The school year 2015–16 will bring exciting changes for high school dance teachers and students. Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) have been added for middle school dance, and the high school dance TEKS have been revised

Image of a dancer in motion
with new courses added. The basis of these changes is the aspiration to share the arts, and dance in particular, with all students in a way that promotes their growth in all academic areas during this significant time of their lives. In this module, we will explore the revised standards and point to the positive changes they can make to our instruction.

Dance education provides adolescents and young adults, not only with an understanding of dance, but also a deeper understanding of themselves. Dance education has a positive impact on the overall education and growth of adolescents and young adults. The purpose of dance education is "to broadly educate all students in dance as an art form in all its facets—to teach students to know about dance and to use the artistic processes inherent in dance. This purpose distinguishes educational dance from all other types of dance instruction. Teachers of K‐12 dance are to inspire students to inquire into dance as art and acquire artistic skills in creating, performing, and responding" (McCutchen 2006). Educational dance is for all students.

"The mantra of educational dance is INSPIRE, INQUIRE and ACQUIRE!"
Brenda Pugh McCutchen

Image of three dancers holding a position on stage
The TEKS provide a structure for what students should learn in dance classes. The dance TEKS help students become productive, curious, knowledgeable adults who are comfortable working collaboratively with others. Instruction that is aligned with the TEKS includes a balance of independent discovery, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and cooperative learning. Learning dance technique is about the independent discovery of mentally making muscles move in a different way; choreography promotes creative problem solving, which requires higher order thinking. Group projects involving research on history of dance and cultural influences on dance increase collaborative learning skills and help students develop skills that are applicable in other content area classes.

McCutchen, B. 2006. Teaching Dance as Art in Education. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Seven Traits of a Dance Specialist

Image of a dance instructor with her student
According to Teaching Dance as Art in Education, there are seven traits of dance specialists. With the revised TEKS and the increasing importance of the arts in education, it is important to take a moment to review and reflect on how we as dance educators can best provide for our students. Dance educators should have the desire to let others shine and to encourage determination and perseverance. Dance teachers have a dual perspective of being both teacher and student. Dance teachers have a broad view of dance, energy, a positive professional attitude, and the willingness to learn new forms of dance at any age.

Image of a dancer

Seven traits of a dance specialist:

  • Desire to let others shine
  • Determination and perseverance
  • Dual perspective
  • Broad view of dance
  • Energy
  • Positive, professional attitude
  • Willingness to learn new forms of dance

The focus should always be on why students move rather than just how they move. This also sets educational dance apart from what we know as studio dance. Dance in the public school setting is taught from an arts education perspective with the expectation that students will "create and perform the arts, understand the role and importance of the arts in culture and history, perceive and respond to the qualities of the arts, make sound judgments about the arts, and understand the bases on which those judgments rest" (Arts Education Partnership Working Group, 1993, p. 5).

In high school, students begin moving from creative, free‐form dance to a more formal understanding of dance forms and traditions. Curriculum focuses on interpretation and performance as students develop skills and gain more in‐depth understanding of dance vocabulary, movement, principles, and conventions.

The dance TEKS are based on careful consideration of the cognitive, social/emotional, and physical development of adolescents and young adults. Care should be taken to guide students' dance development with these stages of development in mind.

McCutchen, B. 2006. Teaching Dance as Art in Education. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Wolfensohn, J. & Willams, H. 1993. The Power of the Arts to Transform Education: An Agenda for Action. Summary. Self‐published. Retrieved from on May 5, 2015.

Design of the Dance TEKS

The design of the dance TEKS provides both horizontal and vertical alignment of learning. A course aligned with the Dance I TEKS, such as Principles of Dance I, is a general dance survey course and forms the foundation for Principles of Dance II, III, and IV. Increased student expectations at each course level are communicated in a variety of ways, including the sophistication of language used to describe knowledge and skills, the scope of knowledge and skills, and the depth of understanding in students' evaluation and response.

Image of a group of dancers on stage


Dance concepts and principles function interdependently within the TEKS. Although certain concepts and skills are taught and learned in isolation, they are all integrated in performance. A solid understanding of how the elements of dance are similar is crucial in creating artistic performance based on classwork.

