Take Flight this Summer!

In addition to being beautiful and interesting to watch, birds play a critical role in our world’s ecology, and are vital links to the ecosystem’s vast food chain. Because of this, birds score a chapter of their own in upcoming Volume 2 of our Teaching through the ARTS series of books. Like us, you might want to devote some summertime to getting better acquainted with these important creatures.

Did you know that through the National Audubon Society, volunteers engage in bird “counts” that report on how many birds are spotted from year to year in a particular location? Because our world is so intertwined, bird counts are like an early warning system on the state of the ecosystem. If the bird count drops significantly, it’s an indication that a part of the environment that the birds depend on has been negatively affected.

Probably because of their antics and ever-presence, birds have been a common subject in art for many centuries. Hundreds of years ago, artists were memorializing birds! Here are a couple of examples.

4x5 original

    Whistle in the Shape of a Bird, Sawankhalok,Thailand, ca. 1300-1500; Courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art

http://collections.lacma.org/node/230117

Lidded vessel in the form of an Ancient Bird Quig Dynasty, China 1700-1800; Courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art

His seminal book, Birds of America (1827 and 1838), puts John James Audubon in the forefront of wildlife illustration. The book boasts 435 watercolors of North American birds, reproduced from hand-engraved plates. The colors and poses Audubon captures are stunning and, well, so lifelike! Audubon drew the birds life-size, which presented some challenges when it came to large wading birds. (Have you ever noticed how tall they really are?) What he did, as you’ll see in his American Flamingo, was to illustrate the bird with its head down, hunting for food. By changing the pose, he could essentially fold the bird in half, and it would fit on the page. Even so, when the book was printed it was called an “elephant” portfolio because the pages were so large. It might be fun for you to try to create a life-sized bird using paints or even newspaper.

John James Audubon, American Flamingo, 1838

John James Audubon, American Flamingo, 1838. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Birdwatching is growing by leaps and bounds as a recreational activity. People everywhere put birdfeeders in their yards to attract birds and see them at close range without disturbing their natural activities. Every morning when Mary goes for a walk, she listens to the birds. She hears a large variety of calls, so she knows that means there is a diverse bird population in her neighborhood even if she doesn’t see them all. This spring, Susan watched a mother mallard duck and her three ducklings as they grew, and then flew off to a bigger pond. (Isn’t the reflection cool?)

mallard-duck-24a[1]

If you are a birdwatcher, please send us some of your photographs and stories about where you saw a particular bird. We’d love to share them at https://www.facebook.com/artsjourneypress. Here are some of our stories.

As a child, Susan was introduced to bird watching. Sitting quietly in the grass during the early morning or the twilight hours, she watched birds finding food and building nests. This hobby became so interesting that on trips, it became important to set aside time for bird watching. On a trip to Masai Mara in Kenya, Susan watched a Tawny Eagle that was quietly sitting in one of the lone trees suddenly take off into flight.

Tawny Eagle, Kenya      Tawny Eagle, Kenya

Closer to home she saw two Bald Eagles nesting near a lake that had good fishing. They were close enough to her house that she could walk to their nesting site to watch the eagles. One day tiny heads popped up out of the nest, a welcome site because the bald eagle is on the list of threatened species.

Bald Eagles, Winter Park                                                               Bald Eagles, Florida

When Susan’s husband made a trip to New Zealand, he brought back pictures of the Paradise Shelduck, a water bird is about the size of a small goose. When you’re photographing birds, you have to be very quick but move quietly or the birds fly away. A photograph of a male and female bird (white head) was really special! The birds are not rare, but he wanted the photograph in order to share his experience.

