Of Music Guides and Monologues

Okay, so Thursdays are challenging because I need to keep my students motivated and engaged. I must come up with activities that integrate both writing and concepts I think they might be interested in. This morning I browsed books about dancing, theater and researched Kundiman lyrics online for the Music students.

For the Ballet students, I chose “Dance Anecdotes: Stories from the Worlds of Ballet, Broadway, the Ballroom, and Modern Dance” by Mindy Aloff because it’s not very jargon-heavy. It’s a book full of anecdotes and excerpts from biographies of famous ballerinas and ballet masters. I photocopied pages that contain stories that students might find interesting. There’s one entitled Bicycle Ballet about a ballet dancer missing the train to get to his show and biking his way to the theater where he was to perform. Then, there’s one anecdote that shows a really short excerpt from a libretto with choreography. I thought the students could choose one dance piece that they all know by heart, a piece they have performed on stage together. All they have to do is recall the steps and their positions/blocking. They may include the backdrop, the scene and props. The example I gave them began with, Dancers enter the stage wearing colorful tutus. So they spent the whole session reading the anecdotes and then recalling, labeling and recording the steps to a dance piece. I was a little nervous when they started dancing because they were wearing sneakers and had no warm-up exercises. I guess it was fine because they were not dancing dancing, they were just trying to move to help them remember. Below is a Folk Dance student’s output:


For the Theater Arts students, I asked them to write a monologue. First, I made them choose between the personas in their villanelles and that characters they sketched out of the story maps they created a few weeks back. They chose the characters from their collaborative story. Then, we read samples of monologues and had a brief discussion on monologues and what I wish to see in their monologues. I gave them a few minutes to conceptualize, draft their lines and all. At 3:00, I told them they could rehearse or draft the lines orally. They did not have to write the monologue, they could just write bullet points and do improvisation from there. I gave them the option to either do a reading of their monologue or to do an improvisation. They chose the latter and had to work on their pieces for half an hour. At 3:40, they performed their pieces. They were actually really good monologues! We even pushed our chairs to give them a space to perform. Below is a sample of their notes:


For the Music students, mostly Voice Majors I interviewed a Senior High Voice major. I asked her what they often do during music lessons with their teachers. She shared a couple of things and I thought analyzing lyrics of songs would be quite close to what we do in our Basic CW classes. I asked Yvette for pieces she used to sing when she was a freshman. Out of the five titles she gave, I ended up researching the lyrics of Music for A While. Apparently it was based on John Dryden’s poem, based on the play Oedipus. So I shared the synopsis of Oedipus and we tried to analyze some of the lines from the poem. Then, I made her read the Music Guide. I asked her to write a Music Guide for a piece she’s been rehearsing. This is what she came up with and I think it’s a lovely piece:

The banging entrance of the piano, both bass and treble harmonizing on the first measure until you hear the arpeggiated chords, which indicate the entrance of the singer. Piano and voice harmonizing smoothly as the harmony of the piano and melody of the voice go perfectly together. While the text is depicting memories of his past lover like, the smile of his former lover that was sweet, the flowers that had the color of roses and the warmth of her embrace. As the complicated beat pattern comes and the accent crescendo is used and the text depicts how he longs to be with his lover again. The song slowly reduces the volume of the climax and slowly the volume of voice reduces and text depicting how he misses the kisses of his past lover and cries while singing this part. As he return to the last note of the piece which is octave of the key.

All we created for this session are works-in-progress. We have yet to turn them into literary pieces but already, I find the drafts poetic (yes, romanticizing these things is shallow). I find so much potential in the choreography notes, the notes actors make when they need to prepare for an impromptu performance and the music guide right there. The class is turning out to be very experimental and I’m both scared and excited about it. I hope the output will not disappoint.

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