What Are Students Like at This Learning Level?

At the high school level, dance coursework may not directly correspond to grade: a 9th grader and a 12th grader may both be enrolled in Dance I. Thus, it’s more important than ever that teachers recognize and accommodate differences in maturity and development. High school students study dance for different reasons. Some may see it as a fun way to get exercise. Others may see dance education as a supplement to study in other performing arts. Some may be trying to figure out if they have talent. Others may already be pursuing extra-curricular dance study, with an eye toward a future career. But most early high school students share the following developmental characteristics.

Students at this age can think abstractly and understand complex ideas without many examples. They demonstrate a strong ability to absorb new information and are interested in discussing and evaluating what they’re learning, especially if it has relevance to their lives and goals. Structured lessons that allow for independent study and expression work well for these teens. They are also starting to articulate and refine an individual aesthetic and to think about future career goals. They may not know it, but they’re thirsty for role models. Visiting teaching artists can provide great examples of adults working as professional dancers and help students make connections between what they’re doing in class and its potential application in the real world.

Early high school students are testing boundaries. They seek independence and responsibility, and challenge authority, while being very attuned to the expectations of their peers. They may often experience intense emotions they don’t always understand. They may struggle with a sense of identity and ambition, with high expectations competing with bouts of low self-esteem. They are also coming to terms with their newfound sexuality. In a coeducational class some students may be shy and awkward; others may be aggressive.

Students at this age are still developing: bones are growing, muscle mass increasing, and fine motor skills being honed. Fourteen and fifteen-year old girls in particular can have profoundly ambivalent feelings about these changes and can be harsh judges, fixating on their weight and other perceived "flaws." They may feel particularly vulnerable in a dance class. Patience, empathy, and constructive feedback are important.

What Students Can Do at This Level

The learning outcomes below are based on the Scope and Sequence, which builds instruction sequentially across these levels. Keep in mind that students of different ages may be at the same level.
High School Level I Students Can… High School Level II Students Can…

identify and demonstrate the basic differences between the elements of ballet, modern, tap, and jazz dance

demonstrate mastery of a variety of intermediate dance techniques in the various genres of ballet, modern, tap, and jazz


understand the fundamentals of dance vocabulary (plié, relevé, sauté, etc.)

choreograph a dance using classical dance vocabulary to express principles such as balance, contrast, unison, and repetition, etc.


with a group, create and perform a dance that uses movement to express meaning derived from a social issue

use lighting, costumes, and sound to affect a piece’s meaning and interpretation


identify the common themes in folk dances from two different cultures

analyze the similarities and differences between dance forms from two different cultures, such as the tango and the waltz


demonstrate understanding of the basic elements of performance (kinesthetic and spatial awareness, focus, clarity of movement)

demonstrate a mastery of basic elements of performance (kinesthetic and special awareness, focus, clarity of movement)