Departmental approach to the curriculum

The core aim of the Dance Department is to equip students with the knowledge, skills and confidence to express themselves creatively, developing their technical and physical ability in dance as well as their understanding and application of the choreographic process. We expect our students to be self-reflective, through observing, analysing and providing critical appreciation of their own and others' work. We have high expectations of their achievement and attainment whilst giving them autonomy in the lessons.This holistic approach aims to foster a long-term thirst for learning in relation to Dance.

All students work together in learning movement components. Professional dance works are used throughout the key stages, for critical appreciation and as stimuli for choreographing their own solo and group pieces. The themes of these works become increasingly complex throughout and students are expected to respond in greater depth as they become more experienced.  Contact work, physical theatre and a range of genres including contemporary, ballet, street, musical theatre and cultural dance styles are taught and subsequently used as part of student compositions.


Year 7

At the start of their dance journey at Rickmansworth School, students are given a basic introduction to the key skills required to choreograph, perform and appreciate dance at KS3. 

  • Students learn how to create simple dance phrases using the key dance components of action, space, dynamics and relationships, and work for accuracy in the reproduction of taught material. 
  • They have access to a range of dance styles including Lindy Hop, Rock and Roll, Jive, Traditional & Commercial Jazz, Musical Theatre, Contemporary and Ballet. 
  • They are given opportunities to analyse and explore character, theme and style by accessing professional works such as Grease The Musical and Matthew Bourne’s modern adaptation of the classical ballet, The Nutcracker
  • They apply the knowledge and skills learnt over the course to choreograph their own piece in response to a selected stimulus and present their work in an end of year House Choreography competition. As part of this process, they explore how to create movement, select an appropriate aural setting, choreographic devices and the overall form and structure of their dance. 
  • Students develop their skills in contact work, such as safe lifting techniques, and are challenged to use a variety of ideas to suggest the choreographic intention through their dance work.

Year 8

Students continue to broaden and deepen their prior dance knowledge by gaining an understanding of specific cultural styles in dance and work on their performance and choreography skills, creating partner and group dances based on key features of the works studied. 

  • They further refine their understanding of working from a stimulus, motif and development, use of choreographic devices, accompaniment, structure and form whilst considering the ways in which to communicate the intention of a piece in greater depth. Students learn how to lift and take each other’s weight safely, building upon the foundations established the previous year. 
  • They continue their exploration and analysis of professional works, including the West End version of The Lion King and Swansong by Christopher Bruce. They understand how serious subjects can be portrayed through the medium of dance.
  • Students have another opportunity to embark on a House Dance competition in the Spring Term. Reflecting on the outcomes of the previous year, students learn more complex repertoire based on Musical Theatre works including Matilda, Hairspray, Newsies & Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and create a piece that is grounded in the stylistic features of this genre of performance.
  • Students develop their dance appreciation skills through watching clips of World Dance including African - Dinhe and Gumboot, Indian - Bhangra; as well as the Haka, originating from the Maori people of New Zealand. This leads into discussions about the history of the style and practical exploration of the characteristic features. 

Year 9

Students are given further opportunities to access and engage with a wider range of styles of dance; refine their performance and choreography skills as well as looking at other aspects of dance production.

  • They begin with one of the GCSE set works: A Linha Curva by Itzik Galili, in which they have access to the cultural styles of Samba and Capoeira. They learn more complex vocabulary both in theory and practice. They prepare a carnival inspired performance for a House Dance Competition at the end of the Autumn term, based on Brazilian Culture and ‘having fun’.
  • In the Spring Term, they are introduced to the multidisciplinary nature of performance, focussing on Site-Sensitive work. Through their exploration, students have access to the wider aspects of dance production including the technical skills of creating a dance for camera and the considerations of a specific site linked to analysis of Rosas Danst Rosas by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. 
  • Students continue to recognise the ways in which dance can express meaning, exploring the theme of freedom of expression in Emancipation of Expressionism by H20 Sandy (another of the GCSE set works).  Within this unit, students are able to explore the popular style of Urban Dance including popping, locking and break dance.

Year 10 and 11

We follow the AQA syllabus for Dance. This fresh and vibrant course gives students the opportunity to build on and improve on the core performance, choreography and appreciation skills already secured at KS3. Within the course the students are taught dance as a powerful and expressive art form which encourages students to develop their creative, physical, emotional and intellectual capacity, whatever their previous experience in the subject. It offers opportunities to explore a diverse mix of genres. Apart from the solo performance, which is contemporary in style they can choose any genre in which to perform and choreograph. They study an anthology of professional work which underpins learning across each of the three core areas. By making the anthology so significant it aids as a tool to inspire students to develop their own performance, creative and choreographic practice, at the same time as the knowledge, understanding and analytical skills required for critical appreciation.The anthology's mix of artistic, cultural and aesthetically diverse works, has been selected to broaden students' knowledge and understanding of the wide range of dance choreographed and performed in the United Kingdom today.

