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Ballet and Classical Music Presented by Emily Weil -An Introduction to the History of the dance form and music commonly used.
What Do You Already Know? What are some common ideas that are believed about ballet? Are they true? Is Ballet just for girls? With your group, draw a diagram, picture, or whatever you desire to show what you know about ballet.
A Little Bit Of Information on Ballet: Ballet is a way of telling a story through dance. It is a visual way of showing something that is normally written or oral. Many fairytales and plays have been made into ballets such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and A Midsummer’s Night Dream.
What Experience Have You Had With Ballet? Have you taken any classes? Have you seen any ballets? Are you familiar with any of the technique? Have you seen popular dance movies such as Center Stage?
A Little History Ballet was originally developed in the 1600’s in France. There is not one, main style. The style tends to be dictated by the country it originated from. (Russian ballet is more forceful, while French ballet is more graceful and fluid) Ballet terms (such as arabesque) are mostly of French origins. The first Prima Ballerina Assoluta (considered the highest honor bestowed on a dancer) was PierinaLegnani (Russian). She was famous for performing 32 fouettes in a row. For more historical information, see: http://www.dance4it.com/ballethistory.htm.
Yes there are male ballet dancers! Mikhail Baryshnikov is known as the best living male dancer. He began studying dance in 1960 in the USSR at the age of 12. Creativity was not encouraged in the USSR, and he made the move to the US where he joined the New York City Ballet Company. After being the principle dancer for several years, he became artistic director for the American Ballet Theatre in 1980. Mikhail has made a few movie appearances, and he may be familiar to those who watch Sex and the City.
The Story of Swan Lake This ballet was composed by Tschaikovsky in 1875 and is about 3 hours long (divided into two Acts.) It is a German fairy tale about a wicked sorcerer, Von Rotbart, who turns girls into birds. Odette is the main character, the Swan Queen, and she has a spell cast upon her that will not be broken until Prince Siegfried pronounces his true love to her. The Prince is tricked, and pronounces his love to Odile instead. However, the Swan Queen forgives him and the curse is broken.
The Story of Cinderella Cinderella is a very popular story due to its making into a movie by Disney. It was actually a ballet before the movie. The ballet was written by a famous composer by the name of Prokiev. Children can play roles in this ballet (they are typically casts as the fireflies). Now we’ll listen to a track from the CD of the ballet. See if you can get a feel for what is going on. What is the mood?
The Nutcracker This is a generally, well-known ballet that is performed every year around Thanksgiving. This is a popular ballet due to its abundant amount of children roles. The main dancer, Clara, is a child role. (a controversial issue with Clara is that her role requires the dancer to be on pointe, which at younger ages is dangerous due to foot growth). Composed by Tskaviesvsky
What Do Ballerinas Wear? Leotards (usually black, or another solid color) Tights (usually “ballet” pink, but sometimes a skin tone) Warm up clothing (consists of leggings and dance sweaters) Warm-up clothing is tight fitting so that the teacher is still able to visibly assess whether the dancers are in form.
Ballet A-B-C’s The New York City Ballet Company has a very helpful link on their website that provides information for families and children. It provides an interactive tool that has the “A,B,C’s” of ballet. It provides children with a way of learning the terms that are used in ballet. It provides children with the stories of the ballets and other information. Link: http://www.nycballet.com/families/kids/alphabet.html.
Listening Activity Play a song from a ballet, such as the Nutcracker or Cinderella. Before telling the class what the song is about, let them listen to it and decide what they think the mood of the song is and what story it could be telling. Tell them what the composer intended. Ask how they feel about it? Does the music go along with the story? Could they think of a better way of telling it?
Story-telling Activity Give your students a chance to tell their own story: After introducing the basics of existing ballets, let them think of their own stories that they could tell through dance and music. Have them form groups and choose a story to tell (Encourage them to choose well-known stories that are simple in concept). Depending on the time available, they could create costumes and put on a show for the other students in the class. They could try to guess what each group is trying to tell through the movements and chosen music.
Resources: New York City Ballet at: http://www.nycballet.com/families/families.html. Nutcracker CD Cinderella CD Ballet History from Wendy Burke School of Dance at: http://www.dance4it.com/ballethistory.htm. Famous Ballerinas at: http://www.famousballerina.com/.