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History of Ballet

Context for this Lesson


Lesson Creators: Natalie Reed, Lamar Middle School and Lara Dossett DFS specialist

Subject/Topic: The History of Ballet

Focus Question/s: Where did Ballet originate? How has the style of ballet changed and adapted to the audience over the years? What are the different eras of ballet and some of their identifying characteristics?

TEKS: Dance 4. Historical and Cultural heritage relevance. The student demonstrates an understanding of cultural, historical and artistic diversity. The student is expected to: 4a. analyze the characteristics of dances from historical periods 4c. Identify historical figures and their significance in dance history. Theatre 1. Perception. The student develops concepts about self, human relationships, and the environment, using elements of drama and conventions of theatre. The student is expected to: 1c. create expressive movement and pantomime to define space and characters; 1d. express thoughts and feelings, using effective voice and diction; 2. Creative expression/performance. The student interprets characters, using the voice and body expressively, and creates dramatizations. The student is expected to: 2a. demonstrate safe use of the voice and body; 4. Historical/cultural heritage. The student relates theatre to history, society, and culture. The student is expected to: 4a. demonstrate in performances that theatre is a reflection of life in particular times, places, and cultures;

Materials Needed: Ballet painting, handouts, costume pieces for museum curators


Teacher in-role

Artifact (10 minutes)

Facilitator 1 Enters: Ah, dance historians! Oh, it’s so good to meet you! I am so glad I’ve found you on such short notice. My name is Persephone and I am an assistant museum curator. I have been told that you are experts at ballet history. I hope you can help me. We just got a shipment of artwork, and I realized that there is one piece of work for our Ballet Exhibition, Dancing through Time, that I cannot place in history. I’m really new on the job and don’t quite understand where it fits. Anyway, my job is on the line here. I need your help. So I have this picture and no idea in which gallery to put it. Pre-romantic period? The Russian period? I’m just so glad that all of you came today to help me out. This is where I’m hoping since you all know something about ballet, that you can help me. Does anyone have any ideas? How can we fix this problem? Let’s begin with this picture.

Describe: What do you see in this picture?

Analyze: What could …. mean? What might be going on?

Okay, so I’m thinking that in order to figure this out together we do a little bit of research into the history of ballet, then we’ll be able to gather information that will help me put the painting in the right place before the museum curator finds out!


Tableaux and description writing (20 minutes)

Facilitator 1 in-role gives instructions: Break into groups, assign moments in time and ask each group to write a short description (Where, When, What, Who) of what was evolving about ballet during that time period. Once they have written their descriptions they should embody the moment in time through the creation of a group frozen image.

Quick individual image: Before we ask you to create group images we’d like to make sure we are all aware of what a good image looks like. Let’s try out creating an image with just our bodies first. Can someone tell me how ballet makes you feel? Great, joy! In five seconds, show me with your whole bodies and faces what joy looks like to you. 5-1 freeze. Great stay frozen. This side of the room relax and observe the frozen half. What do you see? What makes you think that? What could this represent? Great, now you please freeze in your images and we’ll do the same observation

. • Break up into groups of 4 (each group is assigned between 2-3 images)

Moments in time:

• Early Court Dances

• Ballet Masters and Choreographers

• First Ballet School

• Pre-Romantic Period

• The Romantic Period

• The Russian classics

• The Ballet Russes

• Ballet in Europe (2 tableaux)

• Ballet in America

Transition:  (In-role) Alright, let’s all gather together in order to share our research so we can finally figure out where in history this painting belongs. I think the best way to do it would be to read your description first, and then create the frozen image for that description. Do we agree? Great, great. When you are in your frozen image hold it for a moment until I say “relax” because we want to reflect on the image for a moment to fully understand what is happening. Sound good?

Presentations of Tableaux (30 minutes) • Read description first and then strike image

• DAR each image D: What do we see? A: What do we think might be happening here? What are they? Why? What do you think this image relates to the time period? R: How do you think this affects how ballet evolved? Why?

**As we are getting finished DARing the last group Facilitator 2 comes in as museum curator.

Facilitator 2: Persephone! Why is that painting not up in the gallery?

Facilitator 1: Oh, well, I was just putting it there, I was just showing it to these ballet history experts here and we were just talking about where it belonged in history. We…..(looks at the students for help)

Facilitator 2: Well, what time period in ballet history do you all think it’s from? Why? What tells you that? Excellent, you should come work for me at the museum. Persephone, please hang it up right away.

Facilitator 1: No, problem, boss. (Facilitator 2 exits and returns out of role) Thank you all so much for your help today. (other specific compliments)


TRANSITION: Alright, I heard you all just learned a lot about ballet history; let’s reflect on what you did today.


Reflect: (5-10 minutes)

D: What did we do? How did it feel to embody what was happening in different time periods?

A: How has the style of ballet changed and adapted to the audience over the years? What are the different eras of ballet and some of their identifying characteristics?

R: How does this give you new insight into ballet? How are you thinking about it now related to your dance interests? What questions do you have?