Q. How do your Teaching Artists manage to teach non-dancers to be performance-ready so quickly?
A. A video is worth a thousand words!
Q. How do you get boys to participate in a ballet?
A. Our male Teaching Artists are terrific role models and more fit than any elite athlete. Also, the roles for the boys are very appealing to them. Elementary school boys might be Soldiers or Russian Cossacks or comical Elves or scary Bats. Middle and high schools boys might be Matadors or do the sword fight scene in "Romeo & Juliet." Typically, the boys bring the house down!
Q. Where do the children wait when they're not on stage?
A. They have front row seats! A unique aspect of Ballet Ambassadors is that the young people who dance not only share the stage with professional dancers but they also get to see their peers and the pros alike bring the ballet to life. They sit in the audience in costume in assigned spots and enter and exit from there. That's a combination of experience and exposure unlike any other!
Q. Does the school have to supply anything?
A. We need one or two CD players for use during the workshops and we sometimes ask that the children wear white or dark shirts and dark pants for certain roles. We bring everything else including costumes, props, a sound system, and a microphone.
Q. Do the teachers have to do anything to prepare students for a Ballet Ambassadors event?
A. That's optional. We can give the teachers our detailed Study Guide with suggestions for activities to do before we come such as listening to certain music selections, reading our brief history of the art of ballet, having the students paint a backdrop on butcher paper, and using our Dancing Through Time section to tie the experience into the social studies curriculum. There is also a suggestion for reflection after the event. However, using the Study Guide is not a requirement. The event is very successful whether the students are prepared or not.
Q. Is there anything we need to do to be ready for you on the day of the event?
A. If some of the workshops will be held in classrooms, you'll save precious time if you have the chairs, desks, and tables pushed around the perimeter ahead of time so there will be room to dance in the center. Also, be sure to confirm any changes you may have made to your normal daily schedule such as switching lunch periods or arranging to have phys ed or OT classes meet somewhere other than the gym or cafetorium.
Q. We don't have a stage in our school. Can you perform in the gym?
A. Absolutely! We can tape off a "stage" area and the children will sit cross-legged on the floor in the "audience." You can put up folding chairs for family and friends behind the children if you like.
Q. Can Special Education youngsters participate?
A. Yes! We have worked with children in wheelchairs and with children who have various challenges such as autism, Fragile X Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, language processing issues, and many others. We tailor the choreography so the children are successful but we hold them to high standards. They invariably perform with polish and panache and they love hearing the audience applaud!
Q. Can English Language Learners participate?
A. Certainly! The international language of dance is a wonderful medium for these youngsters. As one boy said with some of the few words he knew, "Ballet is sign language! I understand all!"
Q. Do family members and friends have to pay to attend the performance?
A. No, admission is free.
Q. Our school is more than two hours away from New York City. Can you come to us?
A. Yes, but you will need to put us up in a hotel or have us as overnight guests in private homes. We will arrive the day before so we will be able to get to your school at the start of the school day. Also, when we travel long distances we appreciate having a block of bookings at nearby schools. If you can help us arrange for this, that would be very helpful.
Q. Does the program fulfill the New York State Standards for the Arts?
A. Yes, and we also fulfill the strands of the New York City Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in Dance.
Q. Can teachers and administrators get in on the act?
A. Sure! We find that the youngsters love having teachers and administrators perform with them. No dance experience necessary and the costumes are one-size-fits-all! In "The Nutcracker," we need a Father or an Aunt in the first and last scenes. In "Swan Lake," we need a Queen and an Evil Sorcerer or Sorceress. In "Romeo & Juliet" and "Don Quixote," there are optional roles for adults but these roles can also be performed by teenagers. In "Dance Around the World," and "The Unicorn's Secret," there are no roles for adults so choose these ballets if your staff is stage shy!
Q. Where do the children and teens change into costumes?
A. Most of the costumes for elementary school students go right over the children's school clothes. We hand each teacher plastic Ziploc "chests" with the costumes for his/her class. After lunch, he/she helps the children pull on elastic waist tutus, put on hats, and so on. The teacher brings the "chest" with all the unused costumes back to the performance area. After the performance, the children take off the costume pieces right where they are seated. The teacher puts everything back into the chests and we load out for the next school! The process is surprisingly quick and easy but in some schools select parents are invited to help the teachers.
For longer residencies, the middle school and high school students have time to change in classrooms or rest rooms for evening performances. See the photo above with girls in leotards and tutus.
Q. Where do Teaching Artists/Dancers change?
A. We can change in the wings but if there is no room or if we are in a gym, we can bring pop-up "changing rooms."
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