April Ballet of the Month: Peter and the Wolf

Peter and the Wolf is such a beloved story it’s inspired at least two major composers to render the story into song. In my class, we begin with the symphony Sergei Prokofiev composed to introduce children to the orchestra. I love the Little Long Playing Record Disney produced, I know I had one as a child. In the class, I use a recording Disney produced for the titular cartoon featuring narration by Boris Karloff. Here is the link to buy and the link to hear in entirety on YouTube. This was also a cartoon you might have seen in your childhood. It doesn’t appear in it’s entirety on youtube–so far as i can find–but there are so many foreign language cartoons of the story there, it’s remarkable! If you haven’t seen the Disney version, maybe you’ve seen this Mel-O-Toon from the 60s.

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CINDERELLA (Like Nutcracker for the Spring)

The ballet Cinderella is the most popular ballet for children (after Nutcracker, that is). The ballet’s composer, Sergei Prokofiev, was also responsible for Peter and the Wolf, which he designed as an child’s introduction to the orchestra. Despite Prokofiev’s evident interest in bringing children culture, the music of Cinderella doesn’t sound at all like children’s music. It’s moody and modern with patches of darkness that make the magic in the story seem little edgy. Don’t worry, it’s nothing the kids can’t handle. The choreography is cartoonish and loaded with pantomime and character steps for easy reading for any age. Below I’m providing links for three different production of Cinderella so that you might share the ballet with your tiny dancer!

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February is Sleeping Beauty Month

 

Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty is among the longest and most technically difficult ballets of the canon—and, as if understanding this, the companies who produce the ballet have the most glorious sets and costumes. The attention to detail is inspiring!

You should know the ballet is different in some ways to the movie—though Disney did use a few of the more prominent pieces of Tchaikovsky’s score for his movie. Most notably, he retooled the Sleeping Beauty Waltz for “Once Upon a Dream.” In addition to being a more familiar story than most ballets, you’ll recognize a lot of songs from Sleeping Beauty you’ve heard before in other places.

The two productions I want to direct you to are real treats! Traditionally, the hardest roles for men and women are in Sleeping Beauty: for women, it’s the title role. For men, it’s the role of the Bluebird (in the final act), which is also, often played by the same man who plays Carabosse. Among the most famous ballet dancers in history, Enrico Cecchetti, made the two male roles famous. Cecchetti is also responsible for one of the four principle ballet methods: Cecchetti, Vaganova, Bournonville and Royal Ballet.

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Sizing Swan Lake to Fit Pre-School

When I talk about “Sizing Ballet Stories to Fit” preschool, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is always the first ballet people ask about. I feel it’s a really tidy example of how treating the actions of the ballet literally can answer the trickier aspects of retelling ballet stories to kids. At the end of most ballet productions of Swan Lake, Odette jumps off a cliff and Siegfried jumps after her. I tell the children what the dancers literally do: they jump. I also add that the sun rises and Odette becomes a magical swan again (which means she can fly) and Siegfried follows her into the sky. Ultimately my storytelling ends ambiguously but the couple are together and free of the villain. Tidy enough. I base my storytelling loosely on the San Francisco ballet production.

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Free Preschool Dance Class – Swan Lake – Sunnyvale – 1/13/17

swan_lake_by_the_cuckoo-d4skt20Children ages 2 to 5 will be introduced to the story and music of Swan Lake and learn ballet steps to go with the story. Our instructor is Sara Vizcarrondo from Dance with Miss Sara, Ballet & Etiquette for Preschools

When:
Friday January 13, 2017
1:00 to 1:30pm

Where:
Sunnyvale Public Library
665 W. Olive Ave.
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
(408) 730-7300

 

Read more about Miss Sara’s take on sizing Swan Lake for pre-schoolers and where to watch it online.

Nutcracker Options for The Younger Set

 

Nutcracker season is upon us! Tchaikovsky’s music is a soundtrack for the winter, Clara’s nutcracker reminds you how magical your favorite toys used to be, and her holiday party is a fantasy model for event planning! How rare for one story to contain so many touchstones—and so many of them known by your dancing preschoolers!

The Bay Area boasts a few local Nutcracker events and productions designed for kids and families. The family productions I mention below either star dance students or are abbreviated productions of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, condensed to favor kids with shorter attention spans. A few even offer teas or photo ops with the cast!

