May 6, 2020: Extra Fun for Legend of Love

The Ballet We Are Studying Online

I’m so happy to see my dancers online! I wanted to provide some at home learning for you, all inspired by our ballet of the month: Legend of Love!

The story takes place in ancient Azerbaijan!

Azerbaijan is not often represented in western culture and that gives us a special opportunity to learn with this story!

Click the flag to download an Azerbaijan Flag coloring sheet.

You can also use this one by Crayola.

The story of the ballet is inspired by a 12th Century poem–that’s more than 800 years old! The Poet who wrote this romantic poem was Nizami Ganjavi and he came from Persia. Persia is what we used to call Iran. Can you see on the map how close Iran is to Azerbaijan? How might a person get from one country to the other?

Do you also see Turkey on the map? The songwriter who turned the poem into a ballet story was from Turkey. His name was Nâzım Hikmet and he was quite important, but we don’t have a lot of his work in America because it hasn’t all been translated into English from Turkish. Just like Maria Montessori, Hikmet is famous for speaking out for peace!

Do you know what interests me? The water. In the ballet story, there’s a spring that gets clogged or stopped up by a rock. I’ll bet it would be be an interesting science experiment to work that out with rocks and water. I might see about that.

The Ballet and the Music are Modern

See the whole ballet online by clicking on the image.

The Music was written by Arif Melikov; this is the name we practice after the puppet story. When you hear the music, you can tell it’s not melodious or gentle: it’s got a lot of hard sounds and it goes from loud to quiet and back quickly. You can also see, when you watch the ballet online, that the dancers are using their arms and legs in a way that looks like the loud and quiet changes in the music. See how they make their hands stick out? And see how they bend their knees where we’d usually stretch them straight?

This Month’s Step in Pieces: Pique Turn

This is the time of year when we try new things, because all of my students are older and bolder, so I thought we could try to learn Pique Turns! We’ll learn this in four parts. We start with 1. passe, then we 2. change weight from two feet to one, then 3. change feet and 4. pivot on demi-pointe.

The aspect of the step we’ll spend the most on is doing pique without the turn. It looks like this:

Adding a turn (pivot) is a big step. This is the first traveling turn we learn in ballet!

Here is a tutorial on the step in action. Notice how she travels across the floor.

Click on video or link to it here.

Below is a simple coloring sheet. The arms are different on this dancer.

I mentioned this is a traveling turn, which means we do the step to get from one end of the room to the other. Often, when we do many pique turns across the floor, we change arms for our last turn. Here, the arms seem to say “tada.”

Below is another coloring sheet–you can see this dancer is shifting weights from one foot to the other. Notice she is on demi-pointe.

Making this resource page has been so much fun, I want to make them for all the ballets I’m sharing (only with my students) via youtube. I’ll make one for Coppelia and update you as it’s done.

Let’s make this as fun as we can!

The Story of Hansel & Gretel

Hansel & Gretel Cone Doll Play Set

If you don’t have a copy of our Hansel & Gretel Cone Doll Play Set you can download it here. Simply print the PDF file and follow the instructions on the second page to create this adorable cone doll play set.

The story of Hansel & Gretel below is used in our classes to teach ballet dance steps, good manners and culture. Contact us if you’d like to bring ballet & etiquette to your pre-school. email: sara@academyofballetandetiquette.com

The Story

700 years ago it rained and snowed for two years and the food could not grow. Hansel and Gretel are lucky. Their mother showed them how to forage. That’s when you look for food that grows on accident. Gretel is good at finding and Hansel is good at collecting. They are a good team. Today, they did not find much to eat.

At home, mom says, “We eat together.” And the children take a nap. When they wake up, they are terribly hungry! They forget everything mom said, and eat everything they can find. Dad comes home and finds them. He says, “Hansel. Gretel. Go to bed.”

They go to bed, but don’t sleep. Instead, Hansel and Gretel listen. Mom says, “They’d eat more if they foraged alone.” Dad said, “They’re too little to leave us!” In the morning, mom makes bread and says “Hansel. Gretel. We’re going to the woods.

