METEORS are small rocky or metallic bodies traveling through space. They burn up as they pass through the earth's atmosphere. Nicknamed "shooting stars", meteors are not stars.
  • STARS are huge spheres of glowing gas, often found in clusters.


Thoughtfully create a teacher script by writing out the verbalization to be used when guiding students through movement explorations. Determine which dance connections will complement the core concepts being taught. Teachers can connect the concepts with dance elements, other moves, action words, improvisation or choreography. Following is an example of how teachers might connect core ideas about the solar system with danceable action: 

  • The SUN is a star of ionized gas. Place a large ball in the center of the room, which represents the sun. 
  • The earth orbits the SUN. Invite students to circle around the ball. 
  • The SUN has a gravitational pull. Start dancing in towards the sun (twist, turn, reach, and travel towards the ball) to represent the gravitational pull. 
  • The SUN supports life by giving off heat, light, and energy. Dance (twist, turn, and travel) away from the sun, reaching outward to represent giving off heat, light, and energy. Repeat this movement sequence (moving toward and away from the sun) several times. Continue brainstorming movement ideas that complement each concept being taught. 


How can teachers help students experience and identify the content objectives through movement? How will students be able to further explore and investigate those ideas through significant movement challenges? What preparatory learning experiences do students need to create and perform dances that demonstrate their knowledge at the end of class?


Consider the following implementation ideas:

  1. Solo improvisations, partner work, or small group work.
  2. Circles, lines, scattered, or other formations.
  3. Follow the leader, dance opposite from a partner. 
  4. Class divisions (e.g., light-eyed students freeze in a shape while dark-eyed students dance around them).
  5. Small group, partner, or whole-class choreography. 
  6. Divide the space into two or more sections.
  7. Try a variety of sizes, levels, tempos, pathways, stationary, and traveling movements. 
  8. Remember to avoid pantomime.


Assess students' knowledge by providing an experience that allows them to apply what they learned. These assessments can be used independently or combined for greater integration.

  1. Divide the class into groups of 3-5 students. Ask each group to create a dance that applies their knowledge of the lesson. Direct students to begin and end their dance in a shape. The dance must also contain three of the lesson concepts (sun, planets, asteroids, comets, meteors, stars). The students must find ways to dance those concepts as a small group, use interesting formations and a variety of energy qualities, include solo, partner and whole group work, and incorporate various tempos and rhythms. Each small group will perform for the rest of the class. 
  2. After exploring each part of the solar system, create dance stations for each concept (i.e., the sun station, planets station, asteroids station, meteors station, and/or stars station). Assign students to different stations, allot a time restriction for their movement exploration at that station, and rotate stations until each student has danced each concept of the solar system. 
  3. Call out the different concepts they just danced (e.g., comets, stars, sun, planets, etc.). Students need to dance the concept as soon as the teacher verbalizes the concept. Students will be dancing the same concept multiple times.
  4. Invite students to create a song about the solar system. Or, create a visual art piece as a class that includes all the concepts of the solar system. Direct a discussion about what students learned concerning the solar system.





    Danceable Ideas

    Concepts to inspire creativity when making new dances.

    Click here to return to the dance menu.




    positive self-worth, relationships, stress management, hygiene, disease, nutrition, consumer and community health, etc. 




    paintings, sculptures, singing, playing instruments, melodies, theme and variations, drama, characters, pantomime, mood, perspective, illusion, 3-D, color, etc. 




    "How I Learned Geography" by Uri Shulevitz 

    "Water Dance" by Thomas Locker 

    "The Salamander Room" by Anne Mazer 

    "I See a Kookaburra!" by Steve Jenkins 




    honesty, character, ethics, emotions, listening, respect, choices, consequences, time management, social interactions, healthy habits, money management, etc. 




    physical attributes, personality, talents, families, names, favorites, heritage, etc. 




    Easter, Rosh Hashana, Christmas, Halloween, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Fourth of July, Dia de los Muertos, New Years Eve, Ramadan, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Chinese New Year, Passover, Cinco de Mayo, etc. 




