Constructing a composition work

Students begin to investigate the process of constructing a dance work through exploring motif, phrasing, transitions, sections, repetition, variation and contrast and abstraction.

Students will work on each task in the lesson sequence, developing knowledge, understanding and skill in creating a motif, turning it into a phrase, while exploring manipulation techniques.


  • 4.2.1 identifies and explores aspects of the elements of dance in response to a range of stimuli.
  • 4.2.2 composes dance movement, using the elements of dance, that communicates ideas.
  • 4.3.1 describes dance performances through the elements of dance.
  • 5.2.1 explores the elements of dance as the basis of the communication of ideas.
  • 5.2.2 composes and structures dance movement that communicates an idea.
  • 5.3.1 describes and analyses dance as the communication of ideas within a context.


4 weeks.

Driving question

How could a dance be choreographed without variation and contrast?


Students will explore a range of tasks based on the process of composition, investigating their creativity. Students will work through the attached PowerPoint presentation exploring motif, transitions, repetition, variation and contrast, to create original, engaging movement. The use of reflection through process diary entries will further engage students, building a more in-depth understanding of the compositional process.

Process Diary

Students will:

  • document the process through composition classes in a process diary. This should be a journal, exploring reflections of each activity and lesson. This can be their class workbooks, a dance process diary, or an online blog through sites such as Class Notebook or Google classroom.


All activities require students to demonstrate their learning and are all formative assessment activities.

Teaching and learning activities

Students are to work both individually and in small groups through practical tasks within this unit. Students will be required to reflect on this practice through literacy tasks with regular process diary entries.

Suggested student learning activities include:

  • discussion and reflection activities on each of the practical tasks
  • creation of a vocabulary list throughout the lesson sequence
  • TEEEC scaffold provided (PDF 4.3 MB) structuring to form sophisticated paragraphing, working with the scaffold provided
  • exploring the process of composition through the tasks below.

The Constructing a composition work (PPTX 3.8 MB) will be used alongside with the practical activities below.

Working through slides 1-3 as a class, students will:

  • slide 2 - write a definition of motif in their process diaries
  • slide 3:
    • brainstorm three gestures that are literal representations of their intent. This could include waving, yawning, collapsing, shaking a hand, pushing, checking the time, wiping the brow, etc.
    • connect each gesture through linking movements, creating a six to eight count phrase
    • explain and perform their motif for the class
    • discuss and write an entry in their process diary on the success of developing their motif.

Working through slide 5, students will:

  • write a definition of abstract into their process diaries
  • abstract/manipulate their motif to create a longer phrase by using the elements of dance space
  • select several elements of dance from the slide to manipulate their original motif
  • write which elements were selected and why in their process diaries
  • perform their motifs for the class
  • reflect on their favourite performance, writing a process diary entry about their classmates use of space, time and dynamics in their motif.

Working through slide 6, students will:

  • discuss and copy the transition information from the slide
  • complete the practical performance task 3 by:
    • creating an intent for the task
    • creating a transition of eight counts, explaining each movement and what it represents
    • performing their transitions for the class
    • discussing the purpose of each transition movement to the class
    • writing an entry in their process diary on the success of developing these transitions.

Working through slide 7, students will:

  • discuss and answer the questions below
    • Why is it important to have differences in your sections?
    • What would be different between the sections?
    • How would the meaning change?
    • How would the movement change?
    • What would change within the elements of dance?
    • What is the overall purpose of showing these differences within the sections?
  • view the So you think you can dance - contemporary duo (07:15) clip and describe the different sections in their process diaries
  • complete task four by choosing an intent and discussing in pairs how they would create different sections using different movement qualities.

Working through slide 8, students will:

  • define and discuss the meaning of repetition
  • answer the questions
    • Why would repetition be important to a dance work?
    • How would you successfully utilise repetition in your work?
  • watch the clip So you think you can dance- Hallelujah (01:52) and discuss the use of repetition
  • write a TEEEC paragraph on the success of the repetition, giving clear examples from the work.

Working through slide 9, students will:

  • discuss the meaning and purpose of variation and contrast
  • answer the questions
    • What is variation and contrast?
    • What is the purpose of using variation and contrast in your composition work?
  • watch the clip So you think you can dance - Halo (07:06) and discuss the use of contrast
  • write a TEEEC paragraph describing the change in dynamic styles and how this adds to the overall unity of the work.

Working through slide 10, students will:

  • write a definition of the meaning of abstraction
  • demonstrate in pairs the process of abstracting a movement
  • perform the original movement and then devise an abstracted movement
  • perform the abstract movement for the class
  • discuss the importance of abstraction.

When structuring the lessons aim to work through one task per lesson. Allow students to explore the tasks to their full extent to build their knowledge, understanding and skill within constructing a composition. The appreciation and practical composition lessons are to be explored in partnership. Attempt to engage in reflection tasks at the end of each activity, building students competencies in writing an effective process diary.



Students could:

  • create a short work, utilising motif, motif into phrase, transitions, sections and repetition
  • explore the use of variation and contrast to create unity within the work
  • write an analysis of the unity formed through each section
  • explore the driving question in their process diary.

Life skills


  • LS 2.1
  • LS 2.2

Students could:

  • select a story or intent and create 2-3 gestures to describe the movement
  • repeat this for another section within the story, creating new gestures
  • perform these motif movements to their class.


Feedback is formative for the duration of the unit.

This sequence and accompanying worksheets are available as word documents below:


Please note:

Syllabus outcomes and content descriptors from Dance 7–10 Syllabus (2003) © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2017.

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