Learning Pack

Josephine Wants to Dance

Based on the book by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley
Adapted by Eva Di Cesare, Sandra Eldridge and Tim McGarry
Music and Lyrics by Phillip Scott

Josephine is a kangaroo who loves to dance. Her little brother, Joey, tells her that kangaroos don't dance, they hop. But Josephine doesn't care and continues to point her toes and leap through the air. When a ballet troupe comes to the sleepy town of Shaggy Gully, Josephine learns that there is another way to dance—ballet. On the day of the first performance, the Ballet Company is in trouble, the prima ballerina has twisted her ankle and the understudy has a splinter in her toe! Who could dance the lead role, who else could leap that high? Josephine's talents are called upon to help save the day! But can she do it, and more importantly, does it matter that she's a kangaroo?

This pack is designed to be used in your classroom and is perfect for students in Foundation to Years 1, 2 3 and 4. Inside, you will find fun Drama activities and a Dreamtime story by Michael J Connolly that directly link to the Australian Curriculum. The pack also includes information about how we adapted the book for the stage.

Creative and Critical Thinking
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures

Pursuit of dreams: At its core, the story revolves around Josephine's unyielding pursuit of her dream to dance, even in the face of skepticism and obstacles. Her determination and dedication serve as a testament to the importance of following one's passions.

Self-belief and confidence: Josephine's journey is marked by her growing self-belief and confidence. Despite doubters like her brother Joey, she persists in practicing and refining her dance skills. Her eventual success highlights the significance of believing in oneself and one's abilities.

Individuality and identity: The story explores the theme of individuality as Josephine, a kangaroo, seeks to enter the world of ballet. This theme invites readers to reflect on embracing one's unique identity while pursuing interests that might challenge traditional norms or expectations.

Empowerment and contribution: Josephine's unexpected opportunity to help the ballet troupe showcases the theme of empowerment. Her willingness to step up and make a meaningful contribution demonstrates that even seemingly unconventional talents can have a significant impact.

Supportive relationships: The bond between Josephine and her brother Joey, despite his initial skepticism, underscores the theme of supportive relationships. Their dynamic highlights how encouragement and understanding from loved ones can play a pivotal role in nurturing and achieving one's aspirations.

Read More
Making the Play

The Vision

Theatre begins with an idea, a spark of imagination. This is what we call the vision.

At Monkey Baa our ideas come from all around us; the world we live in and the people we share it with are our biggest inspirations. Many of our plays are inspired by picture books and novels by Australian authors and others from around the world. Our play Josephine Wants to Dance is based on a picture book by Australian author Jackie French and illustrator Bruce Whatley.

Interview with Eva Di Cesare, Writer

What was the inspiration behind the picture book?

According to Jackie French, Josephine is based on a real kangaroo, just as Pete the Sheep and Diary of a Wombat were based on real animals too. Josephine is based on a roo called Fuchsia who came to Jackie’s family with a broken tail in plaster, as she’d been caught in a barbed wire fence. They weren’t sure if she would ever be able to hop again, but Josephine was a determined little kangaroo, and slowly but surely, she started to hop, jump, leap…and dance! As she recovered, she started dancing around the kitchen to Newspaper Mama with Jackie’s son, and she also joined Jackie’s family on afternoon walks to keep them company and show off her best dance moves!

Why did you choose to adapt Josephine Wants to Dance for the stage?

We spend a lot of time reading books to discover the next work to adapt. To be suitable for a stage show, we believe that the book needs to have a strong protagonist's journey, obstacles, conflict, drama, and a satisfying, and hopefully exhilarating conclusion. When we first read Josephine Wants to Dance, we loved the book and its themes. Josephine is about having the courage to be yourself and follow your dreams, but it also highlights the importance of hard work and the discipline and dedication that it takes to succeed.

Read More

The Script

The vision is transformed into a script by a playwright.

Just as a poet writes poems, a playwright writes plays. They specialise in telling stories for the stage. Playwrights create and write characters, scenes and plots in a play. A play is a unique writing form, with two main elements: dialogue and stage directions.

Stories are powerful and magical, they let us explore other worlds and understand ideas and emotions. They can teach us empathy and take us on amazing journeys. Plays are a living, breathing version of the stories we create. The play adaptation of Josephine Wants to Dance was written by Eva Di Cesare, Sandra Eldridge and Tim McGarry, with songs by Phil Scott.

The Rehearsal

Once a script is developed, it is handed over to a director and rehearsals begin.