Paradise Shelduck, NZ       Male and female Shelducks are one of the few species that mate for life. They call back and forth to each other, even when they’re flying. The female has a very high pitched call, sort of an “eek” sound, while the male has a lower-pitched honk.

migrating birds

Susan’s family likes to go to the wildlife preserve when birds are migrating. Family members could never be sure what species of birds these were because they were flying so high that even with binoculars no distinguishing marks could be seen. These large birds flew majestically along the coastline. The field guide said: “A flock of migrating White Pelicans…ride rising air currents to great height, where they soar gracefully in circles.” The guide added that the birds flapped and sailed in unison, and that they wintered in Florida. The description closely matched what we saw, but the birds were brown, not white. We hope to see them again this migrating season and solve the mystery.

After years of singing about the Kookaburra, Mary came face to face with one in Australia! He was friendly, happy to sing his version of the song.  The laughing kookaburra is the largest member of the Kingfisher family.

kookaburra_600_600x450

Taking photos or even sketching the birds that you see enhances the experience of bird watching. Matching the chorus of birdcalls to their makers adds to the interest. Listening to orchestral music that features bird sounds adds to the intrigue. You might start your listening with “The Aviary” from Carnival of Animals Suite by French composer, Camille Saint-Saens; and, of course, Sasha, in Peter and the Wolf by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, is an unforgettable bird with an important mission.

Birds surround us and give pleasure while serving an important role in our world’s ecology. We hope that your summer is filled with the sights and sounds of these vertebrates.

Susan and Mary

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The ART of MOTHERHOOD

In the 12th century Hugh of Fouilloy, a French Benedictine prior, illustrated Biblical texts. He felt that seeing a picture of the words would be enlightening because “what the ear could hardly perceive, the eye might take in.” As Mother’s Day approaches, we often give tributes and say eloquent words to mothers. Are the words we say heard and understood in the way we mean them?

Thinking about how pictures can illuminate ideas made us think about making WORD ART. For this Mother’s Day, instead of buying a card, how about making some word art instead? What meaningful words describe your mother?  How could you illustrate them to describe one of your mother’s characteristics or show how you feel about her? For a twist, maybe you as a mother want to describe something about your child that makes you love being a mother!

IMG_5699BOLD word art

Joyful word art             Giving word art

When your appreciation for all that mothers do and are combined with your special words and pictures, you’ll have made a very special gift.  Try collaging the words and images together around a picture of your mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, daughter, or son.

collage wrod art

For inspiration, check out the ways that some artists have illustrated the many facets of motherhood.

http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.46729.html

Mary Cassatt, Mother’s Kiss, 1890-91, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

It’s heavenly when mothers experience the sweetness that Mary Cassatt captures in this artwork.

http://www.aliceneel.com/gallery/?mode=display&category=9&painting=114  Alice Neel, The Spanish Family, 1943,  Private Collection

But there are times when as mothers we are the center of calm on whom our children need to rely, even when we feel trepidation ourselves.

Norman Rockwell, Rosie the Riveter, 1943                     B1983.32

Left: Norman Rockwell, Rosie the Riverter, 1943,  Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Right:  Frank Holl, Peeling Potatoes, ca. 1880, Yale Center for British Art

Women could work in a factory all day, come home to peel potatoes for dinner and have supper on the table by six-o’clock.

http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.42954.html

Mary Cassatt, The Picture Book, (No. 1), ca. 1901, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Nothing can compare the joy mothers feel when their children are laughing and happy or snuggled in their laps reading picture books together.

Motherhood is a many faceted role.  Your own special words and pictures might be a great way to share your appreciation for the mothers in your life.

Pablo Picasso, Mother and Child,Pablo Picasso, Mother and Children with an Orange, 1951, New Zealand Auckland Art Gallery

We hope you’ll share your ideas with us. We’d love to hear from you!  Happy celebrations of motherhood to you all!

Susan and Mary

Re-Envisioning the Game of Statue Maker

We loved to play “Statue Maker” when we were kids. We’d spin and spin and when the leader called “statue”, we’d stop and try to stand still, still, still so we could continue playing. We re-envisioned this game using the arts integration strategy of tableaux (i.e. frozen pictures.)

