Getting Ready for the Ballet

The fine arts find their origin in God, the Creator of language, color and music. Fine arts reveal within us an intrinsic need for beauty that is a part of God’s image stamped on our being.

— Clay and Sally Clarkson, Educating the Wholehearted Child

The Ballet

Tchaikovsky’s ballet of  ‘Swan Lake’ is coming to our city next week.  The English National Ballet and English National Ballet School collaborate together each year to perform a classic ‘My First Ballet‘ for young children. It has become a highlight we look forward to each spring.  It is a shorter performance with a magical narrator.

The Story

To help us all enjoy the ballet we have been spending some time since Easter reading the story of Swan Lake.  My own childhood copy of The Book of Ballet Stories by Annabel Farjeon has been our guide.  These are beautifully written short stories, which we will no doubt be dipping in and out of in the future.  As we read ‘Swan Lake’, the children kept remarking on the echoes from Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Wild Swans’.  I just love it when they start seeing these connections:

“Which came first Mummy?” “I wonder who influenced who?”

With our youngest, I have read Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan Lake.  The British author and illustrator James Mayhew is passionate about introducing the arts to small children, and brings the ballet alive for pre-schoolers in this book.

The Music

Last week, in the car, we enjoyed Stories in Music: The Story of Swan Lake with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.  (It is available as a CD or a download.)  It does a fabulous job of introducing the story, the composer and the music, and explained wonderfully how the music does the storytelling.

The Composer

Of course we could not forget Tchaikovsky himself and so are spending some time this week reading a short biography.  Opal Wheeler’s composer biographies are perfect for primary aged children. She is my ‘go-to’ when we want to learn more about a composer. Her books are full of life and engaging.  Thankfully The Story of Peter Tchaikovsky has not disappointed us.

So, hopefully, when we go to ‘Swan Lake’ on Saturday, we will be well prepared and enjoy it even more!

Here are the resources I’ve mentioned:

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‘These are the days when birds come back’

Observing

We have been studying birds this term – learning names of garden birds, spotting them wherever we go, listening out for the ever increasing bird song as spring takes up residence, learning about their homes, nest making, migration and more.  We are total amateurs and our garden’s most common visitors are wood pigeons, blackbirds, robins and magpies, but all the same we have delighted in having time to actually observe them carefully.  As well as enjoying the birds around us, this morning we visited our local RSPB Nature Reserve, where a delightful retiree took time to point out oyster catchers, herons, a yellowhammer and some grass snakes!

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Classical Music

Each term we enjoy learning about a different composer – this term we are getting to know Camille Saint-Saens and his Carnival of the Animals.  Our youngest was given this beautiful book for Christmas so it was a natural fit.

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Christmas Audiobooks

Over Christmas we will be travelling to see family. For us this involves time in the car when we will listen to some audiobooks. If it’s the same for you, why not join us in listening to one of these Christmas themed stories?

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