Lesson Plan: How do you draw a dance?

Written By: Susan Geihl
Grade Level: Upper elementary /Middle School

Time Allotment

Five days


Students will be introduced to Native American dancing, artwork, and artists.
Students will personalize this information to create their own dancer and write an artists’ statement.

  • Artists_Statement_Handout.pdf
  • Dance.pdf
  • Venn_Diagram.pdf
  • How_do_you_draw_a_dance.pdf
  • Subject Matter

    Art, with interdisciplinary connections with Minnesota history, dance, music and language arts.

    Learning Objectives

    Students will:
  • Learn that artists create art about their lives and culture.
  • Learn that the art of dance is important to the Native American culture.
  • Compare and contrast art by Patrick DesJarlait and Star Wallowing Bull.
  • Learn about the proportion of the figure.
  • Show movement using gesture drawings.
  • Explain their art in the form of an artist’s statement.
  • Media Components - Video/Web

  • Minnesota Pow-wow (very colorful-beautiful costumes) 2:54 min.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Odq888KdHUE&NR=1

  • Verbal explanation of a Pow-wow (outdoors, lots of variety) 5:25min.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DbqE9a3xp4

  • Information about Patrick DesJarlait

    • http://www.mmaatreasures.org/pages/PatrickDesJarlait
    • http://www.kstrom.net/isk/art/art_minn.html
    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_DesJarlait

  • Ethnographic Biography of Paul Pete Buffalo (Photos of Chippewa life)

  • http://www.d.umn.edu/cla/faculty/troufs/Buffalo/PB10.html

  • Images of dancers by DesJarlait

    • http://doodillydoo.blogspot.com/2011/04/patrick-desjarlait-red-lake-ojibwe.html

    • http://talking-feather.com/essays-art/art-work/

    • http://www.google.com/imgres?q=patrick+desjarlait&hl=en&client=safari&sa=X&rls=en&biw=1146&bih=828&tbm=isch&prmd=imvnso&tbnid=qZiCC2qOb_ov5M:&imgrefurl=http://www.freewebs.com/lwbh/apps/photos/photo%3Fphotoid%3D18426938&docid=Vt7Fj8UasWtjM&itg=1&w=800&h=1207&ei=gMKQTsisNIKHsAKNiISmAQ&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=382&vpy=340&dur=11&hovh=276&hovw=183&tx=79&ty=141&page=3&tbnh=140&tbnw=93&start=44&ndsp=23&ved=1t:429,r:2,s:44

  • Information about Star Wallowing Bull

  • http://plainsart.org/collections/star-wallowing-bull/

  • Image of Star Wallowing Bull’s “New Age Fancy Dancer 11

  • http://plainsart.org/exhibits/the-white-album-the-beatles-meet-the-plains/starwallowing1/

  • Printed materials about Patrick DesJarlait:

    • “Patrick Desjarlait, Conversations with a Native American Artist / as recorded by Neva Williams” J 921 Des

    • “Native Moderns: American Indian Painting, 1940-1960” Bill Anthes, Pitzer College

  • Printed materials about Star Wallowing Bull:

  • “Between Two Culture The Art of Star Wallowing Bull” 9/22/05-2/08/06 Plains Art Museum


    Day One
  • Paper and pencils for students to write notes on dancing
  • Venn Diagram handout

  • Day Two
    Students will learn about proportion of the figure and how to draw it in action. Students will draw their interpretation of a person dancing.

  • Pencils and copy paper for gesture drawings (If students have sketchbooks they could use them instead of copy paper)
  • The handout of figure in proportion
  • This site has some good examples of drawing the figure in motion using simple lines.

  • http://www.elfwood.com/farp/figure/williamlibodyconstruction.html
  • 9 x 12 inch drawing / painting paper 1 per student

  • Day Three and Four
    Students will complete their figure drawings, make the dancer personal with clothing/costume and details. Then they will choose to add color with water color or colored pencils.

  • Pencils, colored pencils, watercolor paints, watercolor pencils, brushes, water containers.
  • Images of dancers.

  • Day Five
    Students complete art and write artists’ statements. Students view each others’ art and write constructive comments.

  • Pencils, colored pencils, watercolor paints, watercolor pencils, brushes, water containers. Handout for artist’s statement.
  • Teacher Preparation

    Day One
    1. If possible, request from the library or buy the book “Patrick DesJarlait Conversations with a Native American Artist.” It is an amazing book with so much information on Native American life in narrative form. You could come up with many lessons about Native Americans, Minnesota History, World War II, and graphic design using the information from this book.
    2. Check out the information on the web for both artists
    3. Download You-tube videos on Pow-wows
    4. Check out the Keynote presentation

    Day Two

  • Practice drawing some figures.

  • Day Three and Four

  • Find examples of dancers around the world.
  • http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/06/dance_around_the_world.html

    Day Five

  • Print handout for artist’s statement
  • Introductory Activities

    Day One
      You may have students work in pairs or small groups for this activity if you want. Depending on your personality you could dance across the room to raise their curiosity.

    1. Have students write a list of all the different types of dances they can think of. When it seems like they have thought of all they can, ask them to talk to each other about where and why people do these dances?
    2. Ask how many students have ever danced in a special event? Might be a recital, a play, or a festival. Have students share experiences.
    3. Explain that they will be watching a video(s) of dancers at a Minnesota Pow-wow. If someone has mentioned dancing in a Pow-wow ask them for details to share with the students about the experience.
    4. Show the videos. Let students make comments.

