Co-op Jive

Dance Project

War-Time Britain

Celebrate With Style

If you are looking for a lively and noisy way to celebrate an anniversary of World War Two in your school, why not organize a special event which looks at the American influence on war-time Britain. You could turn your school hall into a war-time dance hall, tune into the sounds of Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller, dress up in the 40s fashions ... and even learn to jitterbug!

An exciting focus for your project might be a display of music, art and dance. This will also enable you to turn the project into a special show for parents and other classes in the school or even to contribute to community VE Day celebrations.

War-Time Music

The first thing to do is to get the children in the mood. You could start by introducing them to swing, rhythm 'n' blues, and big band music of the period. There is still plenty of war-time music around from artists like Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. They are available on both tapes and CDs.

Setting the Scenes

Against that musical background, you can start preparing the hall and stage for your performance. The black-out shouldn't be a problem to achieve! Suggest to the children that they study war-time pictures, books and posters so they get an overall feel of the styles of art and design popular in that time.

Dance Hall Display

Art Deco was the predominant style of the period. This could be studied and recreated to provide a convincing 40s backdrop for your show. The children could take appropriate words ... MUSIC, DANCE, SWING, JITTERBUG ... and use them together with musical notes and American catch-phrases to create wall decorations or band logos.

Another idea might be to paint musicians and other dancers... the dance halls were busy places during the 40s, especially with the GIs around! This would also give the children a good opportunity to study the British fashions of the day and take a look at the smart American uniforms.


Show Your Pearly Whites

Once the mood has been established, the children can get to grips with the dance craze of the day. Jiving was very different from the sort of dancing that had previously been popular in Britain. It was loud, fast and very energetic. On the dance floor the rule was: don't stop dancing and keep smiling. The GIs had the reputation of "showing off" and this was exactly what the Jitterbug was all about.

Do the Jitterbug

The dance you teach the children in school needs to be a fairly simplified version. Because the Jitterbug danced by the Americans was so acrobatic, there was obviously an element of physical danger involved. There were two main types of steps: the 'air steps' in which the female was liable to find herself swung around her partner's shoulders and the slightly more sedate though no less energetic patterns where the dancers' feet remained on the floor. Concentrate on the latter!

Having set the scene and learned the dance steps, all that is needed is some 40s fashions - the children may find appropriate items at home. Then turn up the gramophone, show your pearly whites (smile) and cut a rug (dance)! You could even write a short script or voice-over to accompany the dance performance.

Click here to see one example of a script you could use for such a dance project.


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