The AQA course is comprised of two components, Component 1:Performance and Choreography and Component 2: Dance Appreciation.

Component 1: Performance and Choreography

Component 1 is worth 60% of the overall GCSE qualification.


Students develop knowledge and understanding of performance skills. These skills are:

Physical, Technical, Expressive, Mental Skills within performance and through the rehearsal process and Safe working practices within performance and through the rehearsal process.

  • Students learn two set phrases which are performed separately as solo performances (approximately one minute in duration) 
  • Duet/trio performance (three minutes in a dance which is a maximum of five minutes in duration)


Students develop knowledge and understanding of choreographic skills. Through workshop based lessons the students are exposed to a variety of challenging stimuli and given the opportunity to explore complex approaches to choreography from abstraction, improvisation, motif and development and chance techniques. Each student selects a single stimulus, from one of five options from the exam board.Each year, the tasks will relate to the following types of stimuli:

  • words, poem or a piece of text
  • a photograph/image
  • a prop, accessory or object
  • a feature of the natural world
  • an everyday activity or topical or historical event.


Throughout the course in both Performance and Choreographic units they consistently view each other’s work and provide constructive feedback to improve. Along with examining current methods of choreography, students, through research, also delve into the past to find their own creative movement language. These skills are: action, dynamic, space and relationship skills, the choreographic process, structuring devices and form, choreographic devices, performance environment, aural setting in relation to the intent and communication of the choreographic intent

  • Solo or group choreography – a solo (two to two and a half minutes) or a group dance for two to five dancers (three to three and a half minutes)

Component 2: Dance Appreciation

Dance appreciation is worth 40% of the overall qualification and is assessed through a written exam of one and a half hours duration at the end of year 11.The paper is divided into three sections: 

  • Section A: relates to the knowledge and understanding of choreographic processes and performing skills. Questions will relate to a given stimulus for students to write a response.
  • Section B: relates to the critical appreciation of own work. Questions will relate to students’ own experience of performance, or choreography or both from within the course.
  • Section C: relates to the critical appreciation of professional works and students will answer questions relating to the GCSE Dance Anthology.

In order for students to acquire the skills to complete the examination paper effectively the students have two lessons out of their five allocated to dance to establish strong descriptive, analytical, interpretive, evaluative and reflective skills. They use these skills to analyse, interpret and evaluate their own performance and choreography using appropriate terminology and demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of professional practice through the study of six set works in the GCSE Dance Anthology. The works are as follows: 

  • Artificial Things, Stopgap Dance Company choreographed by Lucy Bennett
  • A Linha Curva, Rambert Dance Company choreographed by Itzik Galili
  • Infra, The Royal Ballet choreographed by Wayne McGregor
  • Shadows,  Phoenix Dance Theatre choreographed by Christopher Bruce
  • Within Her Eyes, James Cousins Company choreographed by James Cousins 
  • Emancipation of Expressionism, Boy Blue Entertainment choreographed by Kenrick H2O Sandy

Students must demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the similarities and differences between the defining characteristics of each dance 
  • the contribution of choreography, performance and features of production to the audience's understanding of the work
  • the relationships between choreography, performance and features of production and the ways in which these have been used together to enhance audience understanding of the choreographic intention
  • the purpose or significance of different performance environments in which the dance was created and performed.

Students have the opportunity to experience all practical and theory units in year 10 as trial exercises and then in year 11 they complete the components building on and responding to the feedback given in year 10 to make progress. They also study all 6 professional works in year 10 and refine and consolidate knowledge, understanding and exam technique in year 11.

Assessment Objectives 

AO1:Perform dance, reflecting choreographic intention through physical, technical and expressive skills

AO2: Create dance, including movement material and aural setting, to communicate choreographic intention.

AO3: Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of choreographic processes and performing skills.

AO4: Critically appreciate own works and professional works, through making analytical, interpretive and evaluative judgements

Year 12 and 13

A-level Dance is a dynamic qualification which encourages students to develop their creative and intellectual capacity, alongside transferable skills such as team working, communication and problem solving. All of these are sought after skills by higher education and employers and will help them stand out in the workplace whatever their choice of career.

