This activity will help the students recognize the significance of the swan metaphor in legend and literature and the connection between music and movement.
1. Ask the students to recall stories that involve swans. (Responses may include "Swan Lake," "The Ugly Duckling," and even "Leda and the Swan.") Ask them what the swans in these stories have in common. (They will probably respond that swans are beautiful, dignified, and graceful creatures.) You can also mention that swans mate for life, which might help the students understand the depiction of Odette and the depth of emotion between her and Siegfried in "Swan Lake."
2. Tell the students that they will be studying and viewing a ballet called "Swan Lake," with a score by the Russian composer Pyotr (Peter) Ilyich Tchaikovsky, performed by American Ballet Theatre. Write this information on the board for them to copy. Ask the students if they are familiar with the ballet's story and allow them to share what they know.
3. Explain to the students that they will listen to a portion of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" score and create a brief story, which they will then act out without words. Elicit the term "pantomime." You can play one segment of the score (approximately one minute long) or several, depending on the amount of time you would like to spend on this activity. Use excerpts from a CD or play audio clips included on the following Web sites:
Compendia Music Licensing
K-tel: Music Licensing
Distribute the Pantomime Organizer. Tell the students that you will play each musical segment three times. The first time, they should close their eyes and listen. The second time, they should jot down the feelings that the music evokes. After the third time, they will work with a partner to create a short pantomime to accompany the music.
4. Allow the students a few minutes to work with their partner and then have each pair do their pantomime for the class. Play the musical excerpt as the students perform. Afterward, ask the performers what made them choose specific movements. Guide the students to understand that in ballet there is an intimate relationship between the music or score and the dance movements.
5. Ask the students to brainstorm about what they know about ballet and record their answers on the board. Tell them that ballet comes from the Latin word "ballare," to dance, and consists of stylized movements and positions that have been developed over many centuries. They should also understand that while female dancers often perform on the tips of their toes, or on pointe, wearing special shoes, male dancers usually do not. Explain that ballet is very physically demanding and that ballet dancers are athletes.
The purpose of this activity is for the students to work collaboratively to research and share information about "Swan Lake," Tchaikovsky, and ballet.
1. Explain that the students will work in groups of four to research the history of "Swan Lake," its story, the life of its composer, and ballet terms. (The students researching terms should choose 15 to 20 to explain and possibly even demonstrate. Make sure they include the term "fouetté," since it will appear in a subsequent activity. Also mention that because the steps were first named in France, French is the international language of ballet.) You can allow the students to self-select topics according to interest or assign topics yourself. Distribute the Research Organizer and ask them to log on to these sites:
Wikipedia: Swan Lake
GREAT PERFORMANCES: Dance in America: "Swan Lake" with American Ballet Theatre: Synopsis
GREAT PERFORMANCES: Educational Resources: Composer Biographies: Tchaikovsky
American Ballet Theatre: Ballet Dictionary
DanceWorks: The Syllabus: Digital Danseuses
Tell the students that they should explore all the sites to gather relevant information and also jot down main ideas on their organizers, in bulleted list form. They will then use the material they've gathered to make a brief oral presentation to their group mates.
2. Reconvene the groups after the students have completed their research. They should take turns making their oral presentations, while the other students take notes in the appropriate sections of their organizers. As you circulate to check each group's progress, make sure the students are speaking and not merely copying from one another's organizers. Also make sure they have understood the term "fouetté" ("a short whipped movement of the raised foot as it passes rapidly in front of or behind the supporting foot or the sharp whipping around of the body from one direction to another" [http://www.abt.org/education/dictionary/index.html]).
(Note to Teachers: Students can see a digital example of the dance movement at http://www.danceworksonline.co.uk/syllabus/fouettemov.htm.)
Designed specifically for use with Acts II and III of "Swan Lake," this activity is for the students to critically observe the dancers' movements and identify specific ballet forms they've learned about while conducting and presenting their research. They will also identify differences in technique used by ballerina Gillian Murphy in her depiction of Odette and Odile.
1. Distribute the Odette-Odile Organizer. Write the names Odette and Odile on the board side by side, to create two columns. Elicit from the students that fairy tales often have characters who represent "good" and "evil." Have them identify the good swan (Odette) and the evil one (Odile) in the ballet. Explain that the same ballerina, Gillian Murphy, dances both roles in this production. Ask them if they think there will be a difference in the way she depicts the two characters. Record their ideas in the appropriate columns.
2. Explain to the students that they will watch Act II of "Swan Lake" and take notes in their organizers. Act II depicts Prince Siegfried's courtship of Odette. As they watch it, students should write down the movements they can identify, make observations about Odette's movements during her solos, and note the dynamic between her and Siegfried. Play Act II of the ballet.
3. Stop the tape just before the intermission and ask the students to define "virtuosity." Put the sentence into context to elicit a response (great technical skill in a fine art). Explain that the next part of the video will show interviews with Kevin McKenzie, the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre; Gillian Murphy, who plays Odette and Odile; and Angel Corella, who plays Prince Siegfried. McKenzie uses the term "virtuosity" to describe Murphy's dancing. Play the intermission interviews. Ask the students to review their organizers and point out moments when they've observed her virtuosity. Encourage them to recall the technical skill and physical strength demonstrated by Corella. Finally, remind them to look for the 32 fouettés Murphy mentions in her interview.
4. Explain to the students that Act III depicts Odile's deception of Siegfried and the revelation of her deceit. As they watch this act, the students should write down the movements they can identify, their observations about Odile's movements during her solos, and the dynamic between her and Siegfried. Stop the tape before Act IV, the finale.
5. Ask the students to share their organizers with a partner and compare observations. Each pair should complete the question at the bottom of the organizer: "Which role do you think is more demanding for Gillian Murphy? Explain your answer."
6. Invite the students to share their answers with the class. Some of them might say that Odile's role was more challenging, considering the 32 fouettés. Others might say that Odette's role was more difficult, since she showed more emotion.
The purpose of this activity is for the students to understand the motivation behind the lovers' final acts and create a tribute to Odette and Siegfried.
1. Have the students predict how the ending will be depicted and then play Act IV. Ask them how the actual ending differs from the one they had anticipated. Ask them to share their opinions about Odette's and Siefried's final actions.
2. Explain to the students that they will create a tribute to Odette and Siegfried. Allow them to brainstorm different forms the tribute can take (a poem, song, eulogy, drawing with a caption, etc.). Give them time to compose and share their tributes.
Have the students visit the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) Web site at http://www.abt.org/. Ask them to write a report about the company and include information about three of its dancers. Then, have each student write a letter to one of them, mentioning something about the dancer's life and career that the student found interesting and including questions. Make sure the students use a business letter format and mail it to the address listed on the company's Web site.