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Samoan Sasa

This is an excerpt from Teaching Children Dance 4th Edition With HKPropel Access by Susan M. Flynn,Emily Enloe,Theresa Purcell Cone & Stephen L. Cone.


3 to 12


As a result of participating in this learning experience, students will be able to do the following:

  1. Demonstrate at least three of the movement sequences with the same timing as a partner (psychomotor and affective).
  2. Name the various sequences of the dance in order without cues from the teacher (cognitive and psychomotor).


Students are sitting with their legs crossed and their hands on their thighs, spreading out in the space and facing the front wall.

Equipment Needed

  • World map showing Samoa
  • Flag or picture of the Samoan flag
  • Videos or photos showing the possible variations of the dance
  • Drumsticks with a bucket or drum to provide a beat
  • Suggested music:
    • “Bongo Song” by Safri Duo
    • “On the Drums” by Eric Sneo

Introduction and Warm-Up

Did you know that in the United States the month of May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month? One way to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage is to learn about various aspects of the culture in one or more countries. Today, we are going to talk about Samoa, an island country in the South Pacific. [Show the map and flag of Samoa, along with any other artifacts found to represent the country.] In Samoa, rhythm, dancing, singing, and music are integral to the culture. The sasa is an energetic Samoan group dance performed with a variety of unique hand movements. The dancers’ movements reflect activities from their daily life, such as paddling, cracking a coconut, making nets and rope, climbing trees, making food, and more. This version is one that was created using some of the traditional movements. In this dance, the clapping and slapping movements create the sounds for the dance. We will also have a drum beating to add a more traditional sound to the dance.

Let’s begin learning and warming up by sitting down with our legs crossed to practice our clapping movements. Our goal is to make sure we can stay on beat as a group as we practice clapping, just like we will need to do in the dance. Make sure to listen to my drumbeat and match the tempo I play as you clap. [Play the drum and have students clap along, getting faster or slower as the tempo changes.] Now, we are going to do some call and response, which means you listen as I play a rhythm on the drum, and then you respond by clapping that rhythm back to me. [Play a 4-count rhythm, and have students clap it back. Repeat several times with various rhythms.] Let’s add in some other body rhythms by slapping our thighs and the floor to make new sounds and rhythms. We are going to continue our call-and-response pattern, but I am going to perform the rhythm first on my body, and then I want you to copy it. Make sure to watch and listen. There will be different patterns each time. [While sitting and facing the students, create a 4-count pattern of clapping, slapping thighs, or slapping the floor in any order you choose. Have students respond back. Repeat several times with varying rhythms and varying orders of body parts used. For example, one rhythm could be clap-clap-slap thighs-slap floor.] It sounds like we have the hang of using our bodies in different ways with different rhythms, so I think it is time for us to learn a sequence. Remember, this is just one version of the sasa we are learning, as there are many variations that exist.