Please review the high school dance TEKS alignment chart. The document shows how skills are scaffolded from one grade level to another.


Image of a dancer
In this module on high school dance, you will explore the revised high school dance TEKS, identify the benefits of the standards for dance education in Texas, and develop short lessons based on the high school dance TEKS.


  • Explore the revised dance TEKS
  • Identify the benefits of the TEKS for dance education
  • Develop short lessons based on the high school dance TEKS

Overview of the Strands

Image of a dancers on stage
The TEKS for high school dance were not significantly changed in the foundational standards, but the Creative expression strand was differentiated into two sub‐strands: artistic process and performance. The revised strands for high school dance are Foundations: perception; Creative expression: artistic process; Creative expression: performance; Historical and cultural relevance; and Critical evaluation and response.

Dance Strands

Foundations: perception
The student develops an awareness of the body's movement, using sensory information while dancing.

Creative expression: artistic process
The student develops knowledge and skills of dance elements, choreographic processes, and forms in a variety of dancer genres and styles.

Creative expression: performance
The student develops knowledge and execution of technical dance skills and a variety of dance genres and styles through performing.

Historical and cultural relevance
The student demonstrates and understanding of cultural, historical, and artistic diversity.

Critical evaluation and response
The student makes informed personal judgments about dance and the meaning and role of dance in society.

Please take the time now to peruse the revised TEKS for Dance, Level I‐IV. Notice the similarities and differences between the strands and levels.

Please take a moment to review the high school dance TEKS comparison, which shows the original and revised TEKS side‐by‐side. You may wish to refer to this chart as we look at some of the changes in each strand. The side‐by‐side chart shows the changes from the original high school dance TEKS to the corresponding revised TEKS.

This module will focus on the Principles of Dance I course aligned to the Dance, Level I TEKS. Please click on the course discovery link to the High School Principles of Dance I and Technique to get an overview of the course and examples of how to implement the new standards in the classroom. Take a moment to review the chart before we discuss each strand. Keep this chart handy as you may want to refer back to it as we review each strand.

Reflection Question

Download the interactive PDF to record your response to the following question:

What are some of the similarities and differences you notice between the strands and levels?

Foundations: Perception

Image of a person practicing yoga
Originally the first strand was titled Perception. In the revision, the strand was renamed to Foundations: perception. This strand is focused on developing awareness of the body's movement, using sensory information while dancing, including basic kinesthetic and spatial awareness, recognizing dance genres, and even identifying images found in the environment through movement. The revised TEKS now include an additional focus on the health, safety, and wellness of dancers, which includes exploring various conditioning methods (for example, Pilates, Feldenkrais, and yoga), as well as nutrition and injury prevention.

Foundations: perception

  • Kinesthetic and spatial awareness
  • Recognizing genres and styles
  • Identifying images in the environment
  • Health, safety, and wellness

Let's look at an example of a movement experience that focuses on the Foundations: perception strand for Principles of Dance I. The following activity provides a method for teachers to address Dance, Level I (c)(1)(A) define basic kinesthetic and spatial awareness individually and in groups; and (B) identify a comprehensive understanding of health, safety, and wellness for dancers through improvisation and self‐talk. Students take a moment to reflect on how their body feels when it is stressed, specifically what their muscles feel like. It has been discovered that muscle spindles are influenced by stress levels.

Image of dancers
The more dancers worry about their technique and ability to perform a step, the more their spindles are in a state of oversensitivity, causing opposing muscle groups to restrict one another. There is also a direct link to stress and injury in dance.

One method of helping combat stress in the studio is self‐talk. The teacher asks students to participate in a short exercise of improvisation. After this activity, dancers take a moment to meditate on phrases that encourage moving with complete confidence and feeling at ease. After this self-talk activity, students continue their improvisation, noting the difference in how their body feels and moves. The teacher may ask, "What are some things you noticed when you used self‐talk that were different from when you didn't use self-talk?" The teacher should visually assess each student during the lesson and use the students' responses to drive further discussion and planning. The teacher can lead further discussion, encourage journal writing, or encourage additional research into other methods of minimizing stress to avoid negatively affecting one's body and performance. This self-talk exercise can be used by students in the future to monitor their health as a dancer.

