One of the focuses this semester at both American Ballet Theatre and New York University is outreach – how to take dance to future audiences.
We have been paired with one of ABT’s teaching artists, who are going out to public schools to prepare 4th and 5th grade students to see a performance in November of Jerome Robbins’ “Interplay” as performed by ABT II.
I was paired with teaching artist Karen Lacy, and our sessions started with a quick introduction to ABT. We then went right into asking the students about ballet and what it made them think of. After talking a little bit about “Interplay,” we showed them pictures from the ballet so they could talk about what kind of geometric shapes they could see in the pictures and where they thought the setting of the piece takes place.
A short warm up used the seven basic movements of ballet: plier, to bend; étendre, to stretch; relever, to rise; sauter, to jump; élancer, to dart; glisser, to glide; and tourner, to turn. We then taught them a phrase based on the idea of “Teamplay,” one of the four sections of the ballet, which they would then do taking turns with the idea of teams trying to outdo (or outdance) each other.
The following session time, held a week later, we reviewed the warm-up and the words associated with the basic ballet movements, and then launched into the concept of a round, relating it to the wave at a stadium – but with actual movement. The class stood in two lines facing each other so they could mirror and do a round at the same time, passing the movement down the line and a different one on the way back.
The last activity involved having the students work in smaller groups based on the idea of “Free Play.” They worked together to create their own short dances using two elements of the seven movements of ballet moving as a group, two different playground games, and a final pose.
Hannah Guruianu is a master's degree candidate in dance education at New York University. She is a freelance writer and editor, flamenco student, and someday hopes to own her own studio. Before returning to school, she was the features editor at the newspaper in Binghamton, New York, and taught ballet classes at a local studio and community college.