Tradition in Motion
Dance is used in many different ways. It can tell a story, honor tradition, or express emotion. And the people who perform a dance can be practiced professionals who are masters of their craft or family and friends gathering at a social function. That's the beauty of it; you don't have to be great at dance in order to participate in it. That's one of the reasons why dance is so common at events and celebrations that bring us together, whether it's an intimate wedding or a giant sporting event. Today, we'll explore the dance traditions in our lives and how they have left their marks across generations.
what you’ll need
- A computer, tablet, or mobile phone and access to the internet
- Empty buckets, trashcans, boxes, pans and other materials to use for drums
- Something to use as drumsticks (like wooden spoons)
- Packing tape (optional)
Ask About Today
What are some of our family's dance traditions? Which ones would you want to create around a certain celebration?
If you could pick three people to do a routine on a dance competition show with you, who would they be? They can be anyone from history or even one of your friends.
Skip the Ads
Unfortunately, online videos often start with short advertisements. Remind your campers to click the "Skip" button as soon as they can to move ahead to the video.
Telling Stories with Dance
In native and indigenous cultures, dance was often used to tell a story, to imitate wildlife and flowers, and even to bring about rain. Watch this video to explore some of these early styles of dance.
Remember: Online videos often start with advertisements. (Annoying, we agree!) Click the "Skip" button as soon as you can to move ahead to the video.
Heartbeat of the War Dance
Percussion instruments, or drums, are often the foundation for dance culture across the world. They help dancers keep the rhythm, but they also hold a deeper meaning for some depending on the ceremony in which they are used. Watch how important drums are in this traditional war dance performed by African Zulu Warriors.
The Hula Warriors
When you think of hula dancing, you might think of women swaying in grass skirts. But in ancient Hawai'i, the first hula dancers were actually men, and those who were the best were chosen to become warriors. Learn more about the hula tradition and the intense training it requires in this video from Great Big Story.
Dancing Down the Aisle
If you've been to a wedding, you know what a huge role dance can play in the celebration. Often, ceremonial wedding dances that involve breaking plates or throwing money at the newlyweds are performed to signify good luck. Check out this video to see other ways dance is showcased at weddings around the world.
Bollywood's Modern Traditions
In India, Bollywood dance is enormously popular. While many of its rhythms and movements feel modern, it draws heavily on India's classical dance forms and culture. In this article and video, Bollywood dance superstar Shakti Mohan explains how traditional hand gestures, foot movements, and even facial expressions contribute to her performances.
Build Your Own Beat
As you've seen today, the beat of a drum is an integral part of dance. Let's use objects from around your home to create your very own drum set! Watch the video first, then gather empty buckets, boxes, cans, and other items you'll need for your set.
If you need to keep your set small and simple, with only one or two drums, that's fine, too! A good, danceable beat doesn't have to be complicated.
Be kind: Be considerate of your parents or other family members before you start drumming! Go someplace quiet if you can, or dampen your drums a bit with towels or clothing.
The Story of Bharatanatyam
Just like a few of the dance forms you were introduced to earlier, Bharatanatyam is a traditional Indian dance that emphasizes movement to tell a story. Learn more from a girl who has mastered it.
Now that you understand it better, watch Bharatanatyam in action as a dancer tells the story of three friends reuniting after not having seen each other since they were kids. Watch the dancer's movements closely to see if you can figure out what's happening in the story.
Animal Dance Rituals
Humans aren't the only animals with dance traditions, you know. Insects, birds, and other animals dance to attract mates, intimidate foes, and more. Take a look at a few of nature's most dazzling dancers in this article.
For younger explorers
Ernie Dances to the Didgeridoo
Read along to the story Ernie Dances to the Didgeridoo, by Alison Lester.
For younger explorers
Josephine Wants to Dance
Josephine the kangaroo wants to dance. How about you?
Get back to your drum set and play a rhythm game with Kalani Das in this clip from "Together in Rhythm." Watch the video at least a few times so you can get used to the patterns, and try to follow along.
If you have a family member with you, make up your own pattern and see if they can repeat it back to you. No drum? No problem. Clap your hands or use your lap or some other surface in your home. Have fun!
Mirror, Mirror Movement
This activity requires two players, so find a sibling or ask a parent to join you when they have a few minutes free. Player 1 will be the "mirror". That person will perform a 3-step dance movement. Player 2 will try to copy the movement with no mistakes in order to receive a point. After the first point, players will switch positions for the next round. You can decide how many rounds to play. Whoever has the most points at the end wins!
If you don't have a partner in your home, click the button to learn a fun choreographed dance instead.
more to explore
A Ballerina's Tale
Ballet is one of the most recognized forms of dance, with a rich history and many distinctive traditions. But it is also a form of dance that has excluded many people, especially Black dancers. Spend some time exploring the website for A Ballerina's Tale, the PBS documentary on Misty Copeland, a groundbreaking artist who made history by becoming the first Black principal dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre.