Modern Dance Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

This lesson plan will help students see dance as more than just classical forms and as something that is evolving and changing even today. The history and development of modern dance are emphasized, as well as recognizing differences between pioneers in the field.

Lesson Objectives

With this lesson, your students will learn to do the following:

  • discuss the rise of modern dance in America
  • recognize how different dancers and choreographers contributed to the landscape of dance
  • analyze how modern dance has developed alongside other art forms


45 minutes plus 40 minutes for the activity

Curriculum Standards


Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text. (Include at least one play by Shakespeare and one play by an American dramatist.)

Key Terms

  • Isadora Duncan
  • Martha Graham
  • Bob Fosse
  • Alvin Ailey
  • Katherine Dunham
  • Merce Cunningham


  • Before starting this lesson, ask your class the following question: When you think of dance, what comes to your mind? Discuss as a class, asking students to name the types of dance they enjoy watching or performing. Can anyone name any famous dancers or choreographers?
  • Watch the lesson: Contemporary Dance and Dancers in the United States and answer the following questions, pausing at the marked points:
    • 1:41: How did Isadora Duncan inspire the dancers that came after her?
    • 3:51: How is modern dance different from ballet? Is this different than what comes to mind when you thought of dance at the beginning of the lesson?
    • 4:50: What musicals was Bob Fosse known for choreography? What prominent African-American author was friends with Alvin Ailey?

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