GCSE Dance Theory

These cards will include information about Nutcracker! By Matthew Bourne and Swansong By Christopher Bruce. I will do seperate cards on the Costume Designer, Set Designer, Lighting and Accompaniment. There will also be other details and example exam questions about each dance work. Lastly, I will include cards with general dance vocabulary and safe practice for the questions at the start of the AQA Dance paper.

  • Created by: Jessica
  • Created on: 09-04-12 13:11

Who is the choreographer of Swansong?




1 of 37

Who wrote the ACCOMPANIMENT and what is the style




Electro - Acoustic with digitally sampled sounds, vocals, a reed pipe and popular dance rhythms. Unaccompanied interludes enable us to hear the tapping of the feet.

2 of 37

What was the date that 'Swansong' was first perfor


November 1987

3 of 37

What is the dance style of 'Swansong'

CONTEMPORARY, with physical contact and some balletic movements. Includes references to social and theatrical dance.

4 of 37

Who designed the costumes?


5 of 37

What does the prisoner wear?


  • Blue, denim, ankle length jeans
  • Short sleeved, pink t-shirt
  • Black jazz shoes
  • Brown belt
  • Hair is dark brown, curly and quite messy
6 of 37

What do the interrogators wear?

  • Light brown shirts
  • High waist, dark brown trousers
  • Black belts
  • Black jazz shoes
  • Hair is neat (neater than the prisoner's) and black/dark brown
7 of 37

Who designed the LIGHTING for 'Swansong' and what



Overhead lighting and a diagonal shaft of light to suggest natural light from upstage left. Footlights create shadows. Atmospheric.

8 of 37

Who designed the SET for 'Swansong' and what is it


 Bare stage except for a chair (suggests a cell). Interrogators always exit stage right (suggests a door?) The chair has many purposes and is used symbolically as a weapon, shield and shackles. Left to personal interpretation as geographically this interrogation could occur anywhere in the modern world.

9 of 37

What is the staging of 'Swansong?'


10 of 37

Who are the dancers in 'Swansong?'



Three men

(a prisoner and two interrogators)

11 of 37

What is the choreographic style of 'Swansong?'




Episodic, dramatic and thematic

12 of 37

What is the theme of 'Swansong?'

Human rights; prisoner of conscience

13 of 37

What is the structure of 'Swansong?'

Introduction followed by 7 sections.

 The victim remains on stage throughout an performs a solo in section 3 which has motifs that are repeated and/or developed in sections 5 and 7.

14 of 37

Describe Section 1 of 'Swansong.'



Relationships - Question and Answer, Duet, Solo and Trio.

Action - Gesture, jump, stillness, travel, turn, fall.

Space - Interrogators always enter and exit stage right (suggests a door to a cell).

Accompaniment - Starts in silence but then we can hear a conversation between the interrogators and the prisoner through tapping of feet and clapping of hands.

Relationship to music (direct correlation) - When music starts with a loud crashing cymbal the interrogators aggressively push the prisoner off the chair. Metallic, man made sounds create tension.

15 of 37

Describe Section 2 of 'Swansong.'

  • Pointing gestures repeated throughout but becomes more dynamic towards the end. (Stronger and more forceful).
  • A red nose is used for humour and to degrade the prisoner.
  • Interrogators make fun out of the prisoner and try to make him afraid.
  • Breathing can be heard when the music falls silent.
  • Tapping becomes quicker and more aggressive.
  • There is direct correlation in the music (when the music and dancing speed up together.
16 of 37

Describe Section 3 in 'Swansong.'


  • Solo - more lyrical both in music and movement.
  • Twisted gestures of the body.
  • Music is more haunting, slower and we hear haunting human voices.
  • Dancing on lower levels to suggest sadness, the ground is hit - frustration?
  • Twisted movements - Elevated jump - desperate for freedom?
  • Reaching gesture - desperate for freedom.
  • Gesture - the soloist reaches up to the shaft of light ( suggests freedom, heaven, death, light?)
  • Soloist dances in the light coming from the shaft.
  • Shaft of light on stage left.
17 of 37

Who is the choreographer of 'Nutcracker!'


18 of 37

Who wrote the ACCOMPANIMENT and what is the style




Classical, orchestral. Composed in 1982 for the original ballet. Much more rhythmic, driven, direct and classical than Swansong.

19 of 37

What was the date that 'Nutcracker!' was first per


August 1992

20 of 37

What is the dance style of 'Nutcracker!'



Contemporary and balletic. Exaggerated but realistic use of gestures.

21 of 37

Who designed the costumes for 'Nutcracker!'


Antony Ward

Colourful and 'over the top' to show characters. Cultural influences and literal references to sweets.

22 of 37

What do the girls wear in the orphanage?