A rehearsal is a practice session done before the play is seen by an audience. The rehearsal period is the time that leads up to the performance of a play. During this time, actors learn their lines and movement (called blocking), theatre designers dream up the world of the play, composers write the music and playwrights develop their scripts. This all happens under the leadership of the director.

"With perseverance, learning from other people, and looking at the world around you, you can suddenly take everything in and go on to do what you want to do."

— Jonathan Biggins, Director

Read More

The Design

As the show takes shape in the rehearsal room, the designer begins to create the world of the play.

There are many types of theatre designers, including costume, scenic, lighting, projection, and prop designers. Designers work with the rest of the creative team for a production, including the director, producer, and sometimes the playwright, to create the look and feel of the world of the play.

Sets (or scenery) are used as the setting or world for a play. Costumes are the clothing actors wear that represent a character or type of person. Costumes help tell stories, provide actors with the basis for their performances and let the audience know who the characters are by providing context. Props (or properties) are objects used on stage by actors during a play.

The sets and costumes for Josephine Wants to Dance are designed by James Browne who has worked with other Monkey Baa shows such as Yong and Pete the Sheep.

Read More

The performance

To bring it all together, actors help create characters, tell the story and bring the world of the play to life.

An actor interprets and plays characters in a performance. Sometimes characters are based on real people or are made up (fictional). These characters are based on the characters in Jackie French and Bruce Whatley's picture book Josephine Wants to Dance. Bringing the characters to life are Rebecca Hetherington, Chloe Dallimore, Amanda Laing and Hayden Rodgers.

Classroom Activities

Dreamtime Story Activities

Beautiful Dancing Bird

Description: Students create a picture book based on the Dreamtime story: Beautiful Dancing Bird

Resources: Paper/workbooks, pens/pencils

Beautiful Dancing Bird:

Long ago back in the Dreamtime, there was a very beautiful girl called Brolga. She was the best dancer in the whole land, as her dancing was so graceful. Now Brolga hadn’t always been such a good dancer. When she was a very little girl she used to get up very early in the morning and creep out of the gunyah (shelter) and onto the plains around her camp. Once she was there she would practice swooshing her arms like the Pelican, parading like the Emu and whirling like the wind. But Brolga didn’t just do the old dances. She liked to make up new ones about the trees and the wind and dances about the Spirits and the animals. Soon Brolga’s dance became so good that other tribes would come from far away just to watch Brolga dance her beautiful dance.

One day, Brolga went off by herself to dance out onto the dry red plain near her favourite tree, a big old Coolibah tree. Brolga began to dance in its shade, moving with the shadow of the old tree branches. As little puffs of dust rose from her feet, an evil Spirit named Waiwera looked down from his home in the Milky Way and saw Brolga. She was the most graceful and beautiful girl he had ever seen. Waiwera decided Brolga must be his, so he quickly spun himself into a whirlwind, and flew down onto the plain. As the wind came closer to Brolga it made a sudden great roaring sound and enclosed her. Brolga was swept off her feet and taken away.

When Brolga’s tribe discovered she was missing, they went looking for her, but the wind had covered her tracks. They found the old Coolibah tree and a path where the whirlwind had been and decided to follow it. For several days they followed the path of the whirlwind until they came to a hill overlooking a small plain. There below they saw Waiwera and his captive, Brolga. The whole tribe rushed down hurling their spears and boomerangs. Realizing that he couldn’t escape with Brolga, he decided that no one would have her. Waiwera swirled around her and just as the tribe reached her, she vanished. Brolga’s tribe watched as the whirlwind wound its way slowly up into the sky. On the spot where it had been there now stood a big old Coolibah tree... but there was no sign of Brolga.

As they stood near the tree that Waiwera had left, a beautiful tall grey bird appeared from behind the tree. The bird began to stretch its wings and instead of flying away, it began to dance, making the same graceful moves that Brolga used to make. The bird danced taking long, hopping steps and floating on its graceful wings. It pranced slowly towards them and with one last graceful bound, flew up into the air and away! From then on they all knew that the evil spirit had changed Brolga into a bird.

By Michael J Connolly
Dreamtime Kullilla-Art © Dreamtime Kullilla-Art

How it works: Students discuss the plot points of How the Sun Was Made, breaking the story up into four sections. Students then use 5 pages to create a picture book that tells the story of ‘How the Sun Was Made’ through pictures instead of words.


  • Title page with written title: How the Sun Was Made

  • Paragraph 1 shown in pictures

  • Paragraph 2 shown in pictures

  • Paragraph 3 shown in pictures

  • Paragraph 4 shown in pictures

Students share their picture books with their classmates.

