Dancing Across the CountryThursday, October 6, 2016


South Huntington Grade 5 teachers recently collaborated with dance artist Danielle Marie Fusco on a United States geography project. Ms. Fusco integrated dance into the social studies unit, taking the students on an imaginary journey across the country. The students learned about the 50 states’ diverse physical features and the impact the features have on populations, resources, land use, industries and more.


In each session of her residency, Ms. Fusco and the students explored the United States’ different time zones and terrains. The class brainstormed descriptive words for the physical features being studied and organized their thoughts in study guides provided by Ms. Fusco. At the same time, the students learned basic principles of dance performance, such as stage direction and movement vocabulary. Throughout the residency, the teaching artist shared video clips of dances about geographic features performed by dance troupes, such as Martha Graham and Alvin Alley.


After discussing different physical features and dance principles, the students worked in small groups to create their own dance sequences for one of the features. The dances were performed for the whole class, followed by a whole group reflection. The students considered the physical features’ differences and similarities.



During a session about the plains, students imagined wheat standing tall (above) and swirling in the wind (below).



In another session, students brainstormed words to describe the mountains (sharp and tall; climbing and cold) and the desert (hot and empty; crawling and melting). “For this session, I showed a video called ‘Melt,’” explains the teaching artist. “The students were able to recognize the effect of the desert’s heat on the dancers.” Students created their own movements about either mountains or deserts. Their dances were inspired by both the physical features as well as how the features might affect people living there. One mountain group made themselves tall (below).



A desert group showed students melting off a table (below).



Students practiced moving in unison (below).



They also incorporated human sculpture into their performances (below).



For the project’s culminating activity, Ms. Fusco challenged the students to work in groups to create a “dance map” that represented a cross-country journey and reinforced their knowledge about the United States and its physical attributes. The teaching artist referenced David Gonzalez’s performance of Orpheus and Eurydicie, which the students had seen recently, to inspired their narrative choreography. “How did Mr. Gonzalez tell his story through movement?” Ms. Fusco asked them.


After plotting their trip (choreographic pathway) on a map in their study guides, the students planned movement, energy, space and time elements (below) for each state they would travel through.




The finished dance maps were performed for the entire class, followed by a whole class reflection.





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