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Lesson Three: Give Into Chance

Unit of Study: Interactive Gateway

Theme: Chance Dance

Sub theme: Alternative Methods

for Choreography

Grades: 9-12th grade

Materials: CD player, music, dice, cut-up words about the 60s in a paper bag

I loved the “chance dances” and I didn’t mind giving up some of my control as a choreo-grapher because wonderful, uncertain things happened in our “chance dances”- things that I would have never have had the brilliancy to choreography. Chance makes choreography more unique.”

- Sara Anderson

Brief Description of the Lesson:

This workshop exposes students to chance choreographic procedures that came out of the Postmodern movement. Students use Merce Cunninghams chance method of rolling a dice to reorder a dance phrase and to find multiple variations. The students compare this choreographic method to traditional methods, taking into account the advantages and challenges experienced.

Learning Outcomes:

Upon the completion of the lesson, students will be able to:

demonstrate an awareness of how the chance procedures alter choreography and recognize chance leaders such as Merce Cunningham, Yvonne Rainer, and Steve Paxton perform a movement phrase and then reorder it with chance methods share their Chance Dances with the class and observe and evaluate them reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of using chance methods and discuss how it could be applied in choreography today


The Lesson:


a.) Cunningham and Chance: In a discussion led by the instructor the students talk about Merce Cunningham and Chance Methods (Reading #3). Students consider what other methods could produce chance besides using dice or coins. Finally, students discuss the possible uses of chance methods in their own choreography.

Movement Exploration #1: Chance Phrase

a.) With the guidance of the instructor, students develop a 6-part movement phrase consisting of pedestrian movements such as walking, tying a shoe, scratching, picking up something.

b.) After the 6-part phrase is complete then the instructor numbers the movements 1-6 and the class learns the phrase.

c.) Individually, each student uses chance methods to create a new order for their phrase.

d.) The students perform the new sequence several times until it is memorized.

e.) In small groups, students perform their Chance Dance. Afterwards, students discuss how chance opens up the choreographic structure and how it affects the choreographer and performer.

Movement Exploration #2: Call and Response

a.) The students are divided into two groups, the callers and the responders. The callers are taken just outside the dance room so that they cant see the responders. All together the responders perform their Chance Dance, repeating the sequence until the instructor brings it to a close.

b.) Meanwhile, each caller is designated a number from 1-6, which they call out at any time. When the performers hear a number called they stop performing the movement they were doing and perform the movement assigned to the number called and when complete they go back where their sequence left off. The callers must be sensitive not to calls out their number at the same time.

c.) The instructor ends the dance and the students switch roles and repeat the movement exploration. This activity can be repeated with the callers sitting in the audience.

d.) Sitting in a circle, students discuss the effects of chance and how it influenced the performance.

Closure: Discussion and Reflection

a.) Student Reflection #3: Students reflect and answer the following question, When a choreographer uses chance, he or she must give up some control. How do you feel about letting go of personal preferences when making a dance?

Assessment Strategies

Did the students 6-part movement phrase movement reflect pedestrian movement? Did the students use Merce Cunninghams Chance Method to individually re-order the 6-part movement phrase? Did the students perform their Chance Dances with confidence and were they able to respond quickly to the cues of the callers in Movement Exploration #2? In their journal, did the students reflect on their experience with Chance Dance and the choreography possibilities?

Preparation for this Lesson:

Reading Assignment #3: Students read Merce Cunningham and Chance Methods, Interactive Gateway handout. Students turn in Assignment #3.



Homework Assignment #4: Cut-up Phrase Homework: (Before this class the students would have watched a movie about the 60s and based on their viewing write a list of words that characterize the 1960s. Then the students use scissors to cut up each word and put them in a bag.) Students create a cut-up phrase by drawing 6 words out of the bag and piece the words together on a sheet of paper in an order.

Reading Assignment #4: For Lesson #4, students read Yvonne Rainers Bio on the Interactive Gateway Website and The Object, an excerpt from Time and the Dancing Image by Deborah Jowitt. Students need to bring in a pillow for Lesson #4.


Adshead-Lansdale, Janet. Choreography: Principles and Practice. Guildford: University of Surrey: National Resource Centre for Dance, 1987.

Vaughan, David. Newshour with Jim Lehrer, America Masters. PBS website.

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