Let’s get started by using the Read the Picture strategy with the two sculptures shown below. What is the same about these figures? Both are standing with their arms above their heads.   Canova’s figure of Winged Victory looks triumphant, but Atlas looks as if he is literally feeling the weight of the world. How is that difference communicated? How does the material chosen contribute to the mood?

E10620.jpgAtlas - Santiago

Antonio Canova,                          Unknown, Atlas, Praza do Toural, Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Winged Victory, 1803-06.

Are there any similarities between the two sculptures below? Both seem to be standing quietly and starring off into space. What do you suppose The Little Dancer is thinking about? What is her mood?What do you imagine George Washington is thinking about? What is his mood? How did the artists convey these different feelings?

Degas, Edgar - Little Dancer NGA croppedHoudon, Jean-Antoine, George Washington

Edgar Degas, Little Dancer, 1878-81.        Jean-Antoine Houdon, George Washington, 1788-92.

The two sculptures below were designed as public monuments. Ernst Barlach (Bar’ – lah) work was designed to honor soldiers who died in World War I. It is a monumental bronze sculpture that is now housed in the Magdeburg Cathedral in Germany. The uniforms and headgear of the soldiers are significant. Why? The two standing soldiers as well as the soldier kneeling in the center wear different styles of uniforms and of headgear to represent German, French, and Russian soldiers. What is the figure on the bottom left showing? He seems to be hiding in fear, afraid to look out at the destruction. The figure on the bottom right is covering his ears to block out the sound of war.

In 1929, the people who commissioned Barlach to create the sculpture expected him to depict only German soldiers, and that the figures would look glorious and heroic. Why? Did Barlach have the same idea? He chose to depict the tragedy of war, no matter what nationalities are involved. As students create a tableaux of Barlach’s figures, ask them to describe the mood they are recreating. What are they doing with their bodies to communicate these moods? How does the pose make them feel?

Frederick Hart created Three Servicemen in bronze as a tribute to American soldiers who fought in Vietnam. How can you figure out which branches of the service are depicted? The figures on the left and right represent the Army, and the figure in the center represents the                                                                                                                           Marines. Talk about the expressions on the faces of the soldiers who are standing. Ask students to describe the feelings shown by each man. How do their poses communicate their feelings and thoughts? What do their clothes tell you? What else is communicated? How is Hart’s message different than Barlach’s?

Barlach, Ernst -Magdeburge Cenotaph   ??????????????????????????????????????

Ernst Balach,                                     Frederick Hart, Three Servicemen, 1984.

Magdeburg Cenotaph,*  1929.

Try creating tableaux of various sculptures that “fit” with what you are studying in various subject matter. Divide the class into small groups to create their tableaux. Vary the experience by having one or two students per group act as the sculptors. If the sculptors are the only people who see the art image, they will direct the tableaux-makers (i.e. create the sculpture) by using words to describe the poses and feelings depicted.   This definitely helps students hone their skills of observation and communication!

Extend this work with tableaux by having students create their own scenes based on characters or historical events they are studying. When we use games, the learning is fun and has lasting power!   With a little research, there seems to be an endless supply of amazing art work to help us connect in meaningful ways to just about any aspect of the curriculum.

Play on!

Susan and Mary

*A cenotaph is an “empty tomb,” meaning the remains of the people honored in the sculpture are in another place.

Multifaceted Arts Instruction

BassettWe are thrilled to welcome guest contributor, Christie Bassett, 2015 Florida Teacher of the Year.  Christie teaches art (and more! as you’ll read here) at Highlands Grove Elementary School in Polk County.  She believes in making connections… with her students and colleagues, of course, but also with the community, and with the total school curriculum.  She is an exemplar and long-time proponent of arts integrated teaching.  She told us that she loves using Teaching Through the ARTS:  WRITING… and feels like we wrote it for her and her art classroom.

