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  • storytelling through movement

    Sacramento Ballet Community Engagement

    Education Resources:

    Storytelling Through Movement: The Complete Lesson Guide

    To be used with the accompanying slide presentation: VIEW HERE

    Developed by Emili Danz

  • Page 1

    storytelling through movement

    Complete Lesson Guide Lesson 1: The Story of the Nutcracker In this lesson, students read and/or listen to the story of the Nutcracker.

    Note: It is important to remember that different authors and even choreographers have unique interpretations of this classic tale. The book included in this lesson is one authors version — while the story seen in the world premiere production of the Sacramento Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker may have some variation. Tip: Encourage students to see if they can pick up on some of the similarities and differences between the book and ballet.

    Introduction: Begin by asking students how many of them have seen a ballet production of the Nutcracker. What were some of the memorable moments? Explain that there are many different variations of the story and the characters. For example, many ballet companies call the heroine “Clara,” while some, like the Sacramento Ballet and this book, call her “Marie.”

    Background: The first version of the Nutcracker was published by the German author E.T.A. Hoffman in 1816. This somewhat dark version of the tale centers on a girl named Clara. However, in 1847, the French writer Alexander Dumas retold Hoffman’s story and removed some of the darker elements. He also renamed the heroine Marie — this version of the story is the one on which The Nutcracker ballet is based.

    Activity: Depending on grade level, the book can be read aloud by the teacher and/or students with the accompanying slides.

    Checking for Understanding: The remaining slides in this unit ask basic questions for reading and story comprehension.

    Tip: For grades 3-6, more complex questions can be asked to encourage discussion and/or written responses: “Have you ever woken up from a dream and felt convinced that your dream was actually real? Describe how this made you feel." “Can you think of other stories you have read with similar story elements?” (The Velveteen Rabbit-being loved until “real”/ Alice in Wonderland - dream journey down the rabbit hole) “How might dancers tell this story on stage if we they don’t have the use of words or illustrations?”

  • Page 2

    storytelling through movement

    Complete Lesson Guide Lesson 2: Mime in Ballet

    In this lesson, students explore different forms of communication without using words. Context: In ballet, there is no dialogue; therefore, a ballet relies primarily on pantomime to tell the story. Pantomime helps convey exposition, character, conflict and emotion. All pantomimed movement in ballet is the same. It is a universal language that can be understood and communicated by everyone. So whether you are a ballet dancer in Russia, France, or the United States, everyone will use the same common storytelling mime gestures.

    Introduction: Everyday we communicate without using words. A primary example of this is in everyday gestures such as waving hello or goodbye.

    Activity: Ask students if they can think of other gestures used in their daily lives and what that movement looks like.

    Sample Answers: yawn or stretch (tired), finger to mouth (quiet), furrowed brow and crossed arms (grumpy), thumbs up/ down (good/bad).

    Video Introduction to Students: In this video clip from the Royal Opera Ballet in London, England we will watch professional ballet dancers demonstrate pantomimed movement to tell the classic ballet story of Swan Lake.

    Note: This clip is a wonderful example of how movement can be given a bit of flourish and exaggeration to make the story as clear as possible.

    Activity (continued): Explain to students that when we add facial expressions to these gestures, the communication becomes even more clear.

    Ask students to identify the two expressions shown here and then come up with their own expressions to share with the class.

    Examples for students: -Excited (big smile, wide eyes) -Tired (eyes/head droop) -Nervous (bite lip, raise eyebrows). -Proud (head lifted, smile)

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    storytelling through movement

    Lesson 2: Mime in Ballet (cont.)

    Context: The following slides (41-47) will demonstrate a variety of commonly used ballet mime movements that are used to communicate in ballet.

    Activity: Invite students to find a place in the room where they can freely move their body.

    Students can practice the movement as shown in the picture and also come up with personalized alternative ways to physicalize the “word.”

    Activity (continued): Invite students to try pantomiming various lines of dialogue, encouraging students to be creative but also as clear as possible.

    Note: There are no “right” or “wrong” gestures for these words. The objective of this exercise is to foster creativity and engagement.

    Tip: With this longer section of dialogue, remind students that the words don’t need to be rushed. If any students would like to combine more movement flourished with the mime, that is encouraged! (Remind them of the Swan Lake clip)

    Activity: Divide students into groups of 2-3 to create two lines of dialogue using pantomimed gestures and facial expressions.

    Tip: Examples or prompts if students are stuck: Example 1: Dancer 1: Where did the bunny go? I can’t find him. Dancer 2: The bunny hopped over there and fell asleep.

    Example 2: Dancer 1: Let’s dance together! Dancer 2: No! I am mad at you and don’t want to dance.

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    storytelling through movement

    Complete Lesson Guide Lesson 3: Pantomime and the Nutcracker In this final lesson, students apply their learning of pantomime to tell the story of the Nutcracker.

    Activity: Video Sample

    Step 1: Before showing the clip, explains to students that this is an example of pantomimed choreography in the Nutcracker. In this scene, the Nutcracker is recounting his battle with the Mouse King. Ask students to see if they can pick out certain gestures and guess what they mean. Then play the clip one time through.

    Step 2: Ask the students to share and demonstrate some of the gestures they observed. Ask if anyone would like to try and verbally recount the story elements the Nutcracker was telling.

    Step 3: Read the following description to the students and play the clip again.

    Description of Dialogue: “Everyone, listen to the incredible journey I have had. First, I started out as a Nutcracker doll. As I was sleeping, I heard a battle and realized it was mice. I called my soldiers to fight the mice and I battled the Mouse King. Just when it looked as if the Mouse King might win, Marie took off her shoe and threw it at the Mouse King. By saving my life, Marie broke the magical spell and turned me from a doll to a man. I was then able to defeat the Mouse King and was restored to my full glory.”

    Activity (continued): Working in groups of 5-6, have students choose a scene from the Nutcracker to pantomime. Give students 5-10 minutes of collaboration and “rehearsal” time and then invite groups to share in front of the class.

    Tip: Feel free to play music excerpts from the Nutcracker to help add to the story. Click on video icon to the left of each scene for corresponding music from the ballet.

    (Scene backgrounds are available on the remaining slides if students would like a backdrop of the set when they “perform” their scene in front of the class).