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Watch The Nutcracker Ballet Online

Dear Dancing Families,

In a future blog post, I’ll tell you about a few Nutcracker events coming up on our area to which you can bring your preschooler and family. Not all of those events will present the ballet in its entirety, so I thought I’d offer some online productions to either whet your family’s appetite for ballet’s “holiday confection” or help you decide your child’s love for dance ends in the classroom (for now).

The Bolshoi’s production from 1989 is a lovely one—Russian productions are typically lavish and rich with history—and you can see that here.  One of the culturally unique aspects of the Russian productions of the Nutcracker is that it features no Sugar Plum Fairy—instead, Clara does the dance, usually earlier in the production, and in stead of a finale, the dancers dance for her on the wedding she shares with the Nutcracker Prince. A Mariinsky version can be seen below:

The New York City Ballet, never one to be outdone, made a production of the Nutcracker in 1993 with all the cinematic flair they could muster. It’s not my favorite but it can be engrossing, which is special. Also, in this production they’re following the lesser-known tradition of naming the main character “Marie.”

If you didn’t know yet, I left my heart in San Francisco, and SF Ballet’s production is my very favorite. They set the story in 1915 San Francisco and we get to see Droselmeyer’s Rube Goldberg-inspired toy shop. The second act is particularly impressive, and since that’s typically the act kids fall asleep in, you’ll notice a lot to keep your attention high and spirits bright.

I hope you love it all!!!!!

Warmly,

Miss Sara

Peter and the Wolf

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On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of dancing with over 30 new friends at the Mountain View Library! My thanks and gratitude to Miss Sharon McClintock for establishing the program and inviting so many lovely families! Below, read about what we did, a bit about why we did it, and find some links to the material I used so you can keep teaching your child about the rich traditions of Grand Ballet!

Our class began with a circle to remind us all we are a friendly team. Then, the children stretch their hamstrings chasing after a quick little “spider,” they use core muscles to “bake a cupcake,” and they arch their backs like caterpillars eating. Thereafter, we began an overview of the ballet’s story. Peter and the Wolf is the subject of two major compositions. We began with the symphony Sergei Prokofiev composed to introduce children to the orchestra. I used a recording Disney produced to suit a cartoon you might remember from your childhood. London’s Royal Ballet School has a wonderful production of the ballet you can see here.

First, the children learn Peter’s soldier-like posture and sharp marching. Then they learn the quick wrist movements of the bird who flitters in the woods, the waddle of the duck, and the pas de chat of the cat. Then we practice muscle contractions to mimic the posture of the stealthy wolf. Then, because the kids had demonstrated focus, I rewarded them with a silly dance — we spun to the spinning dance and then danced around and jumped around until it was time for reverence (our gracious thank you bows). We finished with a puppet show set to the other famous Peter and the Wolf, Norway’s Peer Gynt, by Edvard Grieg. The puppets moved to the song, “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”
I teach etiquette and ballet at preschools around the South Bay. If you’re interested in bringing Dance with Miss Sara to your preschool, please contact me: BalletChalet@gmail.com.

Thank you so much for letting me dance with your wonderful children!

Warmly,

Miss Sara

La Sylphide

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La Sylphide (The Sylph) is a white ballet from the 1830s with music by Frederic Chopin. The music is full of tiny parts of Chopin songs you’ll recognize from other places—particularly from his famous piano compositions. While the music has been consistent among the productions of the ballet there were two choreographic traditions (choreography by Filippo Taglioni or August Bournonville) and I’ve offered you one of each example in the links below.

La Sylphide is about a Scottish boy who meets a sylph and ruins his wedding day chasing after her. The ballet provides an opportunity to teach high and low sounds and equate those sounds to high and low body movements. It’s also a chance to work on balance because the sylphs do quite a lot of that.

Like many Scottish stories, Sylphide features witches but I don’t tell the children that. Instead, Old Madge is a lady who “delights partygoers by reading their fortunes.” Also, she doesn’t cast a spell in a cauldron, she “stirs a yucky soup that makes a scarf glow.” (The children aren’t dim and many say “she’s like a witch.”)

I hope your family enjoys this short and charming ballet. I will tell them a little about Maria Taglioni and how she was such a delicate dancer she became famous for her portrayal of the sylph. You’ll see some paintings of Taglioni and other dancers Sylphide made famous in the credits of the Royal Danish Ballet here. I’m absolutely delighted with the 1972 Paris Opera production here, especially as the choreography (borrowed from Fillippo Taglioni) is delicate and the camera is closer to the dancers. And if you speak French, the introductory narration will provide some context.

I hope you share this ballet with your tiny dancer and spread the love and KULTUR;-)

Warmly,

Miss Sara

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