Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Home About the Film Dance Timeline Behind the Dance Biographies Resources Lesson Plans Screensaver
Free to Dance Lesson Plans
Lesson 2
overview procedures for teachersorganizers for students


Dance is an expression of culture, yet at the same time it is constrained by culture. The purpose of this lesson is to explore the role of African culture in modern dance in America. The lesson will focus on three key areas. The first area will examine the Afro-Caribbean slave roots that were a part of modern dance and the ways that modern dance movements and themes reflected daily life activities. The second area will focus on how modern dance reflected issues of black pride, self-expression, and identity. The third area will explore how modern dance themes of social justice and activism evolved in response to a racist American society.

Grade Level: Middle School

Subject Area: The Arts, Language Arts


  1. Students will develop an understanding of how African culture impacted modern dance in the United States.

  2. Students will develop an understanding of how modern dance choreographers incorporated different aspects of everyday life in various cultures into their creations.

  3. Students will examine how modern dance reflected issues of identity.

  4. Students will examine the role of dance in American society.

  5. Students will examine connections between their own lives and modern dance.

  6. Students will create a modern dance.

  7. Students will conduct a survey.

  8. Students will conduct research.

  9. Students will create a presentation.

  10. Students will actively participate in class discussions.

Bookmark the following sites:


Understands how the characteristic materials of various arts (e.g., sound in music, visual stimuli in visual arts, movement in dance, human interrelationships in theater) are used to transform similar events, scenes, emotions, or ideas into distinct works of art

Understands connections among the various art forms and other disciplines.

Understands the relationship between music, history, and culture.

Understands dance as a way to create and communicate meaning.
Understands dance in various cultures and historical periods.

Gathers and uses information for research purposes.
Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand.

Contributes to the overall effort of a group.