Magazine article Dance Teacher

A Lesson on Dancemaking, Inspired by Martha Swope's Photos of West Side Story

Magazine article Dance Teacher

A Lesson on Dancemaking, Inspired by Martha Swope's Photos of West Side Story

Article excerpt

SEEING

* Show students a handful of the photos. Choose images that show dancers in motion or in interesting body shapes.

* Ask students what they see in the images. Lemberger likes to show them the photos before even mentioning the who, what, where and when in them. She also likes to prompt them by saying, "If you could ask the picture a question, what would it be?"

* Give a brief explanation of the photos' context-where, when and why it was taken and by whom (the briefer, the better, for younger students).

* Explain what a tableau is (a moving picture or one that just moved) and prompt students to identify the tableaus in each photo.

INTERPRETING

* Break students up into groups of three or four. Give each group a photo to work with.

* Have them work as a group to decipher what movement words they see in the photos. Ex.: "jump," "twist" or "slide."

* For older groups, have them break down the movements they identified into the essential building blocks. For example, a sauté â la seconde contains a tendu and plié. "It gives them a toolbox of movement knowledge," says Lemberger.

TRANSLATING

* Have groups take the movement vocabulary they just compiled and arrange it into longer phrases.

* Have each group include one tableau that is recognizable from their photograph in their phrase.

* If time allows, combine groups to put their phrases together into longer dance sequences.

Key concepts: Historical dance figures and works (Jerome Robbins, Martha Swope, New York City Ballet, West Side Story)] the relationship between dance and still photography; the role of tableau in choreography; translating imagery to vocabulary; translating vocabulary to movement; working in groups; dance vocabulary. …

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