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Dance & drama: Objects of the ocean

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By Jane Bowerconsultant to primary schools in art, drama, dance and literacy

Discover the stories behind deep-sea objects in the third of our multi-resource dance and drama series


Use objects of the ocean to inspire dance and drama


Learning objective: To understand that every object has a past history and a potential future, and use these to inspire stories and drama.

You will need: one ordinary shell per child, plus one particularly special shell; a treasure chest; a suitable space; underwater audio effects, such as those on the Interactive resource, ‘Interactive ocean objects’, two or three minutes of slow, atmospheric music that could represent the sea, such as Smoke City’s ‘Underwater Love’, Café Del Mar’s ‘Energy 52’, ‘The Sea’ by Morcheeba, a track by Air, or any other suitable music and the ‘Ocean treasures’ activity sheets

Tips & techniques

  • Show, in role, images of exotic sea creatures (you could say that you took the photos) so that the children have an idea of what they might see. Emphasise that there are no dangerous creatures in the area, otherwise the drama will just become about sharks!
  • The more accurately and seriously you can put on the diving gear, (flippers, helmet and so on) the better.
  • When ‘diving in’, children should position themselves in a pointed oval formation as if sitting on the edge of a boat, then ‘fall’ backwards into the sea – ensure that children remain standing up, using their arms to ‘swim’ forwards – not lying on the floor.


  • Explain that every object has a story behind it. Tell the children to fill in the first of the ‘Ocean treasures’ activity sheets, ‘Not just any old ball’ and then share their results. If humans have made the object, its existence may have involved many people – inventors, designers, producers, packagers, carriers, sales assistants, buyers, owners – perhaps even thieves and detectives! It may have fascinating, important or sentimental memories attached to it, which may not mean anything to another person.
  • Objects make a wonderful starting point for a piece of drama. Provide the second of the ‘Ocean treasures’ activity sheets, ‘No ordinary objects’, which the children can work on in pairs, then share their ideas afterwards.
  • Begin the drama activity by introducing yourself as a diving expert. Explain that you need help exploring a particular area of the sea which is protected because it contains such rare marine life. As access is only granted for a few minutes, you need other divers to help observe and catalogue the sea life (see ‘Tips & techniques’ point one, above).
  • Teach children how to get into their diving suits (see ‘Tips & techniques’ point two). Explain that once their helmets are on, no speech is possible, so they will need to use underwater signals. Their movements will also be much slower and lighter. Explain that they are allowed to bring back one item each from the dive, but it must not be a living creature.
  • Invite the children to ‘dive in’ (see ‘Tips & techniques’ point three). Start the music and point to the shells (which you will have previously hidden), encouraging children to find them. Use signals to indicate when time is up. On re-surfacing, invite the children to remove their helmets and examine their finds.
  • Focusing on the one special shell, ask: What ideas spring to mind from this shell? What might its story be? Was it owned, and now lost? When listened to, does it give instructions? Does it give you special powers? Say that you have heard of this shell, but never believed the stories. It is said that it will lead to riches.
  • Experiment using the children’s ideas, then tell them to ‘dive back in’ and find the treasure chest. (previously hidden).
  • At some point after the drama, use the third of the ‘Ocean treasures’ activity sheets, ‘Story planner’ to inspire story writing.


Learning objective: To understand that a storyline can inspire a dance, and that dance is an alternative way of telling a story.

You will need: Poster, ‘Ocean treasures’; suitable space; suitable music such as that used for the drama activity or one of Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes, or Frank Bridge’s The Sea suite and the forth of the ‘Ocean treasures’ activity sheets ‘Dance planner’.


  • Discuss possible inspirations for the class’s dance – the story they developed through their drama, the shell shapes, the underwater and sea creature movements and the sea itself. Invite them to record these on the forth of the ‘Ocean treasures’ activity sheets ‘Dance planner’.
  • In the dance space, play one or more pieces of the audio clips available on Interactive resource, ‘Interactive ocean objects’ and ask the children to try out initial movement ideas to them in pairs.
  • Ask the children to take specific ideas – such as the moment they all dive into the sea, or the spiral shapes in the special shell (see ‘Tips & techniques’ points one and two, below) – and then experiment to suitable music. Share and select ideas, telling the children to record these on the forth of the ‘Ocean treasures’ activity sheets ‘Dance planner’.
  • Decide whether to include the provided sound effects on the Interactive resource, ‘Interactive ocean objects’, according to the storyline of the dance. For example, you could use the ‘Water lapping’ clip as a background to a narrator’s voice to introduce the story (see ‘Tips & techniques’ point three). Get the children to decide on the order in which the selected sections should be used to tell the story (see ‘Tips & techniques’ point four). Tell them to record the final order, develop, rehearse and perform the dance.

Tips & techniques

  • The dance may be a mixture of movements to tell the storyline (pulling on wetsuits, diving, swimming, discovering) and movements which explore shape. For example, challenge the whole class to create a moment of visual impact and climax when the special shell is first seen, by using all of their bodies to form one large sculpture of the shell.
  • Involve all the children in different ways to create an underwater scene – some could be divers, some sea creatures, some shells, some drifting seaweed.
  • Ask the children to write a striking opening for the narrator, focusing on the objects, such as: ‘Little did we know, on that grey morning by the sea, that two objects, one made by nature, the other by man, were to change our lives for ever….’
  • Take the dance beyond the drama, using the ideas the children came up with on the third of the ‘Ocean treasures’ activity sheet ‘Story planner’. Where did the treasure come from? What is the story behind it? When the treasure box is opened, maybe the dance could tell this story, too.