This specification reflects both historical and current dance practices, making it more relevant, and inspires a lifelong passion and appreciation for dance.

Students will be able to study a range of dance styles and can perform and choreograph in a style of their choice for the group work, providing it meets the assessment criteria.

The A-level Dance specification requires students to develop, demonstrate and articulate practical and theoretical knowledge, understanding and experience of:

  • Technical and performance skills
  • The process and art of choreography
  • The interrelationship between the creation, presentation and viewing/appreciation of dance works
  • The development of dance placed within an artistic and cultural context
  • Professional dance works and the significance of these works
  • Subject specific terminology and its use. 

There is a strong emphasis on technique, with a focus on the knowledge and understanding of physical skills, including:

  • Flexibility

  • Strength

  • Cardiovascular endurance

  • Muscular endurance

  • Agility

  • Neuromuscular coordination

  • Kinaesthetic awareness

These all underpin and inform the development of both the physical/technical and interpretative/ performance skills.

  • Safe practice is also key including:
  • Awareness of correct alignment
  • Technical accuracy
  • Appropriate dancewear and presentation of self
  • A healthy approach to training, including lifestyle of a dancer

In order to achieve at this level, students are expected to attend weekly conditioning and technique classes beyond the lesson.

Students are assessed over the two years on Component 1: Performance and Choreography and 

Component 2: Critical Engagement. 

Component 2 is worth 50% of the overall grade, taking the form of a 2 hours 30 minutes written paper, completed in the second year of study. The specification requires students to develop an in-depth knowledge and understanding of two set works and their corresponding areas of study:

One of these must be Rooster choreographed by Christopher Bruce (Section A).

One further set work and area of study must be selected from four options - we have selected ‘The Independent Contemporary Dance scene in Britain 2000–current’. (Section B)

Students are required to know about the following factors in detail:

  • style
  • technique 
  • influences 
  • key practitioners
  • professional repertoire
  • communication of dance ideas.

Students must know and understand the following about Rooster and the centre selected work from the Independent Contemporary Dance scene, Sutra by Sidi Larbi Cherkhoui:

  • the significance of the character of the dance
  • the subject matter (eg theme or topic) of the dance and its treatment
  • the form of the dance (eg phrases, sections) and its effectiveness in communicating the subject matter
  • the Constituent features of the dance and their relevance in embodying the subject matter
  • the choreographic approach (the particular technique, movement style and choreographic style) of the choreographer
  • the influences affecting the development of the choreographer
  • the origins of the dance
  • the relationship between the dance and its context
  • the importance of the dance in the development of both the choreographer and the genre
  • the similarities and differences between the dance and other works by the choreographer.

It will be necessary for students to have an understanding of other works related to the choreographer to understand the development of the choreographer’s style and place of the set/selected work within the context of the area of study and the genre. These works are to be selected by the teacher and can include visual and/or written sources.

In addition, students are assessed in their knowledge, skills and understanding through 

Component 1:

  1. Solo performance linked to a specified practitioner within an area of study

Students must develop and apply knowledge, understanding and skills required to perform as a soloist in the style of a specified practitioner. The practitioner must be selected from:


The choreographer of one of the prescribed set works located within an area of study (for example, Christopher Bruce or Sidi Larbi Cherkoaui)


A named practitioner within one of the prescribed areas of study (for example, Jerome Robbins, Richard Alston or Akram Khan)

The selected practitioner can be from any area of study. Students can either use the same or a different practitioner to those selected for Component 2: Critical Engagement. The solo performance can be choreographed by the student, their teacher or a dance artist or a collaboration. The choreography of the solo performance should strive to encapsulate the style of the chosen practitioner. It does not, however, need to be a reconstruction of existing repertoire. They are assessed on physical/technical skills, spatial and dynamic elements and the interpretative/performance skills in relation to the communication of the dance idea, lasting two to three minutes in duration in a live performance setting.

Students are required to write a Programme Note, of no more than 150 words, which identifies the chosen practitioner and reveals an insight into the stylistic features explored. The Programme Note can be written in collaboration with the teacher.

  1. Performance in a quartet

Students must learn how to perform as part of a quartet. The quartet performance can be choreographed by the student, their teacher or a dance artist or as the result of a collaboration. The dance can be performed in any dance style relevant to the defined genres, for example Ballet, Modern Dance/Jazz or Contemporary. There is no requirement for students to perform in the style of a specified practitioner from the set works or the areas of study. However, if they do:

  • the selected practitioner must be different to that selected for solo performance
  • the performance does not need to be a reconstruction of existing repertoire
  • the selected practitioner can be the same as or different to one of those selected for Component 2: Critical engagement.

