Stories in Tune – Swan Lake – Part 2

posted in: 2. Illustrators and Authors | 6

Last week I wrote about the picture books we’ve been reading as a way into enjoying the music of Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky. As in the past I found the easiest way to get the girls to become familiar with the music was to play them clips from YouTube. The advantage of using these clips, apart from them being free, is that they tend to be short (5-10 minutes, which is great for ensuring kids don’t get bored), and that there is something interesting to look at whilst the music wafts over you.

Here are some of our favourite clips:

This clip shows Odile and the prince dancing at the ball, performed by the Kirov Ballet.

This clip shows the Pas de Quatre, peformed by the Bolshoi Ballet. My girls particularly like this and tried immediately to copy what they had seen!

Once M and J had seen the Bolshoi’s Pas de Quatre, I showed them Matthew Bourne’s Pas de Quatre. They were amazed to see men dancing ballet!

This was perhaps my favourite clip (I watched it 5 or 6 times with the girls and each time it brought tears to my eyes!). It shows the spectacular finale to Swan Lake by the American Ballet Theater.

This clip, from the Great Chinese State Circus, isn’t one for ballet purists, but my girls just adored it – they were amazed by the acrobatics.

Having listened to lots of shorter clips of music it was then easier to put on the full length piece of music – the girls weren’t sat still whilst listening, but they were clearly paying attention, as when passages familiar from the YouTube clips came over the loudspeakers they were very excited and talked about what they had seen.

And here’s what we did whilst we listened to the full ballet: we made our own corps de ballet to perform Swan Lake, along with Odette and Odille.

We used:

  • a bundle of clothes pegs
  • doilies of various sizes
  • pipecleaners
  • plasticine (non drying modelling clay)
  • bottle tops
  • pens
  • elastic bands
  • spray glue
  • glitter

  • M draw simple faces on the clothes pegs and then prepared the dancers’ tutus by clipping a small hole in the centre of a doily.

    The doily was put over the clothes peg…

    …and held in place with an elastic band.

    The ballerinas were given arms by wrapping pipecleaners around their bodies.

    A small piece of plasticine was used to create some hair for the ballerinas’ heads.

    To enable the ballerinas to stand up M put a ball of plasticine inside a bottle lid and then pushed the clothes peg into the plasticine.

    For a final flourish M sprayed the dolls with glue and sprinkled a little glitter over.

    One ballerina was given a black tutu – she, of course, was Odile!

    And this was Odette:

    Other activities that might work well alongside listening to the music of Swan Lake and reading the picture books I reviewed about Swan Lake include:

  • Making princess crowns like these from Bitter Better Blogs
  • Making a tutu, like we did when we listened to The Firebird, just this time they’d be white and sparkly, or black!
  • Making this mask from Elizabeth Abernathy to dress up as the evil Von Rothbart

  • And if (you and your kids) like dancing pretending to be swans then you should also listen to Saint-Saens’ Swan (what a tongue twister!) from Carnival of the Animals.

    What ballet activities have you done with your kids that went down well?

    6 Responses

    1. Choxbox


      What ballet activities? Well we used to have ballet parties when their friends came over – we’d put music on and all the girls would wear their tutus and dance!

    2. Rachel

      There is a new book out with poems about each of the animals in Carnival of the Animals. The poems are by Jack Prelutsky (sp?) and it comes with a CD!

    3. Janelle

      My daughter is enrolled in a beginner ballet so besides going to her weekly ballet lesson and reading her favorite Angelina Ballerina books, we don’t do much else involving ballet. We’re hoping to see a production of Nutcracker this holiday season.

    4. Zoe

      Hi Janelle, I must get hold of some Angelina ballerina books – I only know the animations and I can’t bear them ! Angelina comes across as such a spoilt little girl with a really whiny voice – at least in the “British” version. I’m hoping to do a post on the Nutcracker before Christmas…

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