As issues of social justice become increasingly prominent in the media and on social media, it is likely that our students (or maybe even we ourselves!) will want to explore these themes through movement and choreography. Dance has been used as a platform for raising awareness of social issues throughout history, and it is.a powerful medium for expressing one’s experiences and feelings on important issues, as well as helping to encourage social change. These Choreography Adventures were designed to help dancers and choreographers- student and professional alike – understand, express, and embody some of the terms, themes, and concepts related to social justice.

Choreography Adventures are short prompts that can be used for improvisation or as the basis for choreographic studies and dance works. The prompts can be used as inspiration for improv in dance technique or improvisation classes, as part of the rehearsal process, or for personal practice to improve creativity and choreography skills. When used for personal practice, goal of the Choreography Adventures is to create short, informal, no-pressure explorations that I call “dancettes.” However, you can use these choreography prompts in any way that you see fit, including as student assignments or as a way to create source material for a large dance work. My intent is always to design these choreography prompts to be applicable and useful in a wide range of dance genres and styles; however, they do come from my perspective and background in Western concert dance forms including ballet, modern, and jazz. You can find more Choreography Adventures at this link, or by following me on Instagram @shannondoolingdances.

This set of social justice themed Choreography Adventures are designed to help dancers deepen their understanding of some of the terms, themes, and concepts related to social justice issues, while also encouraging their creative growth and personal expression. If you are using these prompts with students or other dancers, you can choose to define the terms as group first, or let the students define them according to their own understanding and create their “dancettes” first. After showing their dancettes to the class, you can facilitate a discussion about both the movement created and the terms, themes, and concepts represented. In either case, creating space for healthy, nonjudgmental discussion and self-expression should be paramount when using these choreography prompts.

It is vital to understand and honor the fact that dancers will all have their own levels of understanding and experience with these terms, themes, and concepts. The prompts are designed to be broad enough that dancers can approach them in a way that is relatable to them. Remember that there are many issues that fall under the umbrella of social justice. Allowing dancers to explore the issues that most interest them will keep them engaged in the experience. The intention of these choreography prompts is not to force a perspective or way of thinking on dancers, but instead to help them think critically and creatively about the issues they are hearing about on the news and in social media. As they use these prompts for choreography or improvisation, it is my hope that they will develop a deeper understanding of the ideas they embody in their dancing and discuss with their peers.

When working with youth, always remember to present the material in a way that is appropriate for their age and development. If necessary, consult a school counselor or mental health professional for advice on tackling difficult subjects and facilitating healthy discussions with your dancers.

Here are my 10 Choreography Adventures that explore social justice themes. I hope you find these prompts helpful for choreography, improvisation, and more!

1.) Create a dancette inspired by the ideas of equality and equity. What could these concepts look like in movement? What do they feel like in your body? How can you use dance to express and convey the importance of these concepts? How are they similar? How are they different? How can you use your dancing to help create a more equitable world?

2.) Create a dancette inspired by the ideas of oppression and liberation. What could these concepts look like in movement? What do they feel like in your body? How can you embody the contrast between these two concepts? How can you use dance to express and convey the importance of these concepts? How can you use your dancing to help end oppression and create a more liberated world?

3.) Create a dancette inspired by the ideas of tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion. What could these concepts look like in movement? What do they feel like in your body? How are these concepts similar? How are they different? How can you demonstrate the nuances within this group of concepts? How can you use dance to express and convey the importance of these concepts? How can you use your dancing to create a more inclusive world?

4.) Create a dancette inspired by the ideas of justice, righteousness, and equity. What could these concepts look like in movement? What do they feel like in your body? How are these concepts similar? How are they different? How can you use dance to express and convey the importance of these concepts? How can you use your dancing to create a more just, righteous, and equitable world?

5.) Create a dancette inspired by the idea of reconciliation. What could this concept look like in movement? What does it  feel like in your body? How can you use dance to express and convey the importance of this concept, in your own life on a personal level and in the world? How can you use your dancing to foster reconciliation among individuals and within the wider world?

6.) Create a dancette inspired by the ideas of compassion, empathy, and community. What could these concepts look like in movement? What do they feel like in your body? How can you use dance to express and convey the importance of these concepts, in your own life on a personal level and in the world? How do these concepts relate to social justice? How can you use your dancing to foster compassion, empathy, and community among individuals and within the wider world?

7.) Create a dancette inspired by the ideas of dismantling, undoing, or disassembling. What could these concepts look like in movement? What do they feel like in your body? How can you use dance to express and convey the importance of these concepts, in your own life on a personal level and in the world? How do these concepts relate to social justice? How can you use your dancing to encourage the dismantling, undoing, or disassembling of harmful systems, modes of thinking, or ways of treating others?

8.) Create a dancette inspired by a figure in a social justice movement that you admire. How did/does this figure work for social justice? What kind of change did they inspire? What were there actions, values, and traits – and how can you embody those in your dancing? What is their legacy – and can you embody it your dancing?

9.) Create a dancette inspired by a photo from a social justice movement. Who is in the photo? How are they posed? What was taking place as the photo was taken? What do you think the people were doing right before the photo was taken? What did they do right after? What do you think they were saying to one another? Who else was in the scene but not captured in the photo? What were those people doing and saying? Where and when was it taken?

10.) Create a dancette comparing a historical issue or event related to social justice with a contemporary social justice issue or event. How are these issues or events similar, and how are they different? What can we learn from history and apply to contemporary issues or events?

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