New Tricks: YEAR 1 - Dance - Explain2

Little J dreams of being an acrobat in a circus when he grows up. With the help of Jacko and B-Boy, he practises circus tricks in the backyard after school. Uncle Mick, a search and rescue officer, comes to school to talk about his work. Little J uses his circus skills to demonstrate a search and rescue procedure.

Explain - Respond to dance and consider where and why people dance, starting with dances from Australia including dances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Theme - CIRCUS

After viewing Little J & Big Cuz, Episode 9 ‘New Tricks’, engage students with the following activities to support their understanding about personal and social strengths, dance elements and techniques.

Prepare a safe working environment by uncluttering the area so students can move safely without bumping into each other, and the classroom furniture. Adhere to safe performance guidelines of the school and the education authority.

Explain that when playing sport or dancing, participants should use warm-up with stretching routines to protect their bodies from stress and damage. A warm-up and cool-down is an essential part of any movement lesson.

Ask students to pose and respond to questions about the circus and the performances on display at the circus, such as:

“If I owned a circus, what circus acts would I select for the circus? “

Invite the students to respond with their favourite circus acts and develop a list, adding different acts.

Ask students if they have ever wondered when and where the circus started, and who started it. Either, have students research the origins of the circus and report back to the class, or explain the story of the (modern) circus, as sourced in, Short History of the Circus, Circopedia.

Poll students about their attendance at a circus, and if so, what type of circus they visited (trained animals and humans circus acts or human only circus acts). Ask students questions about the shape of the performance stage, the costumes worn by the circus performers, the type of music – recorded music or a live band, and the roles of the people in the circus, such as  ringmaster, clowns, animal trainers, acrobats, ‘strong men’, trick riders, etc.

Ask students what they remember about the costumes the performers wear, and if a specific costume is used to indicate a specific act.

Have students close their eyes and imagine they were at the circus. Ask them what they see, hear, smell, and feel. As a class, watch Ringling Bros. Presents Built To Amaze! Music Video and have students identify acts that they may not have identified previously:

Ask students to form pairs and collaborate on which of the acts they will perform together. One of the pair will be the human performer and one will be the animal performer. The animal performer develops the movements of the animal and responds to the human trainer. The human trainer need to guide the animal through the trick being performed.

Clear an area for the ‘circus ring’ in the classroom. Elect a student to be the ringmaster and announce the acts. Once practised, the act is performed for the rest of the class. Students can construct paper costumes to help with the performance –Have students note that Little J dressed Old Dog as a lion in Episode 9 ‘New Tricks’.

Ask students to research Australian circus shows and identify which circuses are still performing shows today.


Organise a trip to the circus when it comes to town. Or, invite a circus professional to come and talk with students about the circus.

Encourage students to read children’s books with a circus theme:

Ask students to draw their own picture of the circus and create a short story with the beginning, “When I ran away to the circus, I wanted to be a dancer and a ………..”

Share the stories and the drawings with others and upload the stories and illustrations for parents/cares to view.