    African American, Indian, Chinese, Native American, Japanese, Egyptian, Mexican, Irish, Tongan, Samoan, Malaysian, Western, European, Australian, Brazilian, Canadian, Danish, Eastern, Russian, etc. 




    keyboarding, smartphones, input and output devices, digital cameras and pictures, web navigation, spreadsheets, software, databases, etc. 




    living and non-living things, evolution, adaptations, weather, light, solar system, rocks, scientific investigation, heredity, plants, organisms, matter, erosion, heat, elements, geology, ecosystems, biomes, etc. 




    communities, explorers, geography, economy, indigenous people, government, civic responsibilities, Civil War, ancient civilizations, etc. 




    geometry, fractions, multiplication, division, counting, place value, shapes, measurements, patterns, symmetry, ratios, equations, probability, etc. 




    creative writing, formula, poetry, adjectives, persuasive writing, five-part essays, narratives, alphabet letters, conjunctions, main events, view point, etc.

    Dance Lesson Plans

    Find lesson plans sorted by art form and grade level on the BYU ARTS Partnership website.

    Click here to return to the dance menu.







    Dancing Children's Books

    Finding the danceable ideas in children's literature is a simple formula. Look for danceable ideas in the text, illustrations, or both!

    Click here to return to the dance menu.



    Direct students to explore and identify the verbs by crossing over from one dance element to another in the following ways:

    • Try the movement using different body parts.

    • Explore the movement with varying degrees of energy. 

    • Change levels, directions, size, and using different traveling directions through space.

    • Alternate fast and slow timing, or move in a rhythmic pattern.


    • Search for and invite students to create shapes with their bodies based on shapes found in illustrations. 

    • Find the suggested motion (e.g., pictures of a waterfall suggest moving from high to low, sinking, spreading, tumbling, churning, or falling). Notice the energy or force. 

    • Observe the lines in the illustrations: do they suggest floor patterns, levels, or other spatial particulars? 

    • Look for rhythmic patterns, and sense the tempo or the rhapsodic time suggestion of the illustration. 


    • Ensure dance sequence structures a clear beginning, middle, and end. One sequence that works well is "SHAPE-MOVEMENT-SHAPE!" 

    • Children can perform sequences while the book is being read by the teacher or another child.

    • Students can speak the words as they dance.

    • Sequences can be presented with or without music, independently from the book, and in a different order from the book. 

    • Encourage abstraction, repetition of movement, and rearranging the order of ideas. Books are the springboard for dance, not the dictator: dances do not have to follow the text sequence.


    • Key details, central message, settings, major events, characters, the characters' adventures and experiences, narrative shape (beginning, middle, and end), climax, and conflict and resolution. 

    • After dancing the entire story, assess what the students learned regarding the above objectives (key details, settings, major events, etc.).

    Why Dance Barefoot?

    Click here to return to the dance menu. 


    • Greater Balance

      By feeling the ground, the vestibular system (or balance system) of the brain wakes up, stimulating new neural connections and remapping the mind for greater balance. Going barefoot activates proprioception, which improves balance and movement. Proprioception is the unconscious perception of the body in space, and the feeling of the body's orientation and movement within the surrounding space. By going barefoot, the body feels and connects to the environment, which aids balance and develops natural movements.

    • Greater Strength

      Going barefoot strengthens the stabilizing muscles of the foot and ankle. Shoes stabilize and support the foot and ankle so much that the feet become reliant, weak, and lazy. Strengthening the small muscles of the feet enhances balance, decreases the likelihood of injuries, and improves overall active performance.

    • Healthier Feet

      The body works on the "use it or lose it" principle. Use muscles regularly, and they remain; don't use them, and they will deteriorate. Wearing shoes artificially raises the arches of the feet and directly reduces the ability of the arch muscles to work properly. When people start going barefoot, the feet reawaken and begin to strengthen again. Going barefoot strengthens the arches of the feet.

    • Fewer Feet and Body Conditions

      Plantar fasciitis is another term for pain and inflammation on the bottom of the foot. As the feet strengthen, plantar fasciitis diminishes, foot neuromas (pinched nerves) go away, bunions begin to dissipate and other conditions such as hammertoes go away. Arthritis in the foot can begin to slowly improve as the foot develops greater strength, flexibility, and blood flow. Since they form a supportive base for the entire body, almost 30 percent of the body’s joints are found in the feet. Often, knee and back pain stem from improper foot mechanics. Artificial support from shoes can place unnatural pressure on the knees, spine and neck. Foot mechanics affect the whole posture of the body. Moving on bare feet can create a healthier body.

