Don Quixote is a very special, very old and very BIG book. As you might guess, big books are full stories–often more than one–and this ballet is based on just the first few chapters in the big, old, magic novel written by Miguel Cervantes.
This is my favorite ballet. When I was young, my mother gave me a VHS tape (remember those?) of Baryshnikov and Cynthia Harvey dancing this ballet and I watched it to shreds. This is the production I link to below.
Science: Spain and Wind
Have you been to the beach? Did you notice it can be really windy at the beach? It’s almost always windy near the water and if you look at the country of Spain, you see it has water almost all around it. The picture below is trying to show with arrows the directions of the winds–so you can see Spain is sunny and windy!
Wind is energy and Spain makes a lot of wind energy! Here is a video that explains how wind is energy you can feel but not see.
Wind can be turned into energy! And that’s why Spain has so many wind farms! This is what wind farms look like. You may have seen one nearby…maybe in the East Bay?
Wind farms are hilly pieces of land covered in wind turbines–that’s why these look different, they’re doing a different job than windmills do but they’re not windmills, they’re TURBINES. Wind turbines capture wind energy to share with a community, so houses can turn on lights or power computers or run air conditioning.
There are lots of kinds of windmills, and the most famous kind, the kind in Don Quixote, aren’t the kind we use today. The kind in Don Quixote grind wheat. This kind of windmill is very old. They look like this. In fact, this is a picture of exactly the windmills in the book by Cervantes!
The Windmills in Don Quixote are the kind that grind wheat. The wind moves the SAILS on the windmill (this is the part that bonks Don Quixote on the head) and that makes a big wooden plate turn inside the building. The miller puts grain berries down and the wood plates push the mill stones to grind the wheat until it turns into flour. This is what you’re eating when you eat bread!
Did you notice: this building MOVES. How many buildings do you know that move?
Imagine you were like Don Quixote and you couldn’t see very well. Cover your eyes with your hands and just look through your fingers, or try to look through a piece of fabric to see what it’s like not to see clearly. Then imagine you saw a building move. Can you imagine why Don Quixote thought the windmill was a monster?!
Engineering: Make a Windmill
The simplest windmill is a pinwheel. We can make simple ones or tricky ones.
There are countless methods using Toilet Paper Rolls, Ice Cream Cups, or Solo Cups. There are also demonstrations for how to make a wind turbine out of plastic soda bottles but they require drills and therefore can’t be done without a parent. This said, it’s incredible engineering with things you already have around the house!
And if you’d like to make a fan in the style Kitri has, see here:
Art: Coloring Book!
I got a lot of feedback from the children on the photo slideshow for Firebird so, I’ve created one below for Kitri, the ballet’s “star.”
I’ve put a still moment first so you can see the roses, tassels, and embroidery this character’s costume is know for, but what you’re most likely to notice is I took photos of Kitri doing a SISSONNE. This is a step we learn as it’s done by Basil (a la seconde), but Kitri is the one who made it famous. This is in part because a dancer named Gelsey Kirkland did this step on the cover of Time Magazine–this was a very big deal. That magazine cover is the last image of the slideshow.
When I was studying ballet, my teacher didn’t call it a sissonne dérrière, which is the step’s name, instead she called it a Kirkland jump.
Watch the Don Quixote Online
As promised, here is the production I fell in love with as a girl. All on youtube. <3