Degas Dancers

LESSON TITLE: Degas Dancers
TEACHER NAME: Jennifer Schupak
GRADE LEVEL: 3rd – 6th
CLASS TIME: _45_Minutes _1_Days/week _1-2_# Session(s)
SUBJECTS COVERED -Dancing, History, Fine Art


  • Students will understand how to use oil pastels and it’s different techniques.
  • Students will know this history of Degas and why he painted dancers.
  • Students will determine the spacial differences between the foreground, middle ground and back ground.


  1. Computer paper 8×10
  2. Construction paper 11×17
  3. Pastels
  4. Paper towels (for blending)


Foreground – the bottom third of the paper, or the area of the paper where objects will appear larger because they are closer.

Middle ground – the middle third of the paper where objects will be at the center of the paper and smaller then objects seen in the foreground.

Background – the top third of the paper, where object will be dramatically smaller


Students will draw themselves in motion, much like Degas did with his dancers. I used a great children’s book on impressionist artists which is chock full of lesson plans for teachers, parents ans students. This lesson focuses on Degas and “Figures in motion” It gives a short history on Degas and his fascination with ballet. During his life he made over 600 artworks of dancers. He most often drew them during practice, showing the viewer a behind the scenes look at dancers in practice. The book uses one of Degas more famous pieces of art, “The Rehearsal Onstate” 1874, oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 32 inches.

For our lesson we will use discussion to explore Degas painting. Go behind the scenes, watch the ballerineas. Ask your students “What do you notice is happening?

Who are these girls? What are they doing?

Look at te dancers who are center stage. Who would you describe the way they are moving?

Notice the man in the middle of the all the girls. Who could he be? What is he doing with his hands?

Look at the girls around him. What is each one doing? How do you suppose they feel? Notice the one just to his left. Why is her mouth open? What might her arms be reaching for?

Lets travel to the back of the stage, who might those two men be?

The name of the picture is  The Rehearsal Onstage. What in the picture tells us the dancers are practicing and it is not the actual performance?

Like a photograph, this painting captures a moment in time. What kinds of movements are “frozen” in this picture?

Look closely. Can you find something in the picture that tells you what kind of music they might be dancing to?

Look at the edge of the picture. Notice the way the scene is cut off. If this scene kept going, what else might you see in this place?

If you could turn this picture on like a movie, what would happen next?

Do you dance, or play a sport? Lets imagine ourselves in motion either dancing, or playing a sport. What would your “stage” be?

Have your students draw themselves dancing or playing a sport. Have them draw themselves with simple shapes. (shown below)

Next have students add the details, clothes, colors, face, and show students how to smudge the paper to show movement.

The dancer should look like this. Use the 11×17 paper to create the background. Once it’s done have students cut their figure out and have them glue it onto their background. I think it’s best to use separate paper for the character and the background because students can have the option to pace the character any where on the stage, or ground. Encourage them to use the length of the paper as the heights so the figure will be present in the foreground of the page.


Raimondo, Joyce. Picture This!: Activities and Adventures in Impressionism. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 2004. Print.

Werner, Alfred, and Edgar Degas. Degas Pastels. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1977. Print.



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