The 1980s Series – Breakdancing



During the 1980s, music, dance, fashion, and art experienced a boom of energy and innovation. It was also during the 80s that Haring came into prominence and produced most of his signature work. This series of lessons seeks to explore the cultural and creative phenomenons of the 1980s for the youth of today. The Breakdancing lesson, in particular, allows students to translate Haring's celebrated images of dancing people into choreographed breakdancing routines.


To provide students with the time and space to physically express themselves.

To challenge students to translate a flat image into an actual movement.

To reveal to students the universal relationships of art, music, and dance.

To create a fun and energized classroom experience in contrast to much of the stationary work students do all day.


Haring Morphs
Haring Flipbooks

1656 | Man on Arm Flipbook | Paperback | $4.50
1657 | Yellow Figures Flipbook | Paperback | $4.50
5553 | Dance by Keith Haring | Hardcover | $12.95

How To Break Dance Volume 1 (1998) | Video | ASIN: 0970701314
Breakdancing by Mr Fresh | Paperback | ASIN: 0380881535


8.5" x 11" Bond paper (pre-cut squares of 4" x 2.75" or 8 rectangles/sheet)
Colored markers
Stapler (staples) or rubberbands
Gym mats


Teacher Note
Before beginning this lesson, read through a breakdancing book and review a breakdancing video alone to make sure the resource material is age-appropriate. Purchase some recommended music in order to accompany the students' dancing.

Begin the lesson by asking students if they know what breakdancing is. Some of them may know some moves already, if they do, they may want to perform the moves they know. Give them this opportunity, it will help them loosten up and feel more relaxed.

Raise questions about breakdancing. Where did it begin? Who was doing it? Who does it now? Where do we see breakdancing? How does it differ from other forms of dance? Examine a few other forms of dance and how they began. Compare and contrast them with breakdancing.

Show the students an introductory film on breakdancing while they follow along (it's always great when the teacher can join in as well). Expand this part of the lesson to more than one class if students seem to be receptive and are getting a good workout. Before the end of each dance session, review what was learned with the students. How they were able to finally figure out a move, which ones were their favorites to do and why, and maybe even come up with a little routine of some combined moves.


Show students reproductions of some of Keith Haring's work involving dancers and moving people. Ask students to describe what they see. Colors, shapes, movement. How does Haring convey movement in still images?

Investigate the relationship of Haring's work with breakdancing... Haring began his career drawing on blank billboards in New York City Subways. How do the origins of breakdancing relate to the origins of Haring's work? Do you think Haring was inspired by dance and music? Was he inspired by street culture? Why do you think these things interested him? How do we know they informed his work- how can we tell? When you were breakdancing, how did it make you feel? How does it make you feel to look at Haring's work? Are these feelings similar? Why do you think that is?

Show students Haring's Flipbooks. It's best to also have hard copies of the Flip Books so students can see how they work. Have them examine each page so they can see how a flat drawing becomes a moving image.

Hand out one piece of pre-cut paper to each student. Have them draw one figure on the page. Tell students that the drawing they just made will be the first page of their very own Flip Book where they can make their own figure dance! Hand out only a few more sheets of paper to each student at a time so that they focus on the proper interval of movement shift between each page instead of rushing to get their Flip Book done. Challenge them to be as creative as possible, reminding them that the figure can jump, fly, flip, move far away (make figure get smaller and smaller), or move very close up (make figure get larger and larger), move legs, arms, and head, bend, squat, make shapes or letters with the body. Also remind them about body proportions and joints. Just like Haring, they can use movement lines if they want, but they must correspond correctly on each page, just as the figure can only move a little bit at a time, so can the lines. Have them continue their drawing until they feel complete with their figure's dance. Some students may have more or less pages. To test them, pinch the top of the pages and flip through your fingers. If there is too much of a jump from one page to the next, students will need to go in and add a few extra drawings to make the movements flow better. Once the drawing is done, students can use colored markers to color in their figures- this must also stay consistent from page to page. After the drawings have been colored, staple or rubberband the pages together.

Once the Flip Books are complete, hand them out to each student (remind them not to fold the pages back). Have them review the movements that their figure does, and ask them to try performing those moves. Give them each some space and time to choreograph their Flip Book dance. Students may need to have music playing in the background to keep their beat. Remind them of what they learned while studying breakdancing and challenge them to combine that knowledge with their dance routines.

When students feel complete, they may perform their dances to the rest of the class.

Videotape the dances and hold a celebration where the video can play on a TV set while the flip books are layed out for people to look through. Invite parents, other classes and the administration. This project is a great way to show off a number of talents at once!


What did you learn while studying breakdancing?

What did you learn while studying the work of Keith Haring?

What did you learn while making your own Flip Books?

What did you learn by translating your Flip Books into a choreographed dance routine?

List all of the forms of creative expression you explored during this project?

Describe the relationship between music and dance.
Describe the relationship between music and art.
Describe the relationship between dance and art.

What other forms can creative expression take?

Are creative ideas limited to one discipline or can different forms of creative expression be combined at once? How does that change the experience of a piece of art?


Before teaching any dance moves to children, make sure the moves are safe, appropriate, and performed in an environment that will minimize injuries of any kind.

Exposing students to a new form of creative expression should always be handled sensitively, keeping in mind that the underlying goal is to expand students' experiences in a positive way. If there are students who do not feel comforatble expressing themselves through physical movement, that choice should always be respected.