Creative Expression: Artistic Process

With the implementation of the revised TEKS, the creative expression strand was divided into artistic process and performance in order for students to differentiate the qualities and elements necessary for both composition and performance. The Creative expression: artistic process strand is focused on the expression of ideas and emotions within movement that the student creates using the elements of dance and choreographic processes. One way to capitalize on this process is through the use of guided improvisation.

Image of a group of students on stage
Creative expression: artistic process

  • Improvise
  • Explore
  • Express
  • Emote
  • Create

Let's look at an example of a movement experience that focuses on the Creative expression: artistic process sub‐strand. The "5x5" activity addresses the student expectation Dance, Level I (c)(2)(B) explore, improvise, and demonstrate original movement during creative process. This activity allows for guided improvisation, demonstrating original movement. Students take 3‐5 minutes to create five shapes of their choice. Each shape will be identified as the number one, two, three, four, or five. After the allotted time, the entire class shows their shapes as the teacher calls out the numbers in numerical order. Then the entire class performs the shapes and freezes in the random order as determined by the teacher. This might continue for 2‐4 minutes. Next, the teacher provides students with 2‐4 minutes to determine how they will "animate" or make their shape move in a non‐locomotor way, such as moving one finger, blinking the eyes, or pulsating the chest. Then the teacher repeats the "random order" callout. At this time, the tempo should be changed, and students are encouraged to connect each "animated" shape with some sort of transition, which may be minimal. The teacher should visually assess while students are creating the movement and provide feedback throughout the process, always being careful to not stifle the creative process.

"Do not forget—never forget it!—that dance-educational work is an artistically conditioned task."
Mary Wigman

Reflection Activity

Download the interactive PDF to respond to the following questions:

  • What were some reasons you chose the five shapes that you did?
  • What does animation do to a still shape?
  • What are some other ways you might use this exercise?
  • How could this entire process be used to develop a longer choreographic study or full-length dance?

Creative Expression: Performance

The Creative expression: performance strand is focused on the development of the quality of movement, communication through performance, memorization of movement sequences, rhythmic accuracy, proper skeletal alignment, conditioning/warm‐up and cool down practices, as well as exposure to an understanding of a larger variety of dance genres (e.g., ballet, modern/contemporary, tap, jazz, musical theatre dance, or world dance forms) for study.

Creative expression: performance

  • Quality of movement
  • Memorization of movement sequences
  • Communication through performance
  • Rhythmic accuracy
  • Skeletal alignment
  • Warm-up and cool down
  • Survey of genres
Image (left) of a marquis for Matilda the Musical and image (right) of the Revolting Children number from the musical as performed on the Tony Awards in 2013


Let's look at an example of a movement experience that focuses on the Creative expression: performance strand, Dance, Level I (c)(3)(A), "perform memorized movement sequences with rhythmical accuracy in dance genres and styles, such as ballet, modern dance, tap, jazz, musical theatre dance, and world dance forms." The student objective in this lesson is to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the jazz dance genre. Students will be taught a short section from "Revolting Children" from the musical Matilda. The teacher leads a discussion about important factors of performance (e.g., memorization, energy, presentation, rhythmic accuracy), and then the students are asked to perform the sequence in small groups in front of the audience (classmates). The teacher is visually assessing throughout the process, making sure that the students are clear on the jazz style and performance expectations.

Reflection Activity

Download the interactive PDF to respond to the following questions:

  • Why do you think the choreographer might have chosen the movement used in this piece?
  • How did it make you feel when you performed it?
  • What are some reasons it may be important to understand why the movement was chosen when performing?
  • To what extent did the students recreate the movement taught with the appropriate energy, rhythm, and style for jazz?

