Watching the Dance Channel
Television not only revolutionized our world, but also revolutionized dance and brought different cultures into the living rooms of millions. Shows like American Bandstand, The Ed Sullivan Show, and Soul Train became whole-family activities that people around the world looked forward to each week. That trend has only continued today, as the internet and new sources of entertainment content like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon have made lesser-known dance styles and cultures easier than ever to access. Today, we'll take a look at how TV and the entertainment industry have both powered and shaped dance as we know it—and you'll get a chance to dream up your own dance show!
what you’ll need
- A computer, tablet, or mobile phone and access to the internet
- Pens, crayons, markers, or colored pencils
- A printer (optional)
Ask About Today
What would your own TV dance show be like? What would be special about it?
Which current dance or dances do you think will be as memorable as the moonwalk someday? Why?
Skip the Ads
Unfortunately, online videos often start with short advertisements. Remind your campers to click the "Skip" button as soon as they can to move ahead to the video.
Jump on the Soul Train
One of the longest running nationally syndicated TV shows of all time was Soul Train. Young adults everywhere wanted to be on the show to show off their cool, coordinated outfits—but most important, to show off their dance moves. Take a look at some of the show's greatest performances and hear dancers reflect on their experiences in this video.
Remember: Online videos often start with advertisements. (Annoying, we agree!) Click the "Skip" button as soon as you can to move ahead to the video.
A Dance Move Too Intense for TV
While dancing has always been a form of fun and expression, there was once a time not too long ago where certain movements were censored—meaning they could not be shown on television. One of the most historic examples comes from the proclaimed "King of Rock and Roll," Elvis Presley. He was set to make three appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, which showcased music and dance. But after his first appearance, some viewers complained that his dance moves were inappropriate. For his next performances, he was filmed only from the waist up! See the first performance and see if you agree.
The Big Break
Elvis's performances helped pave the way for dancing of all styles to be accepted on television. That led to the creation of awesome movies and shows like Grease, Footloose, Fame, Flashdance and this iconic dance scene from Breakin’ that made break dancing more widely acceptable.
Small Screen, Big Stage
Televised dance competitions and shows like Got Talent have played a huge role in bringing dance culture to stages (and living rooms) all over the world. Here are some of the most memorable performances from America’s Best Dance Crew, the show that made the hip hop dance group Jabbawockeez world-famous.
Dancing Alone Together
With COVID-19 shutting down dance theaters and performance spaces worldwide, dance companies have responded by using online video to bring artists together virtually for new kinds of dance performances. Check out this one from the Birmingham Royal Ballet, featuring dancers and musicians performing from their homes.
Design Your Dance Show
The phone rings. It's the people at Disney+, and they have some big news! They want YOU to create a brand new dance show, just for kids. (They must have heard how much cool dance stuff you were learning about this week.)
So... what's your show going to be? Grab some paper and pencils or crayons, and get to work. You can print out this template to jot down your ideas, or just write on a blank sheet of paper. Think about these questions:
How will your dance show work? Will dancers compete with each other, like American Idol or The Voice? Or will it be more like a talent show? Or something else? What would make your show different and unusual? Does it focus on one kind of dance or many different kinds?
What would your show's tone and style be like? Is it a serious, artistic show focused on the dancers' talents? Or maybe a funny show where people have to try different types of dances they don't really know?
What should it be called? Give it a name that makes people say, "Whoa, I want to watch THAT!"
Are there any cool features? In shows like The Masked Singer, for example, you don't know who the performers are. In The Voice, the judges have those cool chairs that spin around. What features would your show include?
Other ideas? Is there a prize? Who's in the audience? What other things would make your dance show a hit?
Teaching Michael Jackson to Moonwalk
One of the most iconic television dance moments of all time was when Micheal Jackson moonwalked his way into dance history. But many people don’t know that this legendary move was taught to him by a few teenagers who his manager had seen on Soul Train. Learn how they got a chance to be a teacher to this legend.
The (Dance) Show Must Go On
Around the world, dance students and their instructors are finding creative ways to make recitals happen—even if it means dancing outdoors, staying six feet apart, and wearing masks.
For younger explorers
The Jingle Dancer
Read along as Jenna learns to become a jingle dancer in this charming story.
For younger explorers
Hear the story of Amalia Hernández, dancer and founder of El Ballet Folklórico de México, in this beautifully illustrated book by Duncan Tonatiuh.
Bird Song Hero
Being a good dancer or choreographer means listening to the beat and rhythm well. See if you can make out the pitch and rhythm of these bird songs to become a Bird Song Hero.
For younger explorers
Line Dancing Down Under
Learning a line dance is a great way to play and have fun! Watch this video and learn the fun Australian line dance, the Nutbush.
Cha Cha Real Smooth
On our last day of dance, we're going to make sure you learn one of the greatest line dances of all time. That's right, it's time for the one and only Cha Cha Slide. Are you ready to move? Well, make some room because this one's going to activate all your dance muscles.
more to explore
Consider a Dance Class
Curious about taking dance seriously now after this week? Talk to your parents about lessons at local studios, your parks department, or community center. What style are you most interested in? Regardless of what you pick, here's a helpful look at what you can expect from your first class.
Rihanna and the Gwara Gwara
Sometimes, attention from a star can single-handedly bring a form of dance to the world stage. That's what happened at the Grammy awards in 2018, when the global pop star Rihanna performed the Gwara Gwara, a South African dance move.
When the Saints Go Dancing In
Here's the perfect way to end your week: Watch these 50+ talented kids from the National Dance Institute perform a virtual version of When the Saints Go Marching In... all from their homes.