Christie is an inspiring ambassador for education and for the importance of arts education.  Read on and you’ll understand our excitement!

Mary and Susan

Technology brings the world closer each day and creates an undeniably more global future for American students. More than ever, students today need a well-rounded education that integrates multidisciplinary instruction into each day of their classroom instruction. This is best achieved when teachers breach the confines of the textbook, the walls of the classroom, and borders of subject areas. The arts are often the first opportunity a student has to apply, practice and enhance the skills they are learning in core academic subject areas. I often ask myself, “As an art teacher, how can I prepare my students to be career ready in the information age?” I know that they will need to be able to create, innovate, infer, predict and expand. It is my job as their art teacher to give them opportunities to practice these skills by creating art lessons that allow them to not only design and produce, but to also reflect and respond. I do this by working with their classroom teachers, incorporating reading into the daily routine of my lessons, and asking my students to write about their art process.

Collaboration Leads to Enhanced Art Instruction:

My school always offers great professional development opportunities for its teachers. Often, these learning opportunities are focused on math, reading and writing instruction. If you did not teach one of those subjects, you did not have to attend the meeting…and for many years, I didn’t. Until one day I noticed that all the teachers I looked up to weren’t just participating in these meetings, they were often leading the professional development! I realized that I was missing out on a chance to enhance my instruction, enrich my curriculum and further develop myself as an instructor. Now, I attend every reading, writing, science and mathematics training that I can.

In addition to going to training, I also resolve to further collaborate with classroom teachers. I often inquire about book recommendations, informational text resources, grade level abilities and skill acquisition. By working with their classroom teachers, I am ensuring that my student receive a well-rounded education that will benefit them beyond the walls of the classroom.

Successful Writing in Art:

“They have to write a paragraph in first grade?!” was my shocked outburst while attending a writing stamina training. “Well, we would really like to see students writing paragraphs in kindergarten, but definitely by 1st grade,” said the trainer. My surprise quickly turned into disappointment as I realized that while I had been requiring my students to write in response to their artwork, I was not challenging them by pushing their writing stamina. During that training, I resolved to challenge not only them, but also challenge myself. I decided I would evaluate the writing component for each art project to be grade-level appropriate. I ordered Teaching through the Arts: Writing to help me boost my visual art writing curriculum. I also asked my principal to observe my writing instruction in my art room. And, again, I turned to classroom teachers for advice.

pencils

I knew it was working when my students told me that it was more difficult than previous assignments (okay, they complained it was more difficult)! I also had my students asking more questions and working together. It has been wonderful! I need to challenge my students artistically and academically…now I’m doing that!

Reading in the Art Classroom:

stack of booksWhile describing an upper elementary art lesson to my mentor, a 1st grade teacher, she said, “I know a book that would be perfect to use with that!” While reading to warm up during an art lesson wasn’t completely foreign to me, I didn’t know how well it would work with my older students. However, I took her advice, and used the book. It was a hit! It worked so well, I changed my artistic instruction style to devote time in each lesson to reading. Sometimes I used artist biographies to have my students read to shoulder partners. Or, I might read aloud about the technique we would be using. Occasionally, I would find a magazine article on the subject of our art project and have my student take turns reading to the class. I consistently observed that reading not only added to the depth of knowledge acquired during lessons and my students also produced better artwork after being inspired through text.

This year, I’m not a normal art teacher. I’m on a leave of absence from the classroom so I can fulfill my duties as Florida’s Teacher of the Year. In August, I explained to my students that they would have a different art teacher for this school year. They kept asking me the same question over and over. To my surprise, no one asked “Will the new teacher paint with us?” or “Will the new teacher let us make ceramic projects?” or “Can we still use oil pastels?” All of my students kept asking, “Will the new teacher READ to us?” Reading during art class has made so much of an impact on my students, possibly even more than I realized while I was teaching them.

