feet in ballet shoes

Ballet, Modern, and Jazz Dance: Basic Positions – Idea File

Students compare and contrast the basic vocabulary of ballet, modern, and jazz dance through observation and experience.

Grades: 6-12

Dance Vocabulary/Basic Positions video segment

Suggested Uses:

Dance: identifying, describing, comparing, and contrasting three dance styles: ballet, modern, and jazz

Teaching Concepts:
Ballet style and technique are rooted in five basic positions.
Modern and jazz dance adapt these positions to reflect the different qualities of these styles.
Viewing and experiencing the basic dance vocabulary helps students better understand the qualities of the three styles.

Lesson Idea

Open: Tell students they will watch dancers demonstrate the basic positions of ballet, modern, and jazz dance. As they watch, they should note the similarities and differences among the three styles.

View: The “Dance Vocabulary/Basic Positions” video on the DanceSense Enhanced DVD or in PBS LearningMedia. You may need to show this segment more than once or stop and start between each of the styles.

Discuss: The similarities and differences students observed among the three dance styles—from shoes to positions of the feet and arms to body movements and alignment.

Perform: Select movements from each of the three styles for students to try (watch each segment again). For example, have students try the five basic ballet positions:

  • First: heels touching, feet forming a straight line.
  • Second: heels wide apart, feet forming a straight line.
  • Third: one foot in front of the other with heel against the instep.
  • Fourth: feet apart, one in front of the other, heels in line.
  • Fifth: one foot in front of the other with the heel against the joint of the big toe.

From each of these positions, have students try executing a plié, a bend of the knees. Remind students that their knees should point directly over the toes when they bend and that the upper body should stay upright, with shoulders over hips. Now try these positions in the modern style and in the jazz style. If you have a dancer in the class, have him or her demonstrate and help students perform the positions correctly. When professional dancers dance, it may look effortless. Now that students have tried the basic positions, do they have a better sense of what it takes to dance? Is it as effortless as it looks? How does doing the movements help students “feel” the differences among the three styles?

Watch an example of each of the three dance styles from the Dance Performances DVD/PBS LearningMedia collection. Have students identify positions and movements they’ve learned.

Author: Adapted from the DanceSense guide

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K-12The Arts