Dancing Classrooms of Long Island

Educator: Patricia Caracappa

Teaching Artist: Jessica Heins, dancer

School: Howitt Middle School, 8th Grade Spanish Class

District: Farmingdale Union Free School District


Students in 8th grade Spanish class took a journey through social dance from the Dominican Republic (Merengue), to Argentina (Tango) and through Cuba, Africa and the Caribbean (Salsa fusion roots) to better understand the context of world languages and how communities use their cultural heritage to communicate and connect through dance and movement. They reinforced communicating trust & respect through restorative practices such as observing, listening, and responding. Students connected with each other to break barriers, appreciate different cultures, practice teamwork, respect, and develop trust while celebrating World Language Week at Howitt Middle School.

Big Idea/Guiding Question(s):

  • What is cultural identity and how can dance communicate it?
  • What are some examples of dance in your life?
  • What dances do you already know?
  • Can you share some dances with the group or partner?
  • Have you taken dance classes before?
  • Do we have any dancers in the group?
  • Which dances do you know or would like to know?

What learning goals/standards did this meet?


  • Respond: Interpret intent and meaning: How do you and your friends relate to social dance everyday?
  • Connect: What do you know and understand about cultural dances in your life?
  • Perform: Develop and refine technique through practice and presentation of  a selection of traditional dances from many Latin/Hispanic places.


  • Career & College Skills: Refining teamwork and critical thinking in fast-moving dance engagement.
  • Civic Readiness: Understand fundamental cultural identity, demonstrate ways that people must work together, pay attention to difference, and practice interpersonal and intrapersonal actions that sustain a community.


  • Welcoming & Affirming Environment: Dance is not easy and sometimes we need to support people who may not feel comfort or understand our own discomfort. We create a safe space with inclusivity, learning to work together to achieve a common goal.
  • Inclusive: Learning Hispanic Heritage Dances while exploring our own cultural identity.
  • High Expectations: Reflect on the success and experience of a dance as a performance or presentation to an audience of peers. Make use of individual team member strengths in collaboration.
  • Social & Emotional Learning: Strengthen our self-awareness and self-management as we try new and sometimes difficult physical dances.



  • Students have gained an understanding of the images and iconography of diverse dances and how they influence relationships and unity within a community and culture. 
  • That there is a professional/formal international discipline  of “social” dance that expresses cultural information about a group of people.


  • That there is a wide diversity of cultural origins in the Farmingdale Community.
  • The importance of dance and relationships within local and global communities.


  • Appreciate ways that dance can connect diverse communities through discussions and social dance.
  • Share information about cultural origin and diversity with our local Spanish-speaking communities. 
  • Listen to peers discuss what various Hispanic dances are and how one can use dance to develop relationships in a community through dance partnerships.