The children had a plan. Gretel watched mom so they didn’t get lost. Hansel tore their bread into crumbs he dropped behind each step to make a trail they could follow home.

But the birds were hungry and Hansel said, “shoo!” Gretel said “shhhhhh.” Hansel said, “Where’s mom?!” Gretel said, “Where is your trail?” They ran about looking for mom. “Mom! Mom!” but couldn’t find her.

That’s when they got stuck. They tried to move but their feet were glued to the ground. That’s when the snakes came. The snakes slithered around their feet and ankles. Their legs and tummies. Their chests and necks! “I’m scared!” said Gretel. “I”m warm!” said Hansel. That’s when they saw it. A glittering little cottage in the woods. Hansel asked, “Do you see that?” and Gretel asked “Can you smell that?!”

The little house was made of gingerbread! Coated in frosting, candies and nuts. The children were usually polite but when they saw the house they didn’t ask permission, they just started to eat. That’s when a beautiful lady appeared. “Children? I dropped a bon bon and if you find it, you can have it. COME HERE.”

The children ran into the house and under the table and CRACK. They were in a cage! The witch laughed and said, “I’ll eat you for supper in three days time!” Hansel said, “How could she eat us?!” Gretel said, “She’ll have to cook us.” Hansel answered, “she’ll open the cage and we’ll run!

The next day, the witch said. “Show me your finger, I’ll see if you’re fat!” Hansel stuck a twig out the front of the cage. The witch yelled, “Don’t fool me!” She carried the cage to the kitchen, opened the oven door and the children RAN! But the house was enchanted! They ran and ran and ran, so much longer than they should have in a tiny house made of candy.

When they finally passed the front door they got stuck in a puddle! They ran and ran but stayed in one place. That’s when a tiny duck passed them by. “Ride my back,” he said. And the children stood on their tiniest feet to cross the water.

Out of the puddle they heard their father calling “Hansel! Gretel” and when he hugged them he said, “I’ll never let you out of my sight again!”

Quick! See Don Quixote at SFBallet (or see it here)

The children don’t learn the comic ballet Don Quixote until September, however, our beloved San Francisco Ballet is putting this ballet on right now and if anyone has a chance to see it—or if they can’t—I’m blogging out a tiny primer on this, my personal favorite ballet of all time!

As a child, my parents gave me a VHS tape of Baryshnikiov’s production of the ballet with American Ballet Theater. It was remembered as his production not because he choreographed it (that’s usually why you credit someone with a production) but because he directed the video. And it was a very successful VHS, as ballet tapes go. By the grace of YouTube, you can see it in its entirely here! This is the version I dreamed to! Cynthia Harvey’s Kitri is the performance I judge everyone else against. Keep an eye out for Cupid in the second act; Cheryl Yeager’s leggy diety makes it easy to imagine a creature could compel you to love. And, of course, no jumps are as show stopping as Baryshnikov’s Basil! I hope you love it!

I adore Svetlana Zaharova and just recently directed you to watch her in Swan Lake. She’s one of those dancers who has absolutely transcended all technical challenges and her dancing verges on full body acting. Her Kitri is the only other that holds a candle to Harvey. Kitri’s job is to be a body of delight: Her father tries to marry her off to a rich landowner and her reaction (she runs away) has to appear youthful and ebullient instead of selfish. How do you do that through ballet? Watching Zaharova, you’ll ask that, too, and while you’re watching you won’t really have an answer. Zaharova is light as angels. Also, see that this version contains the introduction you’ll see at SF Ballet’s version. In it, Don Quixote falls asleep reading a chivalric book and wakes up when a theif (Sancho Panza) runs through his bedroom with stolen food. He confuses Sancho for a noblemen and set out to see his love Dulcinea, armed with a shaving basin on his head. See it here.

