"Apollo's Angels" by Jennifer Homans
Posted 01 July 2011 - 10:27 AM
Sandik, that is fascinating. It seems to me that Homans' book is the kind of historical "survey" that you can't get much out of unless you already know quite a lot. And have experienced quite a lot. It would be interesting to see what young ballet students might actually think of it.
As someone with a background in history, though not dance history, I am skeptical about how much is actually absorbed by young people from textbooks or classes based on a survey approach.
In my experience, learning often works best -- in the sense that the lightbulb turns on -- when presented as fairly well-detailed case studies rather than broad overviews. It's the case study that makes the lesson "stick."
For example, if students were being prepared for a production of Nutcracker or a competition pas de deux, that would be the optimal time to talk about historical context: music, discussion of various versions, classic performances, even the meaning and development of individual dances or passages which the students have either learned or are observing closely. You don't need a prefab textbook. Videos, photo copied material, etc., can be compiled easily by a good teacher.
To take an example from instrumental music, I learned far more by working on a few specific pieces of Mozart's easier chamber music with my classmates, and from a well-prepared class trip to see Cosi fan tutte at the Met, than from any lecture or book discussing, broadly, the works of Mozart.
Students who have obtained this kind of detailed knowledge -- learning directly related to doing -- are more likely, I've found, to seek out the larger context themselves. They can fill in the blanks. As they move into the larger world, and encounter people who DO know about Mozart, Petipa, Balanchine, Fokine, or whatever, they have personal experience that will motivate and enable them to absorb, retain, and benefit from this new knowledge.
Posted 01 July 2011 - 03:42 PM
Students who have obtained this kind of detailed knowledge -- learning directly related to doing -- are more likely, I've found, to seek out the larger context themselves.
I agree -- this is the optimal way to manage it. Unfortunately, the pragmatic nature of much dance studio instruction means that there is little time or support for this kind of enriched experience.
A few of my colleagues do combine performance training with a more intellectual approach to the material, but this kind of teaching is still in the developmental stages, and is mostly found in college/university settings. But it's much further along than it was even a few years ago!
Posted 02 July 2011 - 04:14 AM
Great to hear this !
But it's much further along than it was even a few years ago!
Posted 02 July 2011 - 08:05 PM
puppytreats, on 22 June 2011 - 11:23 AM, said:
I finally finished this book. It provided a good historical background for someone who needed to read a primer on ballet. I agree with much of the criticism discussed in this forum, but as someone just beginning to learn about ballet, I can overlook the book's shortcomings and feel grateful to have been able to learn from it. I am curious regarding instruction about dance history in ballet academies. Are academic, historical courses given in dance schools, or do dancers learn about the history and development of the dance solely by learning about individual dance steps, rehearsals, attending performances, and personal reading?
I was speaking recently to one of the directors of Kaatsbaan, which has several summer intensive courses in ballet for young people from all over the country. He is a former dancer, and when I asked him a similar question about dance students studying history, he said that in general, when they are young, all they want to do is dance, and be in the moment. Usually, after the major part of their career is over, they realize the importance of the history, BECAUSE THEY REALIZE THAT THEY ARE A PART OF IT!!!
Posted 03 July 2011 - 10:54 AM
I was speaking recently to one of the directors of Kaatsbaan, which has several summer intensive courses in ballet for young people from all over the country.
I'm not sure how the Kaatsbaan curriculum is organized, but I do know that several major summer workshops include some dance history sessions in their program. I gave a couple of talks at Pacific Northwest Ballet's summer school a few years ago -- they've got other people on staff now who fill that role. It's not an exhaustive survey, but it's a start.
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