Image credit (left): Philafrenzy via wikimedia
Image credit (right): The cast of Matilda performing Revolting Children at the Tony Awards via

Historical and Cultural Relevance

The Historical and cultural relevance strand asks students to demonstrate understanding of cultural, historical, and artistic diversity in dance. The students perform the characteristics of dance from several diverse cultures and historical periods, perform dance phrases or dances from several time periods with understanding of historical and social contexts, and identify historical figures and their significance in dance history. The revised dance TEKS identify various media and content areas.

Two dancers jitterbugging at a juke joint, November 1939 via wikimedia

Historical and cultural relevance

  • Diverse cultures or historical periods
  • Historical and social contexts
  • Historical figures
  • Significance in dance history
  • Identification of various media and content

Let's look at an example of a lesson experience that focuses on the Historical and cultural relevance strand. This example lesson provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate Dance, Level I (c)(4)(A) by performing dances from several diverse cultures or historical periods. The teacher first leads a discussion about the community. Community may be defined as the school community, a town, or part of a city. Then students view videos of dances that reflect the specific cultural groups represented in the community. Next, students list more specific movement characteristics of each cultural group's dance. Students then compare and contrast the movement characteristics of each cultural group and create movement phrases representative of the cultural groups from the community. The length of each phrase should be in line with the overall percentage of each cultural group's representation in the community. Students synthesize the movement phrases created, applying the elements of space, time, and energy into a 20‐30 second dance study and discuss questions.

Discussion Questions

Teacher leads a discussion about the community.

  • What is the population of our community? What are the demographics?
  • What are some of the historical and cultural influences on our community?

Students view videos of dances that reflect the specific cultural groups represented in the community.

  • In what ways do they move the same? Differently?
  • In what ways do they each use space?
  • To what extent do they have movement patterns that repeat?

Students list more specific movement characteristics of each cultural group's dance.

  • Space: level—high/low; range of movements—near/far; large/small; direction—forward/backward/sideward
  • Time: fast/slow; rhythmic pattern
  • Energy/Effort: quick/sudden, bound/free flow

Students synthesize the movement phrases created, applying the elements of space, time, and energy into a 20‐30 second dance study and discuss the following questions.

  • What do the movement characteristics of the study communicate about your community to an audience?
  • What are some reasons it might be important to know about the cultures of people in our community?

Encourage students to modify the study if necessary by changing the use of space, time, or energy to be sure that the message is communicated. The teacher should video the completed movement study and share with the class. The teacher also should be visually assessing the students' work at all times and utilizing the performance to discuss with students and to lead them in reflections.

Image: Marion Post Wolcott. Jitterbugging at a juke joint, November 1939. Via wikimedia.

Critical Evaluation and Response

Take a moment to reflect on the questions that Elliot Eisner has posed, substituting dance where he refers to art.

Most curriculums pay no attention at all to aesthetics, a branch of philosophy that deals with questions like, "What is art? Must all art be beautiful? Does art provide knowledge?" . . . somewhere between kindergarten and twelfth grade students ought to be introduced to such questions in order to participate in an intellectual dialogue that's been going on for two thousand years.
Elliot Eisner (Brandt, 1987)

These questions are important to consider when we think about the Critical evaluation and response strand.

  • What is dance?
  • Must all dance be beautiful?
  • Does dance provide knowledge?
Image of dancers on stage


The Critical evaluation and response strand guides students to make informed personal judgments about dance forms, their meaning, and their roles in society. Students use appropriate movement vocabulary when identifying qualities of a dance and discussing the meaning of a performance or production in dance. Students also demonstrate appropriate etiquette in the classroom and at performances, as well as identifying relationships between dance and other content areas. The revised TEKS include the expectation to identify knowledge and skills of technology in dance.

Critical evaluation and response

  • Personal judgments
  • Qualities and meaning
  • Appropriate etiquette
  • Relationships with other content areas
  • Technology in dance

Brandt, Ron. On Discipline-Based Art Education: A Conversation with Elliot Eisner Educational Leadership v45 n4 Dec-Jan 1987-88: 6-9. Print.

