“Two men run across the stage in sweeping circles until one stops the other by pressing a palm into his chest. They lock eyes. Then the second melts backward into the arms of the first…A pas de deux — a dance for two — is usually about love and usually between a man and a woman. But here were two men, not incidentally men of color, in a tender, athletic display of desire. Ballet is slower to change than most art forms, but in the span of just two weeks, New York City Ballet, one of the world’s premier companies, will have shown two ballets featuring significant same-sex duets.” G. Kourlas, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
“Not Our Fate” had its premiere before a donor-filled crowd at New York City Ballet’s fall gala, on Sept. 28. And on Thursday, Justin Peck, the company’s resident choreographer and a soloist, makes his own statement with a casting change in his ‘The Times Are Racing’ that City Ballet says is unprecedented at the company: In the central pas de deux, Mr. Stanley will perform the role originally created for a woman.
Same-sex partnering on its own is not new, especially in contemporary ballets and in modern dance. And even at City Ballet, there have been instances of same-sex partnering in several ballets, including those by Ms. Lovette, Pontus Lidberg and Mr. Peck. What feels unusual in these two dances is their fresh approach: Full of abandon and brimming with romantic desire, they seem utterly natural… On Oct. 1, the choreographer Alexei Ratmansky wrote on Facebook: ‘sorry, there is no such thing as equality in ballet: women dance on point, men lift and support women. women receive flowers, men escort women offstage. not the other way around (I know there are couple of exceptions). and I am very comfortable with that.’ His post was accompanied by what appeared to be a Photoshopped image of a ballerina holding a man in the air.
A few days earlier Mr. Peck had announced his casting change on Instagram, writing that ‘The Times Are Racing,’ which had its debut in January, would be continuing its ‘exploration of gender-neutrality.’ (His post included the hashtags: #loveislove #genderneutral #equality #diversity #beauty #pride #proud.) Last spring, he recast the dance’s tap duet, giving the dancer Ashly Isaacs one of the parts originated by a man.‘The Times Are Racing,’ created during the presidential election, is something of a protest ballet — the dancers’ costumes are adorned with words like unite,’ react, and fight. And it’s danced in sneakers, which means no pointe shoes.
‘The future of ballet is really in the hands of the creators,’ Mr. Peck said, ‘so if it’s something that interests them to push the envelope with gender roles, then I think it will change. But if that’s not of interest to a dance-maker, if their interest is to sort of preserve the way things have been done for the past 200 years, then nothing is going to change.”‘
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Have students examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- The two men danced a pas de deux.
- The ballet “Not Our Fate” had its premiere at New York City Ballet’s fall gala.
- The ballet “Times Are Racing” is unprecedented at the company.
- Same sex dancers challenge certain fundamental traditions in ballet.
- Positive response from critics feels long overdue.
- The ballet critic didn’t mean to offend or impose a ban.
- City Ballet was co-founded by the choreographer George Balanchine.
- Their fresh approach was full of abandon and brimming with romance.
- Gender norms in ballet have developed through the use of the pointe shoes.
- For the dancers, the roles feel like opportunities to express themselves in more nuanced ways.
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
For his___ Mr. Peck has made small ___so that each dancer takes a turn leading the other; learning how to be the one has been an ___for both. “There’s a constant___of who’s leading and who’s in charge,” Mr. Applebaum said. “So you have to ___on a dime.”
WORD LIST: exchange, supported, tweaks, pas de deux, adjustment, switch
Using Adjectives to describe pictures
Directions: Have students choose a picture from the article and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.
III. Post Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Discussion for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Place students in groups and have each group compose a letter or note to a person mentioned in the article telling her/him their thoughts on the topic. Share the letters as a class.
Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.