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The King and the Little Prince (credit: Adrian Brooks)
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Dancing Into History from Dance in America: Acts of Ardor: Two Dances by Paul Taylor
Grades: 9-12
OverviewProcedures for TeachersOrganizers for Students

BACKGROUND ACTIVITIES:


Before the students watch the program, they will listen to the E. Y. Harburg and Jay Gorney song "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" and discuss the context in which it was written.

1. Read the lyrics or play the song for the class. The lyrics and an audio file of the song can be found at this Web site:
http://www.kcmetro.cc.mo.us/pennvalley/biology/lewis/crosby/brother.html

2. Ask the students if they can identify when the song was written and what was happening in the United States during this time period that influenced the song (the 1930s during the Great Depression).

3. Tell the students that they are going to watch a dance choreographed by Paul Taylor entitled "Black Tuesday." Explain that it is danced to songs from the Great Depression. Ask the students to predict what the costumes and set for the dance might include.

4. Watch the Paul Taylor Dance Company's performance of "Black Tuesday" in DANCE IN AMERICA: ACTS OF ARDOR: TWO DANCES BY PAUL TAYLOR.


STEPS:

Activity One

In this activity, the students will conduct research on the Great Depression and create a work that communicates the events and human emotions of this era.

1. Tell the students that they are going to conduct further research into the Great Depression and create a work to communicate the events and emotions of the time period.

2. Divide the students into small groups. Tell them that after completing their research, they will be responsible for the following:
  • a brief overview of the Great Depression
  • a description of the venue
  • five general images from the era
  • copies of three Depression-era photographs
  • lyrics to a song written during the Great Depression
  • a newspaper article from the era
  • photographs or descriptions of clothing worn at the time
  • a copy or description of a Depression-era painting or other artwork
The following sites are a good place to begin research for this project:

Library of Congress: America from the Great Depression to World War II:
Photographs from the FSA-OWI, 1935-1945
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/fsowhome.html
A vast collection of black-and-white and color photographs that provide a documentary record of America during the Great Depression can be found here.

New Deal Network
http://newdeal.feri.org/
This site contains articles, speeches, letters, and photographs from the Great Depression.

The Authentic History Center: 1930s: Great Depression
http://www.authentichistory.com/1930s.html
Included on this site are links to the music of the Great Depression, political speeches, news broadcasts, letters and diaries, and images from the 1930s.

MuseumLink Illinois: Depression Era Art: The Federal Art Project
http://www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/art/htmls/de.html
Browse the work of Illinois artists who participated in the New Deal art projects during the 1930s and 1940s on this site.

3. Tell the students to use their research to create a description of their dance that includes the following:
  • a written overview of the story behind it
  • descriptions or drawings of the costumes
  • a description or drawing of the stage set
  • examples of at least three dance movements that will be included in the performance
4. Provide time for the groups to share their projects with the entire class.
(Note to Teachers: You may also choose to have the students perform their dances.)

5. After all of the groups have had an opportunity to present their project ideas, ask the students to answer these questions:
  • What was the most surprising thing you learned about the Great Depression?
  • Do you think dance can be an effective tool for learning about history? Explain.
  • Do you think music can be an effective tool for learning about history? Explain.
  • Read this quote from Paul Taylor. "While all these people were having hard times, what interested me was the happiness of most of the entertainment . . . you know, like the Rogers-Astaire films. People were flocking to escape. They weren't really escaping, but for a moment, they wanted to feel happy." Explain why you think many people reacted this way during the Great Depression.

Activity Two

In this activity, the students will create a dance that addresses the challenges faced by today's teenagers.

1. If possible, watch and discuss "Promethean Fire" from DANCE IN AMERICA: ACTS OF ARDOR: TWO DANCES BY PAUL TAYLOR.

2. As a class, brainstorm a list of challenges that we as a society, and teenagers in particular, face in today's world. Examples might include drug abuse, pollution, the threat of terrorism, poverty, etc.

3. Tell the students that they are going to choose one of the topics from the brainstorming session and create an idea for a dance performance that highlights a current problem and an eventual triumph over it.

4. Divide the students into small groups based on their chosen topic.

5. Tell the students that after completing their research, they will be responsible for the following:
  • a brief overview of the challenges in current society
  • a brief overview of the chosen topic
  • five general images that relate to the chosen topic
  • copies of three photographs
  • lyrics to a song
  • a newspaper article
  • photographs or description of contemporary clothing
  • a copy or description of a contemporary painting or other artwork
6. Tell the students to use this information to create a dance work that includes the following:
  • a written overview of the story behind the dance
  • descriptions or drawings of the costumes
  • a description or drawing of the stage set
  • examples of at least three dance movements that will be included in the performance
7. Provide time for the students to share their work.
(Note to Teachers: You may also choose to have the students perform their dances.)


EXTENSION ACTIVITY:

Conduct a Survey
Put together a survey to find out what people think about dance. Have each student survey at least three people from varying age groups and genders. Create a class chart to tally the results. The following is a list of possible questions:
  • What is your favorite form of dance?
  • What role does dance play in your life?
  • What do you like or dislike about dancing?
  • Do you attend dance performances?
  • What kinds of experiences do you remember from your childhood about dance?

 
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