Critical Evaluation and Response: Evaluation and Etiquette

In order to address the Critical evaluation and response strand, evaluation and etiquette should be practiced by teacher and students from the first day of instruction. Teachers can incorporate Dance, Level I (c)(5)(A) by teaching and using appropriate movement vocabulary when identifying qualities and discussing meaning of performance or production in dance. In addition, students can keep a journal, which can be used not only for note-taking, but also for daily reflection on performance. Establishing consistent, regular methods for feedback from teachers and peers is an important part of dance instruction. Students should have frequent opportunities to observe their teacher and peers and time to process and reflect on learning experiences. This is also an opportunity to reinforce 5(B), "demonstrate appropriate audience behavior and etiquette in the classroom and at performances." If the class cannot attend public performances, the teacher can show a video and ask the students to make observations. The teacher might use the following reflective questions:

  • What are some of the benefits of demonstrating appropriate audience etiquette in class and at performances?
  • What might be some consequences of inappropriate audience etiquette?
  • How might school and performance environments be impacted by inappropriate audience etiquette?

Planning Lessons for High School Dance Classes

Group of dancers on stage
Now it is your turn. Choose one of the high school student expectations for a specific genre (e.g., ballet, tap, jazz, modern/contemporary, world dance) and a specific level. Develop a short lesson that would teach the standard. In planning, you might want to refer to your vertical alignment chart to see how the standard and student expectations change from Level I to Level IV.


Reflection Activity

Download the interactive PDF and respond to the following questions:

  • How could you differentiate your lesson plans and teaching for each level?
  • How would you teach this same standard or student expectation in a Principles of Dance course?
  • How does this standard tie in with supporting academics and 21st century skills?

Course Offerings

Image of a dancer
Now that we have learned about the high school dance TEKS, let's discuss course offerings. High school courses are identified by course title and level, e.g., "Dance Wellness, Level III." Course levels represent expected levels of student experience and achievement in the discipline, not grade‐level classification. "Dance, Level I," is the first set of standards addressed in the TEKS. After a brief introduction describing the overall goals of dance, the knowledge and skills for the courses at this level are listed, defining the essential components of each strand. In addition to the TEKS for each strand, several student expectations are provided to show how students can demonstrate understanding of the strand's knowledge and skills.

Levels I, II, III, and IV dance courses may be selected to fulfill the fine arts requirement for graduation. Students in secondary level performance classes often have differing skill and experience levels; this structure allows instruction to be individualized, regardless of a student's grade level.

Image of a tap dancer

Course Offerings

  • Principles of Dance I-IV
  • Ballet I-IV*
  • Jazz I-IV*
  • Tap I-IV*
  • World Dance Forms I-IV*
  • Modern/Contemporary I-IV*
  • Dance Performance/Ensemble I-IV*
  • Dance Production I-IV*

All the courses with an asterisk are new and provide exciting opportunities for students to learn dance.

Here are the basic descriptions of each course now available to be offered at the high school level. More in‐depth information about each course will be provided. It is truly an exciting time and great opportunity for dance to touch more students in more ways!

Image of a dancer preparing
Additional course offerings include the following:

  • Dance Wellness I-IV*
  • Dance Composition/Improvisation I-IV*
  • Dance Media and Communications I-II*
  • Dance History I-II
  • Dance Theory I-IV*

All the courses with an asterisk are new and provide exciting opportunities for students to learn dance.

Image of dancers on stage

To view how the strands are explicated for each new dance course and examples of what this looks like when implemented in the classroom, visit course discovery secondary dance. This resource is provided for both new and existing dance courses. It is a great resource to get familiarized with new course offerings.

The Revised TEKS with Special Education Considerations

Accommodations for students receiving 504 or special education services are made on a regular basis by dance teachers, allowing all students to take part in dance instruction. It is imperative that dance teachers are provided with professional development regarding accommodations in order to make the connections of learning across all disciplines. Additionally, dance teachers need to be aware of accommodations for their students and have access to the resources needed to provide these in their classrooms.

Having the dance teacher participate in a student's IEP or 504 plan can offer a different and valuable viewpoint regarding the student's learning and participation in school. Dance teachers can also offer insight as to how the dance TEKS might assist in the student's overall achievement.

