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The King and the Little Prince (credit: Adrian Brooks)
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Say It with Dance from RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN'S "Oklahoma!"
Grades: 9-12
OverviewProcedures for TeachersOrganizers for Students


After completing all the introductory activities, have the students view GREAT PERFORMANCES' RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN'S "Oklahoma!." Be sure to download and make copies of the Student Response Sheet prior to beginning work on the activities. In addition, be sure to preview the video, doublecheck in advance that Internet access is functional, and verify that the sites listed in the Bookmarked Sites section are accessible to and appropriate for the students.

Media Components:

Video Resource
GREAT PERFORMANCES' RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN'S "Oklahoma!" This lesson uses the sequence from the program that includes "Out of My Dreams" and Laurey's Dream Ballet.

Computer Resources
  • Modem: 56.6 kbps or faster

  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above

  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz): Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM

  • Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM

  • Software: Microsoft Office

Bookmarked Sites:

National Public Radio: The NPR 100: "Oklahoma!"

The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization: R & H Theatre Library: "Oklahoma!"

Students will need the following supplies:
  • copies of the Student Response Sheet
  • pens or pencils


Introductory Activities:

1. Explain to the students that they will be examining the musical "Oklahoma!." Have them brainstorm a list of the elements of musicals. They are likely to respond with answers such as songs, dancing, set pieces, and pit orchestra. Then have then brainstorm a list of things they know about "Oklahoma!." They are likely to respond with answers such as cowboys, farmers, love story, and "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'." Discuss their answers, assessing their prior knowledge of the topics.

2. Inform the students that they will be listening to a radio piece from the NPR archives about the history of "Oklahoma!" and the ways in which it changed the musical theater genre. Distribute the Student Response Sheet and instruct the students to go to The NPR 100 Web page ( and listen to the segment on "Oklahoma!" While they are listening, they should record the answers to the questions on the Student Response Sheet in the section marked "The NPR 100." They will record: the date the musical opened on Broadway, the members of the original creative team, information about Rodgers and Hammerstein's process of creating the piece, the original response to the musical, and how this musical changed the use of song and dance in the art form as a whole.

After the students have listened to the NPR piece, discuss the questions with them. Focus on Rodgers and Hammerstein's development of a musical with song and dance numbers that were integral to telling the story. Why was this important? Do they know any musicals that came before "Oklahoma!" that did not integrate story, song, and dance? Have them share any examples they may know of with the whole class.

Learning Activities:

Step 1. Explain to the students that you are going to focus on one specific area of "Oklahoma!": the use of dance to reveal the thoughts of a character and to tell the story. In the musicals that preceded "Oklahoma!," the dance numbers were merely for entertainment value, but here they were an important part of plot and character development. To learn more about how dance was used in "Oklahoma!," the students are going to watch and analyze Laurey's Dream Ballet, which was referred to in The NPR 100 piece. Instruct them to locate the section on their Student Response Sheet marked "Dream Ballet," and explain that they are going to watch the Dream Ballet and then record their answers to the questions. They will record: the characters that are in the Dream Ballet, a summary of the plot revealed in the ballet, and the specific dance movements that are used to communicate the story. They will most likely not be able to record all of the information by viewing the sequence only once, so they should focus on understanding the story that is being told through the dance and the information the audience learns about Laurey's character. Play the segment for them, beginning with the song "Out of My Dreams" and continuing through the Dream Ballet. Stop the video when there is a pause for the intermission. After the students have watched the sequence, give them time to record their answers. Pause to check for comprehension.

Step 2: Explain to the students that they will be viewing the segment again. This time they will focus on the specific details of the story being told and the specific movements that are used to convey the story. They should record any additional information on their Student Response Sheet. Play "Out of My Dreams" and the Dream Ballet again. Give the students time to record their information and write their summary.

Step 3: Discuss the Dream Ballet with the students. What happened in the ballet? How does Laurey really feel about Curly? About Jud? What is she afraid will happen? How was dance used to communicate this? Why do you think the original creative team chose to reveal these things through dance rather than dialogue?

Culminating Activities:

1. Explain to the students that they have viewed one interpretation of how the story could be told using dance. As their closing activity, they will be working in small groups to reinterpret the ballet and retell a small section of it with their own choreography. Divide the students into small groups and assign each group a segment of the ballet. (Depending on the number of students and groups that you have, you may choose to break the ballet up into longer or shorter segments.) Using their notes and summary of the Dream Ballet, each group should come up with a new way to tell their segment of the story though movement and dance. They can use movements that are more modern or from different styles of dance.

You can use the GREAT PERFORMANCES' RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN'S "Oklahoma!" video to provide the music for this assignment. Simply turn the television around so the students cannot see the images or cover the screen with paper or a towel.

(Note to Teachers: The focus of this activity is to have the students express the story and themselves using movement and dance, not to display mastery of any specific dance style or movements. Also, the Dream Ballet ends with a section that shows Laurey's fear that Jud will sexually assault her. If you are uncomfortable assigning this section to the students, just omit it from the ones that they work on.)

2. Once each group has choreographed their segment, have the students share their work with the class. Discuss the work with the students. How were their pieces similar to the video? How were they different? What was the process of choreographing this piece of the story? Was it difficult to do? Why or why not?


1. The duo of Rodgers and Hammerstein continued to work together well beyond "Oklahoma!" Have the students research the other musicals that the two created and chart the development of the integration of story, song, and dance in their work.

2. There are many things about life in and settlement of the Oklahoma Territory that are not dealt with in "Oklahoma!," such as the treatment of Native Americans. Have the students research the settlement of the Oklahoma Territory and compare what they learn with what is in the musical.

3. "Oklahoma!" is just one of many interpretations by artists of westward expansion. Have the students look at other examples of how the West is portrayed in movies, musicals, and literature, such as THE UNFORGIVEN, "Paint Your Wagon," and OH, PIONEERS!. Compare these interpretations.

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