I don’t equate my success as a teacher to my students growing up to be artists. I believe I am a successful art teacher when my students grow up to be readers, writers, and well-rounded adults.

Christie Bassett is spending the 2014-2015 school year traveling the state of Florida speaking to educators, future teachers, district personnel and business leaders about the continued success of Florida’s public education. You can read more about her at http://www.fldoe.org/teaching/recognition-recruitment/fl-teacher-of-the-year-program/past-winners-finalists/2015.stml.

Reading: Make it DRAMATIC!

Take advantage of sound possibilities as you read with children. Pump up the drama in your voice to make the words exciting. Children will imitate your example.  As adults, we find that readers who speak dramatically on commercially produced “books on CD” draw us into the story in very compelling ways. At home or in school, our own dramatic reading does the same thing. Research shows that children who read expressively have greater understanding of what they read and are more interested in independent reading. Your expressive reading is a model for children to emulate.

Here are some ideas to help you get started.

With its repeated (and short) refrains, Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins with illustrations by Eric Gurney, has many possibilities for engagement and bringing words to life for the younger set. Written with a strong beat, the story easily lends itself to rhythmic reading. The repeated refrain     “Dum ditty     Dum ditty     Dum dum dum”   as well as multiple rhyming couplets (thumb-drum; hum-drum) invite participation. As the millions of monkeys gather to play their drums, the reader escalates the tempo as well as the volume to reflect the changing scene.

Hand Hand Fingers Thumb

In the Wild with stunning poetry by David Elliott and gorgeous woodcut and watercolor illustrations by Holly Meade can build interest in poetry as a means of describing the world. We especially like the analogies suggested in the poetry. For example, did you ever think about likenesses between an elephant and a cloud? By reading the poetry with expression and perhaps even a touch of drama, you help to elevate the power of the words and the illustrations. We’ve found that that this book resonates with teachers and students alike.

In the Wild

For older students, the Carl Sandburg poem Jazz Fantasia (http://allpoetry.com/Jazz-Fantasia) offers a great link to reading with a recording of jazz music. Listen to a variety of music to find something that “works” with the feeling of the poem.

Adding Sound Effects is another great way to “up” the interest in reading. For example, as you read a train story, create the sounds of the train. Repeat in an almost whisper voice: “Chug-a, Chug-a”; add a “Whoo-oo” for the train whistle; how about a “Shhh—ooo” for letting off some steam in an old-fashioned train? Putting these sounds together creates a Soundscape that gives us a “sound picture” of a train.  Try creating a story and adding sounds to  Train in Snow,  by Claude Monet, 1875.

Monet, Train in Snow, 1875

Playing instruments to “tell” a nursery rhyme, song, or story is a great way to help children focus on the essence of the rhyme. Click here for a video of Mary and Susan performing a “mystery” nursery rhyme. Can you identify it from the sounds only? Keeping the steady beat of this rhyme allows children to “think” the rhyme as they play the sounds to accompany the words that they are hearing inside of their heads. Talk about brain development!

The Napping House by Audrey Wood with illustrations by Don Wood allows readers to choose sounds to represent the action in the story. When these representative sounds are played together, children are creating a Soundscape, or collage of sounds, that helps to advance the mood of the story. Select instruments to represent the characters in the Napping House: snoring granny (softly play the guiro or other notched instrument); dreaming child (gently “swish” wind chimes); dozing dog (scrape fingers over a drum head); snoozing cat (lightly twirl maracas); slumbering mouse (tap the rim of a tambourine); and that wakeful flea who changes the scene (crashing of finger cymbals.) As characters are introduced in the story, sounds are added until all sounds are playing together. Things get frantic (louder and faster) when the wakeful flea arrives! No instruments? Try using “found sounds” (things in the environment such as paper flapping, crumpling, or tearing) or “vocal sounds” (such as snoring, whistling, heavy breathing.) You’ll be greeted with “Let’s read it again.” Truly music to a parent’s or teacher’s ears!

