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Education Blog

Doing the Fox Trot
Sep 7, 2010

A Whitney educator discusses the steps, numbers, and arrows in Andy Warhol’s Dance Diagram, 5 (Fox Trot: “The Right Turn – Man”), 1962. Photograph by Tanya Ahmed

A group of teachers trying out the fox trot may not be something you expect to see when you visit the Whitney but that was what happened on a Thursday morning in Off the Wall: Part 1—Thirty Performative Actions. A group of participants from Connecting Collections, a week-long Summer Institute for third to twelfth grade teachers, were following the steps illustrated in Andy Warhol’s Dance Diagram, 5 (Fox Trot: “The Right Turn – Man”), 1962. This work is one of seven paintings in Warhol's _Dance Diagram_ series from the early 1960s. For this series, Warhol reproduced "readymade" diagrams of ballroom dance steps onto canvas and displayed them on the floor.

Teachers test out Andy Warhol’s Dance Diagram, 5 (Fox Trot: “The Right Turn – Man”), 1962. Photograph by Tanya Ahmed

When the Museum educator showed this work to the teachers, they immediately knew it had something to do with dance. The footsteps, numbers, and arrows were familiar symbols that teachers have seen in dance instruction manuals. In fact, the Dance Diagram series are “based on images found in two dance books published by the Dance Guild in 1956: Lindy Made Easy (Charleston) and Fox Trot Made Easy” (Anonymous, 2003). After revealing this information to the teachers, the Museum educator encouraged the group to test out the steps and turns in the fox trot. 

Teachers test out Andy Warhol’s Dance Diagram, 5 (Fox Trot: “The Right Turn – Man”), 1962. Photograph by Tanya Ahmed

Teachers watch a video on YouTube. Photograph by Tanya Ahmed

After the movement activity, the teachers watched a video on YouTube. The four-minute “Anyone Can Dance Fox Trot” video showed a pair of dance instructors demonstrating the basic steps to the dance. The conversation that followed revolved around the concept of self-improvement in the 1960s and user-generated instructions and lessons in the twenty-first century. The Museum educator and teachers then created curriculum ideas centered around the concept of student-generated instructions.

Teachers share strategies for incorporating contemporary art into their classrooms. Photograph by Tanya Ahmed

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