Monday, July 11, 2011

Synergy Arts Camp: Ballet

Monday at camp, we learn about ballet in dance!  I introduced these handouts and activities during the Toy Story week, and they were great for the kids!   I was very careful to have plenty of inclusion for boys in the ballet handout, from pictures to written content, especially for future weeks.  Boys in ballet still carries a stigma about it being solely a girls' activity, and I would like to help change minds in young boys who would like to be dancers.  Ballet is an important base form if one wishes to be a professional dancer, because its movements are translated into just about every other dance form in the world.  Ballet also has a history that not many people may know about, that it used to be danced exclusively by men until the Romantic era, when the female dancer became featured and the tutu was invented.  The handouts were a big help, and certainly helped me learn much more about ballet!  I'll be posting the handouts separately for your perusing pleasure, and I also plan to expand them over the next few weeks, especially since we'll have kids coming back for a few weeks at a time.  (I'm sure there's only so many times you can show them the five basic positions!)  Enjoy!

Ballet comes from the Latin word ballare, meaning to dance.  Its origins trace all the way back to the 1500s in Italian Renaissance courts as dances regularly performed at aristocratic weddings by the guests.  It would become a formalized form of concert dance with the help of its development in countries like France and RussiaLouis XIV, king of France in the 1600s, was known around the world for his talent as a ballet danseur and had a role created for him, Sun King in Ballet de la Nuit, written by Jean-Baptiste Lully.  Louis XIV's favourite ballet teacher, Pierre Beauchamp, created the five basic positions of the feet and arms that are taught in ballet technique even today!  Just think - you are learning what was taught to great kings!

Choreographed ballet works also include elements of mime and acting, and are usually set to classical music.  One of the most popular ballet music composers is Pyotr Tchaikovsky, who wrote music for Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and his most famous, The Nutcracker!   Nowadays, ballet is danced to many types of music, including rock n' roll!

Learning ballet is very hard work; it is highly technical with its own recognizable 'vocabulary' of movement and requires a lot of practice.  Its technique includes pointe work, turn-out of the legs and its graceful, flowing movements.  Professional ballet dancers look like they're floating on air!  The most popular form of ballet is called classical ballet, while there are also modern forms such as neoclassical ballet and contemporary ballet.

Basic Ballet Positions of the Arms and Feet 

Ballet Dancewear

Fill in the blanks below!

Here are some ballet performance videos for you to enjoy!

This ballet is inspired by the popular classical ballet Coppélia, about an inventor who makes a life-size dancing doll.  It is known as a comic ballet, and this modern interpretation is for a family audience, still with its ballet traditions.

The Moscow Ballet is a famous international ballet company, with many dancers aspiring to study with their teachers.  This excerpt is from one of their performances of The Nutcracker, featuring beautiful technique and spirited dancing as the toys come to life!  Look at how they dance on their toes - that's called 'pointe work'.

Karen Kain is Canada's most famous primaballerina and an international star!  She has danced with some of the best international ballet companies for over thirty years!  Now retired from ballet, she is the Artistic Director for the National Ballet of Canada.  Here she is, dancing a pas de deux - a 'dance duet' - with Frank Ausgustyn from the ballet Gisele.

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