Imagine going to the movies and hearing no sounds other than the voices on the screen. The result probably wouldn’t draw you into the story. To remedy this, enter the Foley artists (who create and record natural, everyday sound effects in a film), the sound designer (who produces the special audio effects), and sound producers (who put it all together in a professional soundtrack for the movie.) An added bonus: adding sound effects and soundscapes to reading can provide a unique career exploration opportunity!

Whether reading at home or at school, try videoing a reading with your own sound effects and soundscape to heighten the interest. Click here to hear a Soundscape created by teachers at a recent workshop presented by Mary and Susan. This Soundscape brings Van Gogh’s Farmhouse in Provence to life.

Sounds really do bring a story, rhyme, poem, or dramatization to life. Often children’s interest in books and reading is ignited by the opportunity to experiment with sounds to help tell the stories.

We hope that you’ll share some of your favorite dramatic reading materials with us.  Through the ARTS… read on!

Mary and Susan

SCIENCE and ART???    DIVE INTO A CORAL REEF… SOMETHING’S FISHY HERE!

An elementary school student’s burgeoning interest in science inspired some awesome art making. The book Coral Reef: A City that Never Sleeps, by Mary M. Cerullo, motivated us to learn about reefs.

Coral reef book

With a long piece of paper for a mural (taped up on a window wall), father and daughter went to work at creating a reef of their own. We needed a large space since the reef had such a variety of aquatic life. We couldn’t fit a whole reef into a small space!

Drawing coralDrawing Reef

Together, we noticed that coral came in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. The father/daughter team of artists started with branch coral and tube coral.

Scuba diver and fishDad's coral and fish

The wide variety of beautiful fish reminded us of the seldom-visited world on the ocean floor. In her red and black wet suit, a young scuba diver is going to take a closer look at the brightly colored fish. There are only a few of each kind of fish on a reef, so their neon colors are meant to help them attract mates, (With too many of the same species in one spot, competition for food would diminish their chances for survival.) The brilliant colors help the fish find each other.   Once the fish pair up, their sparkling colors make it easier for them to defend their territory.

Unfinished

There’s lots more to do before we’re finished with our reef mural, but this framework was a good start.

Next time we’re going to take a look at Christopher Still’s painting, Beyond the Seven Mile Bridge (http://www.christopherstill.com/murals.htm), which is a wonderful and well researched mural currently hanging in the chamber of the Florida House of Representatives .

Still, Christopher - beyond the seven mile bridge

Christopher Still said that the coral reefs in the Florida Keys were a resource to be protected, and no doubt the presence of this detailed underwater scene reminds legislators every day of our state’s treasure. Still paints from direct observation, so he engineered special equipment to use for his underwater sketching.

Still’s painting is another rich example of life on the sea floor. Using a variety of resources builds depth in children’s thinking about a subject. Talking about the overall underwater scene as well as the detail observed will enhance the artwork created.

Turn up the impact of your ocean reef by adding music. Choose music that helps to take artists and viewers into the image. Listen to music in order to decide on a “fit” for this image. Sometimes composers create music specifically to describe a person, place or feeling. French composer Camille Saint-Saens wrote a collection of short pieces, The Carnival of Animals. These pieces describe particular animals and scenes.   While viewing the coral reef mural, we love playing “Aquarium” to help to create the feeling of underwater life. This music is readily available at online resources and elsewhere. In addition, there are many children’s books about The Carnival of Animals suite. Two choices that include a CD of the music are: The Carnival of the Animals by Jack Prelutsky, United States Children’s Poet Laureate; and Carnival of The Animals: Classical Music for Kids by Sue Williams.

51wF0m-UD5L._AA160_

Whether at home or in a classroom, mural making can be a great time for collaborative planning and doing.  In addition to learning more about coral reefs, the experience of art-making helps to open eyes.  It’s surprising how many murals you’ll suddenly see around your town once you delve into mural making!

