Integrating Dance into History Lessons

Dance and Regional Diversity

“Seeing” and “doing” dance is a key resource in teaching history


This article outlines one of five suggested areas of history that can be illuminated and enriched through dance visuals and student dance performance.

Be sure to review the entire series for suggestions in other areas of history.

Using visuals that help define elements of historical time periods is a valuable way to clarify and enrich the presentation of a variety of history topics. “Virtual” history that reconstructs aspects of history in role-playing modes also is a valuable and enriching reinforcement. Including dance within these lesson frames adds yet another meaningful way to engage students in a study of the past.

Whether presented in a Web source or video to be observed, researched, and explicated as a significant statement informing diverse studies of an historical era, or assigned as a student activity to inspire imaginative identification with the era’s people, issues, places or events, dance can be a compelling way to immerse students in a close study of various components of history.

Regional dialects prevail within countries worldwide. Regional areas within countries worldwide also boast distinct dance styles. A study of diverse dance expressions, including goals and the basic nature of dance rituals within various geographical areas of a country, can be a compelling entry point for study of various aspects of regional history. For example: background of settlement, impact of invasions, geomorphological elements, social alignments, cultural influence of neighboring countries, and religious beliefs. A lesson could be shaped to have individual collaborative groups explore and problem-solve aspects of the history of a particular region of a country as “decoded” through dance. Areas of focus could include such aspects as:

  • Ethnic roots of population
  • Implication of political background of colonization and settlement (for instance, the American North, South, West)
  • Influence of geomorphological elements on dance rituals
  • Costuming as a regional statement
  • Social alignments
  • Cultural influence of neighboring countries
  • Political considerations
  • Differing cultural “tone” of region (examples: Sparta vs Athens; American East Coast vs West Coast; Texas vs Massachusetts)
  • Religious beliefs

Students in each collaborative group could be encouraged to give a brief demonstration of dance style(s) of their assigned region to accompany the oral presentation of the historical framework informing the development of the regional style(s).



Jayne Karsten
Original Writer

Editors & Producers

Kenny Neal
Manager, Digital Education Resources

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