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Compassion dance is an example of ongoing dance pedagogy research centered on collaborative activist problem solving in the arts. Activist problem-solving curricula research began in 1998 while a student at Ohio State University.  In activist problem-solving research, we are looking at big ideas as the centerpiece for dance curricula and instruction. The underlying assumption to this approach is that (a) knowledge and understanding are shared constructions by teacher and students; and (b) teachers need to create contexts and use strategies that recognize, appreciate and build on children’s diverse perspectives, learning patterns and ways of communicating.  In our collaborative problem-solving curricula, we consider both the issue being studied and the dance content theme equally in order to realize both the physical embodiment and desire for change using activist approaches. Big ideas that face the world, serve to center and guide our investigation.

Big Ideas: are ideas, which reflect important life issues and experience. They are broad and umbrella-like. They are characterized by complexity, ambiguity and contradictions.

  • Significance:  this is essential that the concept be significant if the student’s creation is going to be about the process rather than the product.

  • Expand the Classroom: move the focus beyond technical skills toward conceptual concerns.

  • Engage student’s conceptual expression of ideas: because it is about the ideas rather than strictly the demonstration of the subject matter.

  • Teachers need to make connections – so as to situate the BIG IDEA within the student’s working knowledge base.  Students must find personal relationships within the idea or it may just become a problem-solving activity. 

  • To help personalize ideas the teacher must:

  • Connect to student’s prior knowledge and past experience and encourage the students to contemplate essential questions

  • Q: How does this relate to my life? Where am I in this idea? What do I what to know?


Dance is an expression of humanity.

Compassion dance


In the practice of dance participants learn to take risks, master movement challenges and learn to trust through activities that engage in weight sharing, partnering and group cooperation. By participating in Compassion Dance, we will form a community between young dancers and senior dancers of different languages, cultures, races, ethnicities and physical needs. Participation in Compassion Dance will encourage participants to discover something new about themselves and what makes a community. As the curriculum centers on compassion, understanding difference, and expressing respect and tolerance heightening participants engagement, personal investment and interest in movement and dance. Expanding participants view of creativity, they will begin to see dance as a unique means of both self-expression and expression of their lives.

Intergenerational Curricula

Compassion Dance brings different generations of participants together to transform their preconceived notions of the community, thus diminishing stereotyping, leading to the development of tolerant attitudes through art-making interactions. Compassion dance is looking at the ways communities are changed when movement activities are used to share life experiences, create new awareness of the self and of others.  Creative dance activities in the curricula are designed to foster the development of cooperation, community and life skills. 

By forming intergenerational dance communities’ relationships are formed through movement serving to bridge the divide of ageism and foster inclusive practice. 


Benefits from participation in intergenerational dance for young people may include enhanced cognitive performance, improved attitudes towards aging, and increased emotional development of skills such as empathy, compassion and awareness of the needs of others. Benefits to seniors may include increased health and activity levels, improved attitudes towards the younger generation, self-discovery and improved community engagement.



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