We hope that you’ll dive in to an ocean reef. The water’s fine – and so are the sites and sounds!!

Susan and Mary

Inspired Dance in Your Curriculum

Ashley     Our guest blogger, American ballerina Merrill Ashley, was a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. She is now a répétiteur (coach) and travels worldwide to work with some of the world’s greatest dancers.   Considered to be one of the great George Balanchine ballerinas, Ashley danced roles Balanchine created for her. Her book, Dancing for Balanchine, was published in 1984. She is co-author and co-artistic director of the video series “The Balanchine Essays”.

In this guest blog, Ashley shares many links between ballet and science, mathematics, architecture, sculpture and more. Her observations emphasize that we live in a very intertwined world and reinforce the importance of integrating arts learning across the whole curriculum.

My desire to be a ballet dancer was sparked by a ballet teacher who asked the students to jump over a pile of coats on the floor in the middle of the studio. He asked us to pretend they were leaves blowing in the wind. I loved the idea of flying through the air, dipping, spinning and traveling far and wide. We were defying gravity! Gradually, I began to equate being a dancer with being like a bird – able to control the force of gravity and move in enviable ways that other humans or animals simply couldn’t.

As I became a more accomplished dancer, I danced in ballets like Swan Lake where I was asked to move like a bird. I had to be able to use my arms and neck in way that resembled a swan.

Ashley coaching Swan Lake     Merrill Ashley (left) rehearsing Swan Lake with Sofiane Sylve of the San Francisco Ballet. © Photo by Kyle Froman, used with permission

I was asked to move like other animals, too. My legs had to have the strength and boneless look of an elephant’s trunk, even while being able to make small delicate movements with them – just as an elephant’s trunk can pick up a single blade of grass. Waiting on stage to dance certain steps in a ballet, I had to have the energy of a cat waiting to pounce; I had to be still but ready to move quickly in a split second. So I began to study animals more closely to see their special ways of moving. It was a wonderful way to study the world of science and nature.

The more I danced, the more I saw a parallel between ballet and sculpture.

Sculpture is usually static and motionless. Ballet is beauty in motion through poses and shapes made by the body. George Balanchine, the great 20th century choreographer, took inspiration from sculpture and made living images evoking them.

This famous sculpture by Antonio Canova was the inspiration for a moment in Balanchine’s ballet Serenade. While the movement is inspired by and done with music, I began to see what George Balanchine meant when he said his ballets made you “see the music, hear the dance.”

Canova, Antonio - Pysche and Cupid     Antonio Canova’s Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, (1787-93) is in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Looking at ballet from the point of view of the audience, one easily sees parallels between ballet and architecture. This is especially evident when there are numerous people on the stage, and the patterns of movement constantly reveal themselves.   The patterns shift miraculously, like patterns in a kaleidoscope. Knowing geometry helps you quickly understand your place in the pattern as you move. Just as a new building must fit the size of the lot and be designed for a specific purpose, the size and shape of the cast of a ballet is determined by the space and number of dancers. When Balanchine choreographed his first ballet in America, he had 17 girls to use. He had to design a pattern that used all of them. He decided on one that looked like rows of trees in an orange grove. He said if he had had 16 girls, he would have made a totally different formation for the opening pose.

Of course there were other connections to science that I learned about through studying and performing ballet. I learned about anatomy and medicine from dealing with injuries. I began to notice light and how it changed the look of things (which, of course, painters have known for centuries.)

I learned to love many different styles of music as choreographers chose pieces by a myriad of classical and contemporary composers. There are numerous other connections, but by now you I expect you are thinking of some of your own. I hope you will share what you have observed about how dance integrates with core subjects and all of the arts. It’s enriching!

Thank you for inspiring us, Merrill!

Please email ideas you’d like to share with us to info@artsjourneypress.com.

Dance on!    Susan and Mary