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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Dancing to Peter & the Wolf Mountain View Public Library 11/8/16

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

When: Tuesday November 8th, 2016 11am – 11:30am
Where: Mountain View Public Library
585 Franklin St, Mountain View, CA94041
650-903-6897
https://mountainview.gov/library

Free. Class size is limited, registration required.

Register here:  https://goo.gl/urpfUK

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La Bayadere

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A few notes about Minkus’ Bayadere.

There are many productions of La Bayadere available to watch online. It’s an embarrassment of riches! I’ll start by suggesting two (though I’m no where near done watching them all).

The Mariinsky production by the Kirov Ballet is stellar! The video has a few odd jumps in it but sets are impressive and the dancing is pristine. There is less mime work in this production so the story comes off as more metaphorical and less melodramatic than others.

The Paris Opera Ballet launched a production of La Bayadere in 1995 that was staged by Rudolph Nureyev as an honor to his legacy. If you haven’t heard of Nureyev, see the biography on his Foundation site. This production features more context than the average ballet video (character names, dancer names, story locations), as well as a lot more mime, which means you’ll understand more of the story. This may create things for you to explain to your child. Example: In class, I tell the dancers the Brahmin wants to be friends with Nikiya. In this production he tries to hug and kiss her. The video begins with a brief verbal introduction explaining that as Nureyev is dying he launched this production to honor his legacy—this is lovely and valuable but your child might ask you what AIDS is, so it’s worth knowing that could come up.

If you opt to only watch a part, I suggest choosing the second act (the betrothal) featuring the most unique dances and characters. The children learn something about these dances in class, like the jump of the golden idol and the pitcher dance.

I hope you love it!

Warmly,

Miss Sara

Ballet Stories: Sizing them to Fit

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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!

Warmly,

Miss Sara

Giselle

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Last week, I taught the children about the ballet Giselle.

Giselle is a “White Ballet,” so called because it’s one of many ballets to feature a romantic length white tutu for costume. Le Sylphide is another white ballet the children will learn about in the coming months.

This beloved ballet is set in Germany’s Rhineland; however, one of the productions that made this ballet so loved was Harlem Ballet’s Creole version, which reset the ballet in the American South. I can’t find this version online in its entirety but you can see a clip here:

For a more traditional rendition of the ballet, see the The National Ballet of Canada production, which is one of the more recent versions you can see online. I’m partial to the 1969 American Ballet Production as it’s very cinematic.

If you choose to watch with your child: You might ask your child about the introductory actions in the ballet. Why does Albrecht have a sword? (It shows he’s from the upper classes. Giselle is a peasant.)

You can also watch for choreography: ballets typically create units of movement to signify events. For example, Giselle and Albrecht do a little hopping dance I taught the children some of in class. This charming little dance signifies happiness and it returns in the second act when the couple reunites and recalls how much fun they had together. Helping the children notice and recall ballet events like this reinforces the steps we learn in class and adds meaning because the steps also signify something inside the ballet’s universe.

Happy viewing!

Warmly,

Miss Sara