As the Spring 2014 Educational Outreach Intern, I had the opportunity to work on ABT’s award-winning outreach program, Make a Ballet (MAB). This year’s MAB topic is the Life and Works of William Shakespeare, which ties into the 450th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and ABT Artist and Residence, Alexei Ratmansky’s new production of The Tempest, which had its world premier last Fall. The 2013-2014 MAB season also marks the 5th anniversary of ABT’s collaboration with P.S. 20 on the Lower East Side.
This year, the 5th Grade students at P.S. 20 participated in a Fall Residency that focused on the exploration of universal themes in Shakespeare, public speaking and presentations, and the creation of original prologues and soliloquies inspired by Romeo and Juliet. Then, in the Spring, they worked with ABT teaching artists to make connections between the Shakespeare classroom curriculum and dance in order to tell the story of Romeo and Juliet through movement. Under the direction of teaching artist Karen Lacy, they created their own ballet/ production inspired by Shakespeare, which they performed for the community and their peers.
During my internship I was able to observe the students’ progression from the classroom to the stage. I had the opportunity to attend both dance and design sessions at P.S. 20 in which the students learned basic ballet vocabulary and movement that was incorporated into the choreography for their very own ballet. In addition they created the artwork that became the sets to accompany the piece. I was impressed by the amount of focus, determination, and enthusiasm I saw in the classroom and I was excited to see it transfer to one of the largest stages in the world.
MAB culminated in a performance at the famous Metropolitan Opera House on May 29th as part of the Young People’s Ballet Workshop (YPBW). This is ABT’s largest outreach event of the year and draws almost 4,000 public school children from New York City and the surrounding metropolitan area. Many of these kids have never seen the ballet live, on stage, and most have never stepped foot inside the Met. A select number of students from P.S. 20 were chosen to perform an excerpt from their ballet at YPBW. They shared the stage with three other MAB schools—Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, the Waterside School, and P.S. 1—and ABT’s main company and Studio Company.
In Outreach, we’ve been gearing up for YPBW all semester. We created study guides, which were distributed to 32 participating schools. The teachers used these guides to prepare students for the performance. The guides included information about the ballets that were performed by ABT and the Studio Company, as well as worksheets about Shakespeare’s life, works, and language/ literary devices.
On the day of the Met performance, the MAB schools arrived early at the stage door so that they could have one final rehearsal before their big debut. Only a couple of hours later, 30 schools arrived at the front of the house eager to get to their seats. Seeing all of the kids bursting with excitement to be at the theater to see a live performance was a special experience. I loved hearing the resounding “Bravos” from the audience when Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes finished dancing the pas de deux from Act II of Cinderella. And, the kids were in awe of the Studio Company dancers when they demonstrated turns and jumps. But, the kids were the most excited when the MAB portion of the program began. The famous sword fight from Romeo and Juliet was a big hit and the excerpt from The Dream got a lot of laughs.
The real stars of the show, though, were the MAB schools. P.S. 20’s piece, It All Began When… explored how the feud in Romeo and Juliet began. The kids looked very professional in their costumes and took command of the stage. They interlocked arms and made intricate patterns as they told their story through dance. The end result was breathtaking.
All of the students should be very proud of all that they accomplished this year. Young People’s Ballet Workshop was truly a memorable experience and I can’t think of a better way to conclude a fantastic internship with ABT.
Educational Outreach Intern
PS 20 Students creating the backdrop for their Romeo and Juliet set
PS 20 5th Graders bringing the feud of the Montagues and Capulets to life with Teaching Artist Richard Toda