  • Pati clap: Clap the fingers from one hand on the palms of the other hand.
  • Po clap: Clap with the hands cupped, which creates a lower sound.
  • Flick: Put the hands at shoulder height with the palms facing your face. Roll or flick the wrist outward with a quick, light movement to have the palms face away from the face. This might resemble throwing something away from your face or body.
  • Floor slaps: Using both hands, slap the floor with the palms. This can happen to the right side, the left side, or center of the body.
  • Thigh slaps: Using both bands, slap the thighs with the palms. The right hand should be slapping the right thigh while the left hand slaps the left thigh.
  • Handshake sequence: This sequence is a total of 8 counts. The right arm reaches out to the right side at shoulder level and does two handshakes, or twists of the wrist, while the left hand touches the left side of the head with the left elbow lifted for a total of 2 counts. Then the left arm reaches out to the left side at shoulder level and does two handshakes, while the right hand touches the right side of the head with the right elbow lifted for 2 counts. Then the right and left arms reach in front of the body and do two handshakes for 2 counts. Clap once, and then raise the arms above the head saying “Talofa” for 2 counts. Talofa means greetings or hello in the Samoan language.
  • Butterfly slap sequence: This sequence is a total of 8 counts. Criss-cross the arms in front of the chest while holding them away from the body and parallel to the floor. Slap the hands on opposite elbows, with the right hand on the left elbow and the left hand on the right elbow, while the hands are held at chest height. Slap both elbows twice in a row for 2 counts. Then slap the backs of the hands together at chest height, like you are clapping with the backs of your hands instead of your palms for 2 counts while keeping elbows in place. Then repeat the elbow slaps followed by the backhand slaps for 4 counts.
  • Cracking the coconut: This sequence is a total of 8 counts. With the left hand, pretend to scoop up a coconut for 2 counts. Pretend you are chopping to open a coconut, striking it twice with the right hand while holding the pretend coconut in the left palm for 2 counts. Hold the right fist over the left fist, and do a wringing action as if you are squeezing coconut milk out through the string remnants of the coconut husk for 2 counts. Throw away the husk with the right hand by tossing it over the right shoulder for 1 count, and hold for 1 count.
  • Elbow slaps, pati clap, and thigh slap sequence: This sequence is a total of 4 counts. Hold the left elbow up at a 90-degree angle, and slap the inside of the left elbow with the right hand for 1 count. Repeat with the left hand slapping the right elbow for 1 count. Then do one pati clap and one thigh slap for 2 counts.

Sequence of Dance Steps

  • Counts 1 to 4: Pati clap four times.
  • Counts 5 to 8: Po claps four times.
  • Counts 9 to 32: Repeat the sequence of four pati claps followed by four po claps three times.
  • Counts 33 to 36: Pati clap, po clap, flick, and thigh slap.
  • Counts 37 to 48: Repeat the sequence of pati clap, po clap, flick, and thigh slap three times.
  • Counts 49 to 56: Flick, floor slap right, flick, floor slap left, flick, floor slap center, pati clap, and po clap.
  • Counts 57 to 80: Repeat the sequence of flick, floor slap right, flick, floor slap left, flick, floor slap center, pati clap, and po clap three times.
  • Counts 81 to 112: Do the handshake sequence four times.
  • Counts 113 to 120: Do the butterfly slap sequence one time.
  • Counts 121 to 128: Pati clap, po clap, pati clap, po clap, pati clap, po clap, pati clap, po clap.
  • Counts 129 to 160: Crack the coconut sequence four times.
  • Counts 161 to 176: Do the elbow slaps, pati clap, and thigh slap sequence four times. On the last sequence, shout “Chew” at the end.


Have students partner up and share with a classmate which hand movement sequence was their favorite and why. Allow students to share with the entire class after sharing with a partner, and ask them to explain what they think their favorite hand movement sequence might represent.

Look For

  • Dancers who can complete sequences at the tempo of the drums and stay in rhythm with their classmates.
  • Dancers who can identify the different movement sequences by name and remember the correct order without teacher cues.

How Can I Change This?

  • There are many variations of the sasa dance, and the sequence or steps can be modified as needed for different groups of students. Depending on the grade level, you may only need to practice a few sequences or counts of the dance, then repeat them several times to develop competence in the dancers.
  • Dancers can work with a partner or in groups of three to four and create their own 8- count sasa sequence that can be repeated four times for a total of 32 counts. Emphasize the use of everyday movements, such as slaps using different body parts, foot stomps, or other movements that can be added to the sequence. Although the sequence provided required sitting the entire time, the sasa dance can involve standing and movements in personal space.
  • Dancers can pick their favorite three sequences and perform the dance in a small group or a large class circle.
  • More advanced dancers can perform the entire dance while facing a partner. If working with a partner and creating their own sequence, they can also consider creating movements that require connecting with their partner, such as high-five claps or elbow taps.
More Excerpts From Teaching Children Dance 4th Edition With HKPropel Access



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