    Day Two
    1. Hand out the paper/sketchbook and pencils. Tell students to get ready to draw…it’s going to be quick because they will be drawing you moving….and they will only have a short time do this.
    2. Stand where they can see you and “strike a pose” tell them to hurry and then after a short time change your pose and tell them to draw the new one. After about three of them stop and ask them how they did. Then explain that to draw something moving they need to just show the basics, arms, legs, head, body…..no eyelashes.

    Day Three and Four

  • Choose images to show students about clothing, costumes, etc of dancers around the world. Refer to the colors, lines, styles and how they relate to the dance.

  • Day Five

  • Hand out student’s art. Have students look at their art and think about a title for it. Have them share ideas with another student. Have them ask another student for suggestions about their title and their drawing.
  • Learning Activities

    Day One
    1. Explain that artists can be storytellers by communicating through their work. One artist who created paintings to tell the story about the Chippewa culture was Patrick DesJarlait
    2. Using the keynote, show students images of his life as seen through his paintings. (slides 1-7)
    3. Tell them DesJarlait created a number of paintings with dancers as the subject (slides 8-11)
    4. Introduce Star Wallowing Bull (slide12)
    5. Explain that artists can make art about the same subject, but their ideas and styles will make them quite different.
    6. Hand out the Venn Diagram form and show the last slide.
    7. Have students compare and contrast the two paintings with Native American Dancers as subjects. (If you want, they can work or share with a partner)
    8. Have students choose which one of the artworks they prefer. They will write the title and an explanation of why they chose it, in the space located below the Venn Diagram.
    9. If time allows have students share their observations with the class. Collect papers.

    Day Two
    1. Drawings that show movement are called “gesture drawings” Draw a couple of quick examples on the board. Possibly one jumping up for a basket, or leaping over a fence. Point out that you drew the basic lines of the arms and legs and tilted ovals for the head and body.
    2. Have students think about how their body moves when they dance. Have them stand up and dance. Have them pay attention to what their body is doing, where their arms and legs are, what are their heads and hands doing?
    3. Have them sit down and draw some quick gesture drawings of themselves dancing.
    4. Students will draw sketches until they have one they like and circle it.
    5. Show them the web site on the figure and help them “fill out” their sketches.
    6. Hand out heavy drawing paper, write name on lower right corner.
    7. Have them draw with light lines the figure they chose in their sketches.
    8. Fill in the figure so it isn’t a stick figure.
    9. If there is time have them draw in details like facial features and hair.

    Day Three and Four
    1. Hand back drawings. Have students who were absent sit together so you can teach the previous lesson.
    2. Students complete the figure and add clothing /costumes and details to make their dancer personal.
    3. Remind students to really look at their drawings. They can still make changes or clean up any marks with an eraser.
    4. When students are satisfied with their drawing it is time to move on to color.
    5. Talk about the use of color (refer to the colors of Desjarlait and Star’s dancers).
    6. Explain that Patrick used intense water color in his paintings and Star used colored pencils. Students may choose either media to add color.
    7. Demonstrate layering of colored pencil to create a intense color.
    8. Demonstrate how to use water color paint and watercolor pencils for detail.
    9. Students choose their media and add color to their drawings.
    10. Students clean up includes washing brushes, dumping and adding clean water to container, returning colored pencils to their box, washing table, etc.
    11. Students place paintings and drawing on drying rack.

    Day Five
    1. Explain that artists aren’t always able to be with their art to tell people about it. So they write down the information they want people to know about their art. This helps the viewer understand the artwork better.
    2. Refer to the artist’s statement handout and ask if they have any questions about it.
    3. Students are given the time to complete their art and write their artist’s statement.

    Culminating Activity

    Day One
    Challenge students to think about what kind of dance they would like to do, and how they would draw it. Explain the next time you meet, you will teach them how to make their dancing figure in proportion

    Day Two
    Collect papers and suggest that they do a little research about costumes, clothing, shoes etc that they would wear while doing this dance. Suggest that they plan their color scheme for their drawing. Show one of the slides of the dancers to demonstrate the importance of color and how certain colors give the feeling of excitement and movement, while others may make the image calm. Remind them to include symbols to help tell their story. Example might be if you are dancing for a cultural event, do you wear a certain costume with designs and colors that have meaning.

    Day Three and Four
    Ask students to turn to their neighbor and talk about the way that they showed movement in their drawing, and why they chose the media they did to add color. Explain that this exercise helps them to think about their art and the choices they make.

    Day Five
    “Artist walk about” Students place their art and statement out for others to see and then walk around and look at each others’ work. They are invited to make “positive-constructive” comments on the lower area of the artist’s statement handout.

    Cross-Curricular Activity

  • Work with physical education and music department to create a dance unit.
  • Work with classroom teacher to include information about dances when studying different areas of the world.
  • Work with classroom teacher and the Native American liaison to create a unit about the Minnesota Native Americans.
  • Using the images of Chippewa life by DesJarlait as inspiration, have students interview family adults about celebrations, festivities, holidays that they observed when they were young. Students could write and make drawings about their family heritage.
  • Community Connections

    1. Find out about dances performed in the area such as Pow-wows, special celebrations such as Chinese New Year, and let your students and teachers know about them.
    2. Invite Native American artists from the community to come and talk about their work with your students.