Drama Activities

The Present Game

Description: Students mime giving each other gifts

Resources: A large space

How it works: Standing in a circle, students one at a time mime holding an object in their hands that they then pass to the student next to them. In the hands of the next student, the object then transforms into something else and is passed to the next student. As a student passes their object they name it, for example: “This is a balloon.” The receiver of the object says, “Thank you” and passes their transformed object on to the next student.


  • Player 1 mimes blowing up a balloon, tying it with string and passing it to Player 2 while saying “This is a balloon”

  • Player 2 mimes receiving the balloon and says “Thank you”

  • Player 2 transforms the balloon into a puppy dog and passes it to Player 3 while saying “This is a puppy dog”

  • Player 3 mimes receiving the puppy dog and says “Thank you”

What Are You Doing?

Description: Students take turns to mime an action suggested by other students

Resources: A large space

How it works: Standing in a circle, Player 1 enters the space and mimes an action, for example, mowing the lawn, brushing teeth, riding a horse.

Player 2 then enters the space and asks, “What are you doing?” to which Player 1 responds with a new action that is different to what they are currently doing.

Player 2 mimes the given action until a new student enters the space and asks, “What are you doing?” and this is repeated until all students have had a turn.


  • Player 1 mimes walking a dog

  • Player 2 enters and asks, “What are you doing?”

  • Player 1 “I am painting a picture”

  • Player 2 mimes painting a picture

Knife and Fork

Description: Students form shapes with their bodies

Resources: A large space

How it works: Begin working with the whole group. The group combines to make simple geometric shapes and alphabetical letters, for example, circle, square, triangle, P for Peter, T for Tasmania, and so on. The teacher calls out the shape and students are given 10 seconds to create it and then freeze in position. Repeat until students understand how the game works.

Break the group into pairs or smaller groups. The students now make shapes of objects (see list below) that involve closer physical contact, require more imagination, and allow for individual interpretation. The teacher calls out the shape and students are given 10 seconds to create it and then freeze in position.

Shapes to call:

  • Pair of chopsticks

  • Knife and fork

  • Rose in a vase

  • Cup and saucer

  • Egg on toast

  • Pair of shoes

  • Bowl of fruit

  • Telephone

  • Photo in a frame

  • Pair of glasses

Be prepared for laughter and let the students have fun. Encourage the students to combine humour and hard work and associate both with concentration.

Naming the Obvious

Description: Students name objects as they are and as they are not

Resources: A large space

How it works: Working individually, students move around the space and use simple language to name everything they see. They point as they look at and name things, for example, wall, floor, brick, carpet, window, etc. Encourage students to be simple and name ordinary things that are tangible rather than trying to be clever.

Next, students move around the space and name and describe each object in detail – colours, shapes, textures, etc. Encourage students to take the description as far as possible while keeping the information factual.

Then, students move around the space and name objects as they are not, for example, the wall is a shoe, or the floor is a rabbit. Students then describe the object as they are not, for example, a student points to the wall and says, “This is a shoe that once belonged to a king, it is over 1000 years old and falling apart, it is green with gold tassels and faded jewels.”

This is repeated until all students have described three or four objects. Students are invited to share their favourite objects and descriptions with their classmates.

One Word at a Time Story

Description: With a situation or title given, students tell a story one word at a time

Resources: A large space

How it works: Sitting in a circle, students create a story, speaking one word at a time.

The story must have a beginning, middle and end, and each word must follow from the one before it.


“Once” | “upon” | “a” | “time” | “there” | “lived” | “a” | “kangaroo” | “named” | “Josephine.”

Help students form the story by offering suggestions and moving the story from one event to the next. Encourage students to listen to each other and focus not only on the word before theirs but the story.

Curriculum Links

Curriculum Links


Appreciating; Drama Forms: Storytelling, Movement, Puppetry & Playbuilding.

Students develop knowledge and understanding, skills, values and attitudes in making, performing and appreciating by engaging in role, dramatic contexts, elements and forms.

Early Stage 1


Stage 1

DRAS1.4, DRAS1.2, DRAS1.3

Stage 2

DRAS2.4, DRAS2.1, DRAS2.2

Learning Packs

Edward the Emu

Learning Pack Show Info

Possum Magic

Learning Pack Show Info


Learning Pack Show Info
See All
We use cookies to improve your experience on our site. By using our site you give permission for the use of cookies.