    • Improved Circulation

      Going barefoot not only enlivens long-dormant muscles of the feet and legs, but also improves blood flow to support increased movement. A greater blood supply means fewer aches, pains, and varicose veins, as well as better circulation, creating warmer feet and legs in cold weather. 

    • Better Posture

      A lifetime spent in a traditional shoe creates an unhealthy, unconscious habit of moving with a pronounced pelvic tilt. A typical running or walking shoe is actually at least a one- to two-inch padded high heel. To keep from falling over while wearing these shoes, the body is forced to move the glutes back, bending forward at the waist, straining the  hamstrings, lower back, upper back, shoulders, and neck. This position also significantly torques the hips, knees and feet when running. Leaving shoes off can begin to reverse this tendency. By feeling the ground, the nerve endings on the bottoms of the feet communicate to the brain, correcting posture when the body is leaning forward. With practice, bodies run, walk, and even stand with better posture, more like a dancer or model. Proper posture greatly reduces the levels of stress and strain on the body and results in better oxygen flow. Looking better and getting taller without any extra work are great side benefits, too!

    • Kids Get Stronger and Smarter

      With childhood diabetes and obesity on the rise, kids’ health is hitting an all-time low. Health begins with the feet: strong feet enable walking, running, biking, dancing, and more. Weak and painful feet curtail the desire to exercise. The American Podiatric Medical Association recommends keeping kids out of shoes for as long as possible, because evidence shows that shoes weaken and deform the feet. Keeping children out of shoes not only helps them stay active and healthy, but feeling the ground also strengthens their senses and helps remap their brains. According to Dr. Merzenich, one of the nation's leading neuroplasticians and co-inventor of the cochlear implant, barefoot stimulation improves memory, focus, concentration, and overall intelligence.

    • Decrease Blood Pressure

      Studies show that stimulating the nerve endings on the bottoms of the feet decreases blood pressure and reduces the parasympathetic (cortisol-based) fight-or-flight response within the body. In other words, stress and inflammation throughout the entire body noticeably decline.

    • Reduces Inflammation

      According to the World Health Organization, diseases resulting from chronic inflammation pose the greatest threat to human health, and include diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, asthma, allergies, arthritis, and Alzheimer's disease. Walking barefoot outside reduces levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline in the body, and creates feelings of connection to the earth. Stress reduction lowers inflammation levels, and may help reduce incidence of these illnesses.

    • Reflexology

      Reflexology is the process of stimulating specific nerves on the bottom of the feet to target distinct areas of the body, including the immune system. Reflexology reduces inflammation, pain, blood pressure, and stress levels, and encourages many other healing processes in the body. Research demonstrates significant body-wide reflexology benefits by going barefoot and stimulating the soles of the feet.


      -Compiled by Courtni Giles and edited by Nora Ballantyne




    Click the icons below to download the Why Dance Barefoot poster and handout for your classroom.

    Why Dance Barefoot? Poster
    Why Dance Barefoot? Informational Page

    Research on Dance Education

    Click here to return to the dance menu.


    Dance Resources

    Click here to return to the dance menu.


    Dance Standards

    Click here to return to the dance menu.





    Artistic Processes are the cognitive and physical actions by which arts learning and making are realized. National Core Arts Standards are based on the artistic processes of Creating; Performing/Producing/Presenting; Responding; and Connecting.

    National Core Art Standards Photo



    1. Generate and conceptualize ideas for dance work.

    2. Organize and develop dance work.

    3. Refine and complete dance work.




    4. Select, analyze, and interpret dance work for presentation.

    5. Develop and refine dance techniques.

    6. Convey meaning through the presentation of dance.




    7. Perceive and analyze choreography and movement.

    8. Interpret intent and meaning of choreography.

    9. Apply criteria to evaluate dance performances and processes.




    10. Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make dances.

    11. Relate dance activities and dance performance with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding.




    "The Fine Arts have four strands: Create, Perform/Present/Produce, Respond, and Connect. Within each strand are standards. A standard is an articulation of the demonstrated proficiency to be obtained. A standard represents an essential element of the learning that is expected. While some standards within a strand may be more comprehensive than others, all standards are essential for mastery."

    -The Utah Core State Standards for Fine Arts


    USBE Logo



    Use the links below to see the Utah state dance standards.