Ballet Stories: Sizing them to Fit


Every so often, my dancers will return to their parents with stories form the Grand Ballet. When they do, it opens up a lot of questions. Some questions are direct, like “Where does this story come from?” Other questions might be inspired by the messenger like, “Who is Donkey Hotay?” Regardless, I’m here to help!

I’m beginning this blog to answers typical “more information” questions about the ballets I teach. It’s lovely that most of these ballets are old enough to have full videos online so I’ll offer links possible. I also hope to help explain the way I tell these stories to the children to inform how you might share these ballets with them. This culture is a precious thing to share!

Ballets are not always G-rated affairs so I alter stories to make them more accessible for the children. I report on this in our weekly emails so I won’t delve into specifics here, but I do feel a responsibility to explain that, because I’ve put softer words on the stories, the children’s understandings of them are broad and subject to interpretation—not unlike the storytelling motions of ballerinas and cavaliers (boy ballerinas). If you choose to show your children the ballets I link you to here, and I certainly hope you do, they may ask you questions and for that I’d like to offer what I can to prepare you.

I tend to tell the stories in vague terms; saying things like “then she went to a place” instead of “she died and haunted the forest.” Though, not all narrative alterations are created equal. In lieu of telling the children Basil faked his death to get Kitri’s father’s approval to marry her, I told them he respectfully asked her father’s permission. I did this because it’s preferable to give children an example of good etiquette (i.e. how to do it) than to give a bad example AND explain why it’s bad. (It’s a great scene in the ballet but I’m not in the business of teaching mischief.)  That said, I really changed the climax of this comic ballet. However, if you see the ballet, they are going to see the difference ask questions. However, they will also see that the ballets have a great deal more story to them than I can fit into our classes. So you can always say “Maybe Miss Sara didn’t have time for every detail in the story.” And if you said this, you’d always be telling the truth!

I bonded with my father and mother a great deal over ballet. They took me to productions in San Francisco and Oakland, they bought me VHS tapes (remember those) and they talked about what they saw so I always had examples of observation and recall. If you don’t enjoy ballet, that’s fine, ballet can be an acquired taste. But like movies, ballets come in different genres and I contend there’s a ballet out there for almost everyone.

I hope this is a way to learn more about your lovely child and the culture s/he is gaining from Dance with Miss Sara. I miss them each and all as I type this! I hope you’ve having a wonderful weekend!

Thank you for reading!


Miss Sara

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