A Haitian-Styled Valse

Grade Level
K-3, 4-6


Audio file
Valse A Elle

Audio file
La Violette

Activity 1: Finding the Waltz Rhythm (K-3)

1. Listen to or watch a portion of Tchaikovsky's 'Waltz of the Flowers' from The Nutcracker Suite; and ask students to find and demonstrate the strong-weak-weak pattern. Review that this is triple meter. Discuss the string instruments used in this piece (harp in the introduction, followed by the string section playing the strong-weak-weak pattern of the meter.)

2. Listen to 'La Violette' and find the strong-weak-weak metrical pattern. Have students identify that this is also in three meter. Ask the students to listen for the instruments that are playing the pattern (guitar; clave on second and third beat)

3. Distribute small percussion (drums and rhythm sticks or claves) and have some students play drum on downbeats and claves or rhythms sticks on two and three and they listen again.

4. Extend the activity by showing younger students various photos/images of string instruments, including guitar and banjo. Discuss the difference between the two and have them listen again for the guitar accompaniment and banjo lead.

5. Note that the waltz was a popular dance form in Europe in the 19th century, and was transported to Haiti where it continued to be a popular feature of dance bands and orchestras and various other instrumental ensembles well into the twentieth century. 

Activity 2: Waltz Tempo (4-6)
1. Listen to Valse a elle and La Violette again. Ask students to concentrate on the tempo of these dance pieces, and ask the question: Q - Which of the two waltz selections is faster? A - La Violette is faster than Valse a elle.

2. While listening to the two waltz selections, have students pat the strong pulses of the varied tempos. Gradually, challenge them to clap the weak beats in between the strong beats, noting the tempo differentiation between the two selections.

3. Watch again (while listening to) the well-known "Waltz of the Flowers" from The Nutcracker, and apply the patting and clapping gestures to the strong and weak beats. Discuss the tempo as it compares to Valse a elle and La Violette?

4. Using classroom instruments such as drum, claves or rhythm sticks, guiro, and maracas, improvise rhythms to accompany the varied waltz tempos.

Designed by Rita Klinger