Students must be able to perform in a quartet for a minimum of three and a maximum of four minutes in a live performance setting. The assessment criteria mirrors that of the Solo performance.

  1. Group choreography

Students must learn how to create an original piece of group choreography, which lasts for a minimum of three minutes to a maximum of four minutes, for three, four or five dancers, in response to an externally set task. To translate their dance ideas into choreography, students must develop and apply practical knowledge and understanding of choreographic processes, including:

  • researching, developing and experimenting with dance ideas through studio and non-studio investigation
  • the rehearsal process.

Students must know, understand and be able to apply the following, as appropriate to their own choreography and pertinent to their selected externally set task: appropriate selection of movement components, manipulation of movement components through the use of a variety of choreographic devices, structuring of movement material and use of other constituent features such as the aural setting. As part of this process, students must also develop practical knowledge and understanding of the communication with, and organisation of other dancers, including utilising their skills to develop the artistic intention of the choreography. Study of the choreographic approaches (historical or current) of the named practitioners in the areas of study will inform students’ practical work and provide a link to theoretical study.

Students must write a Programme Note of not more than 300 words, which clearly informs the examiner of the choreographic intention of the work and how it relates to the selected assessment task. 

The practical components make up the remaining 50% of the overall grade.

Long Term Curriculum Overviews

'The Big Picture' Curriculum Map

'The Big Picture' Curriculum Map

This document will provide a visual overview of the department's curriculum from Key Stages 3 to 5. This is in a student-friendly format to support them in their understanding the of the department's curriculum. 

Big Picture Curriculum Map - Dance


Department Assessment Matrix

This document will provide an overview for assessment for Key Stages 3, 4 and 5.

Assessment Matrix - Dance

Key Stage 3 Judgement Descriptors

These documents give you an overview of the criteria for Emerging, Developing, Secure and Mastery judgements at KS3 for this subject.

KS3 Judgement Descriptors - Dance - Year 7

KS3 Judgement Descriptors - Dance - Year 8

KS3 Judgement Descriptors - Dance - Year 9

Home Learning

Home learning at Key Stage 3 is used to consolidate, recap, rehearse and remember learning from the lesson. This is to be applied and assessed as part of the ‘recall/do now’ section of the lesson. Students in KS3 are set home learning once a half term. Feedback on home learning at KS3 is by verbal teacher feedback as part of the lesson. 
In Key Stage 4 and 5, home learning is tailored towards the components of the examination specification. Students will be set one/two theoretical tasks over the two week timetable linked to Dance Appreciation and one practical task, which is typically centred around consolidation, recap, rehearsal and development of practical content in relation to the choreography and performance aspects of the course. Home learning written tasks are marked and feedback is given either in the form of a Whole Class Feedback template posted to the classroom, on paper via their anthology booklets/exercise books or one to one in the comments section of the Google Classroom assignment, using the examination criteria for the specific section. Other forms of home learning use a Flipped Learning approach, in which students read, research and prepare material to apply to their practical work in the following lesson. This is checked by the teacher through the ‘retrieval/do now’ section of the lesson as well as through targeted questioning.

How can you help your child succeed in dance?

At KS3, students are given lesson preparation tasks on Google Classroom. As Dance is taught once over a two week cycle, it is important that students rehearse material in between lessons in order to retain information.

At KS4 and KS5, students are given lesson preparation tasks (Flip learning) in their exercise books/folders and via Google Classroom. With dance theory, students are expected to watch and analyse professional works before the lessons and be ready to discuss personal opinions of choreographic approaches. Home Learning tasks will also be in the form of examination questions and booklets to complete on the Anthology/Set works.

Lastly, because it is a practical subject there is a requirement that students work on practical components outside of lesson time. The dance studio is free on key days to ensure students are able to develop their material for both choreography and performance. Students do often underestimate how long practical work takes to create. Our advice is to get students researching and creating or rehearsing early so they do not panic at the end. For examination students, we offer booster sessions on a weekly basis to encourage intellectual curiosity and further refinement of their skills.

Likewise, at KS5, there is an expectation that students are completing further research on practitioners and set works outside of the lesson. Weekly analysis of work is the key to support workload. Also, regular attendance at dance classes beyond the school day to ensure physical and technical requirements and standards are met.


Helpful websites and further information

Careers in Dance