  • Long, below the knee length, black, shapeless smock.
  • Dark, black tights.
  • Black pixie shoes.
  • Smock flares slightly at the bottom.
  • Hair tied back.
  • Costumes are unflattering and Victorian like.
23 of 37

What do 'the Marshmallows' wear?



  • Head dress (light, pink, fluffy, feathers).
  • Tightly fitted dress - body is pink with white pom poms randomly spread over it.
  • Bottom part of dress is short, fluffy, pink and way above the knee.
  • Necklace is made up of white pom poms which match the body.
  • Pink, fluffy handbag matches the head dress. All The Marshmallows wear the bag on their right arm.
  • White, pom pom earrings.
  • Shimmer tights.
  • Simple, natural character shoes.
24 of 37

Who designed the LIGHTING for 'Nutcracker!' and wh



Theatrical, helps to create atmosphere.

25 of 37

Who designed the SET for 'Nutcracker!'



Partly realistic but larger than life and almost cartoon like. Elaborate. The stage in all acts is very busy e.g - in Act 1 there are several beds on stage, a checkered floor and a clock on the cyclorama (back drop). We are also clearly told the narrative and where the story occurs as sets change with the developing storyline.

26 of 37

What is the staging of 'Nutcracker!'



27 of 37

How many dancers are in 'Nutcracker!'



24 dancers

28 of 37

What is the choreographic style of 'Nutcracker!'



A reworking of the traditional ballet. Closed relationships between dance and music.

29 of 37

What is the theme of 'Nutcracker!'



The Nutcracker story retold with references to adolescence, escapism, fantasy and satire.

30 of 37

What is the structure of 'Nutcracker!'



Two acts with nine episodes

31 of 37

Key Dance Terms


Choreography - The art of creating dance.

Posture - Body Position.

Alignment - The correct placement of body parts in relation to other body parts.

Flexibility - The range of movement that is attainable in a joint or muscle.

Rhythm - Repeated patterns of movements or sounds.

Focus - Using the eyes to enhance performance or interpretative qualities.

Projection - When a dancer gives out appropriate energy to connect with an audience and draw them into the performance.


32 of 37

Safe Practice Key Terms


Elevation - The action of 'going up' without support, such as in a jump.

Peripheral Vision - What you can see happening at the outer edges of your range of vision without actually moving your eyes or your head.

33 of 37

Dealing with injuries


R - REST - Stop the activity.

I - ICE - apply ice for 10 minutes at intervals for the first 24 hours to reduce pain and swelling. Ice should not be applied directly to the skin, but it can be crushed and wrapped in a wet towel, which can be held against the injury.

C - COMPRESSION - apply a moderatley firm bandage over the affected area and all around it to help control swelling.

E - ELEVATION - raise the injury and keep it that way for 24 hours to improve the drainage of fluid and reduce the flow of blood to the area.

D - DIAGNOSIS - get a proffesional opinion if you are concerned or worried about the injury.

34 of 37

What makes a dance studio safe?

  • Is the space big enough?
  • Is the space high enough?
  • Are there any obstructions such as pillars?
  • Any chairs, furniture, props?
  • Is the floor surface appropriate?
  • Is the temperature 21 degrees? Not 18 degrees or below?
  • Is there adequate ventilation in the room?
  • Is the studio well lit?
  • Are the mirrors safe?
  • Any trailing wires or mats?
35 of 37

Example essay questions at the end of the paper

  • Compare the way the physical set is used in BOTH professional dance works you have studied.
  • Compare the way the costumes are used in BOTH professional dance works you have studied.
  • Describe the accompaniment for BOTH professional dance works you have studied.
  • Compare the way the accompaniment is used in BOTH professional dance works you have studied.
  • Compare the way the lighting is used in BOTH proffesional dance works you have studied.
36 of 37

Important words to understand


Appreciate - show knowledge and understanding of your own and other's dances and of dance in general.

Describe - write or talk about what something looks like, sounds like or what it is made up of.

Interpret - understand and explain the meaning of a dance through action, costume, set design and/or accompaniment.

Evaluate - to consider the value, quality or importance of something.

37 of 37




Please will you let me know if you found these useful?

Thank you everyone,

good luck with all of your exams! **



ver helpful thank you so much , i've got my exam tomorrow :)



thank you!! i have my exam tomorrow too! scared!!!

Aida Abdul-Raheem


I have an exam tomorrow, and even though I'm not studying Nutcracker or Swansong the bits at the end really helped :) thanks a lot~!



Thanks the last slides we particularly good for me

Jessica Sierant


are there any on Birdsong?

Lucy Phillips


This is really helpful, the only thing that I think that would make it even better is if you added in some examples e.g. for what dance style is the Nutcracker.



final slides were very helpful, thanks



this has got nothing to do with what will be in the exams this didn't help and I sighned up for it and I am very dissapointed

Similar Dance resources:

See all Dance resources »