10 weeks.

Driving question

How has modern dance developed over time? Where did it originate?


Students investigate the origins of modern dance, including where it came from and who was leading the development of these styles. Students will develop knowledge and understanding of the variety of pioneers: Isadora Duncan, Loie Fuller, Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, William Forsythe and Graeme Murphy. Students will explore the PowerPoint presentation, youtube clips and practical workshops within the style being studied. Students will explore the development of each of these styles throughout time while gaining knowledge of the importance and significance of the pioneers.


Stage 4

A student:

  • 4.3.1 describes dance performances through the elements of dance
  • 4.3.2 identifies that dance works of art express ideas

Stage 5

A student:

  • 5.3.1 describes and analyse dance as the communication of ideas within a context
  • 5.3.2 identifies and analyses the link between their performances and compositions and dance works of art
  • 5.3.3 applies understandings and experiences drawn from their own work and dance works of art

Dance 7-10 Syllabus copyright NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2003.


Students will explore the pioneers of modern dance, through appreciation and practical tasks based on the developing modern styles of dance. The connection of theory to practical work will further engage students, creating more in-depth understanding of the pioneers.

Cross-curriculum content and key competencies

  • Work, employment and enterprise
  • Difference and diversity
  • Gender
  • Literacy


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

Students will submit a summative assessment research task (PDF 4.27MB) at the end of the unit, exploring one chosen pioneer of modern dance. The pioneer can be any of their choosing. Students will be required to answer set questions in their task, enhancing their ICT skills. Students may wish to present an essay, PowerPoint presentation or speech. A non-linear approach to assessments allows all students to achieve while meeting the same learning outcomes.

Teaching and learning activities

Students are to work both individually and as a group through discussion-based activities throughout this unit, investigating the pioneers of modern dance in written and practical forms.

Suggested student learning activities include:

  • discussion and summarising strategies around modern dance
  • TEEEC structuring to form sophisticated paragraphing, working with the TEEEC scaffold provided (PDF 4.27MB); and
  • research and investigate the pioneers of modern dance through questions and activities below.

Modern dance over time

Students will:

Loie Fuller

Students will:

Isadora Duncan

Students will:

Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn

Students will:

Martha Graham

Students will:

  • watch the attached clips and write a TEEEC paragraph on Graham's technique and the aim of her choreography;
  • summarising activity on Graham's historical context and movement quality
  • create a TEEEC paragraph: Who is Martha Graham and why was her technique so influential?

Alvin Ailey

Students will:

  • watch the attached clips: Discuss and describe the differences in the Alvin Ailey dance company to that of other contemporary dance companies:

William Forsythe

Students will:

Graeme Murphy

Students will:

  • watch this clip titled You and I. Write down your observations. Suggested driving questions could be:
    • describe the dance style
    • does it include solo or partner work?
    • is it aesthetically pleasing?
    • what meaning can you draw from the work?

Modern dance today

Students will:

When structuring the lessons work through the above sections across the entire unit.

Explore one pioneer each week throughout the term, coupling them with practical lessons exploring the studied style.

Attempt to engage in practical work around each style of modern dance.

Students are encouraged to present their research task, either an essay, speech or PowerPoint presentation/Prezi presentation to the class.

Performance and appreciation

Students are to:

  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the pioneers of modern dance, and its progression from the 1800s to the 21st century
  • explore performance opportunities embodying the differing styles of modern dance throughout time
  • submit a research task based on their chosen pioneer of modern dance.


Written responses are documented and shared within collaborative discussion facilitated by the teacher.

Process diary

Students are to:

  • document the process through practical classes in a process diary. This should be a journal, exploring reflections of each practical lesson or section investigating each pioneer. This can be their class workbooks, a dance process diary, or an online blog through sites such as Class Notebook or Google classroom.
  • Investigate the pioneers of modern dance through a literacy lens, embedding discussions, summarising, TEEEC paragraphing, and nominalisations in written form. These processes explore literacy structures, language forms and features, as seen in the DoE text type support document.



Students could:

  • investigate another pioneer in any style of dance, that we as a class, have not explored
  • watch a work from their chosen pioneer and write a review outlining, summarising and analysing it for a set audience.

Life skills

Life skills outcomes

A student:

  • LS.3.1 experiences a variety of dance performances

Dance 7-10 Syllabus copyright NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2003.

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