Image of students learning a routine from an instructor

Some examples of accommodations for students may include:

  • Peer- or teacher-assisted movement
  • Providing the student with headphones or placing the student near the primary source of sound
  • Verbally and physically demonstrate movements
  • More one-on-one time with the teacher to learn complex choreography

Dance can benefit the student with special needs in unique ways, and opportunities for inclusion should be sought out by the teacher. Some examples of opportunities for inclusion for students with special needs might include:

  • helping the student who is dyslexic develop direction and order in a different way through movement,
  • helping the student with a learning disability in math with fractions by explaining the division of sounds in a beat in a rhythmic phrase through tap, and
  • helping the student who struggles emotionally find their creative outlet and voice through dance.

These, and so many more examples, are ways that the revised dance TEKS guide teachers to develop student skills by using kinesthetic, aural/oral, and visual techniques to address all learning styles and reach all learners.

The Revised TEKS with Considerations for English Language Learners (ELLs)

Having dance teachers attend professional development and become ELL certified can greatly benefit ELL students. Using a four-level rubric (beginning, intermediate, advanced, and advanced high) to assess English language learners' work in dance class will allow teachers to monitor student progress and tailor instruction to their needs. Teachers will benefit from evaluating students' use of language in the four domains.

The Four Language Domains

Listening is the ability to understand spoken language, comprehend and extract information, and follow social and instructional discourse through which information is provided.

Speaking is the ability to use spoken language appropriately and effectively in learning activities and social interactions.

Reading is the ability to comprehend and interpret written text at the grade-appropriate level.

Writing is the ability to produce written text with content and format to fulfill grade-appropriate classroom assignments.

Image of five young people moving in sync

In the English Language Proficiency Standards (c)(2), the ELL student is expected to demonstrate the following skills:

  • Listen to and derive meaning from a variety of media such as audio tape, video, DVD, and CD ROM to build and reinforce concept and language attainment
  • Speak using learning strategies such as requesting assistance, employing non-verbal cues, and using synonyms and circumlocution (conveying ideas by defining or describing when exact English words are not known)
  • Use prereading supports such as graphic organizers, illustrations, and pretaught topic-related vocabulary and other prereading activities to enhance comprehension of written text
  • Write using newly acquired basic vocabulary and content-based grade-level vocabulary

The revised dance TEKS directly call for skills in all of these areas. For example, language is needed to view dance and write a critique, read a text for a song and understand its poetic or literary meaning to use in dance composition, or simply learn dance terminology. All of these activities can help ELLs build English language skills without feeling singled-out or embarrassed.

The beauty of dance is that the physical "language" is universal. Everyone can move and communicate through movement so that anyone can understand without saying, reading, or writing a word. Movement is easily modified to be inclusive for all learners. The arts are inherently inclusive, differentiated, and universal.


Implementing the dance TEKS is an opportunity for educators to rethink course offerings, instructional strategies, assessment, and professional development. Rethinking dance instruction involves a shift away from thinking of dance as a production‐oriented discipline for talented students to one that encourages the development of creative and critical thinking in all students.

Images of dancers

The revision to existing TEKS and addition of several exciting courses means endless benefits for Texas students and teachers. As you have seen in this module, this is an exciting time for high school students and dance. Beyond traditional dance instruction, dance education is an opportunity to teach 21st century skills and to apply college and career readiness standards. Above all, students will embrace their creativity and make connections throughout their learning. Students who internalize learning and innovation will be highly prepared to meet the multiple demands of modern life and work. Therefore, teaching dance with an emphasis on the revised TEKS prepares students for a successful future.

The introductory module in this series, "The Value of Fine Arts Education: Applying the Revised Dance TEKS," includes additional information about how dance education integrates and supplements these 21st century skills.


Extend Your Learning: Tools and Resources

Here are a few resources that will be beneficial to creating and developing your program. Take a moment to review each one. You may wish to bookmark these resources or some of the others used in this module, such as the high school dance TEKS alignment chart, the high school dance TEKS comparison, or the course discovery secondary dance.

Tools and Resources

Professional Development Opportunities for Dance Teachers

Texas Dance Educators Association