Natalia Osipova jumps like a bird and shouldn’t be ignored for her Kitri—even if I have my prejudices. Her dances are joyous! Also great in this production are the dances with the matador and partner—they’re more balletic than you might find in other versions, which emphasize the more ethnic aspects of the dance—but the way the matador duo get the crowd’s attention with passion is really rare and memorable. See her here.

The heir to the throne of Baryshnikov is a dancer named Sergei Polunin. This wunderkind rose the ranks so fast he told dance publications he was retiring to see what else he could conquer. Like Zaharova, Polunin a way of making you hang on his movements; he creates anticipation. See his variation at the 56 minute mark. He does a jump that takes him 3-4feet in the air and halfway on his side. You’ll hold your breath a moment. Erika Mikirtcheva’s Kitri is a delightful rival to his Basil: she giggles off every impossible hurdle he takes and it’s as if he’s sweating just to get that reaction. See the production here.

Part of what makes Don Quixote magical is the demand that the ballet has others don’t: this one requires the chemistry of dancers and what looks like interaction. It’s highly social in ways other ballets don’t seem to be. It’s a really great night out, even if you’re not a ballet nerd:-)

Tickets to SF Ballet’s last weekend with Don Quixote here!

Hansel & Gretel

Hansel and Gretel is a lesser produced ballet and so lesser known. The modern ballet music is hard to find—I, myself, couldn’t find the Edvard Grieg ballet music to download. (You can see a piece to that music in this link  at the 35 minute mark.) So, when music is harder to get ballet schools or universities set their productions to the wrong music: like this production by the Lake Erie Ballet School  that used music from La Fille Mal Gardee, or this National Youth Ensemble/National Ballet of Cuba production set to Arthur Fielder.

In my classes, I teach the older version of the ballet which uses the music of the German opera by Engelbert Humperdinck. I tell the children ‘long ago you could only see ballet at the opera’ and as opera developed ballet was less of a fixture in it.  You can get a sense of what I’m describing from  this Idaho Falls Opera production. 

I’ve been most inspired by  this Washington Ballet production of Hansel and Gretel. In it, you’ll hear the translated opera which acts as background music. Each production takes a little liberty with certain set pieces, and this one puts a lot into the witch and her relationship with the woodland creatures. It’s pretty spectacular.

The IBAM production follows the lead of the modern UK productions by presenting the witch as an angelic vision—they differ from the modern production by giving a lot of room to small children in the corps de ballet.

The more modern productions of the ballet came out of the UK. Celebrity choreographer Liam Scarlett choreographed a production with new music by Dan Jones. The Royal Ballet doesn’t allow their productions on YouTube but you can see videos about their productions via their channel. Here, Scarlett talks about his vision  here, the production designer talks about creating the look of the ballet. The Scottish Ballet has a well publicized production and in their trailer you can get a sense of the dreamlike production design and the magical effect of their deceptively angelic witch. It makes the whole thing seem new again.

June Ballet – Firebird

Stravinsky’s Firebird really piques the children’s imaginations. Do you remember the fad surrounding “Let it Go,” from Disney’s FROZEN? Somehow, their response to Firebird is a similar form of fascination. They play it on the playground! I just love how they get into it!

This 1977 production is my favorite of all those I’m linking you to! It begins with the “birth” of Katschei, which is really intriguing!

Continue reading

May Ballet – Coppelia: A Comedy of Toys and Ballerinas

 

As with all the ballets teach the children, I’ve simplified this some. Your children won’t recognize the “jealousy plot” that brews with Rhinehardt offers a flower to Coppelia (the doll). When we dance like Swanilde entering the Inventor’s studio I fail to mention she does so with friends. I also regularly forget the occult undertones of the Inventor’s work (I just say he’s “silly”). Yet, despite literal differences it’s likely the dancers won’t be too bothered with variation. This said, the ballets listed below are incredibly similar to each other so choosing which to watch is a matter of preference: watch a few moments from the middle and see which you prefer.

Continue reading