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The Arts In Every Classroom: A Workshop for Elementary School Teachers

Historical References in the Arts Getting Ready

Learner Team member Jan Adkisson, also known as the principal of Drew Model School in Arlington, Virginia, explores how the hat she created affects the way she moves.

(20 minutes)

The following information will help you focus and organize your professional development session.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe where historical references occur in a video segment from Quidam.
  • Analyze costume designs for Parade, focusing on how they convey character and dictate movement. Create a costume element and explore how costumes affect character development and movement.
  • Analyze and interpret works of painter René Magritte and choreographer Alwin Nikolais, comparing the artists’ works to Quidam. Create a movement sequence that incorporates an original prop or costume element and references to Magritte and Nikolais.
  • Conduct research into the history of street performance and how its influence is felt in Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam. Take on the role of an art historian discussing a specific type of street performance.

Guiding Questions
These are questions for your group to consider as you work through the session:

  • What are historical references?
  • How do historical references affect the creation of new works of art?

Materials and Resources

Opening Steps
Facilitator: Distribute the handout, Criticism: Purposes and Process (PDF).

Discuss your experience with having your students write critiques.

  • What knowledge base was necessary for your students to succeed?
  • How did your students work together?
  • With what kinds of vocabulary did your students need the most help?

Discuss these questions:

  • How does art history inform and influence contemporary works of art?
  • How do individual art forms affect or inform each other in a multi-arts work?

Facilitator: If you have a video of Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam, use it to provide examples of historical references:

  • Cue the program tape by setting the time counter in your video player to 0:00 when you see the title Quidam at the beginning of the performance, then fast-forward to 9:50. Play the segment of Quidam that runs from 9:50 to 18:50 on the time counter (running time approximately nine minutes).
  • The section to be viewed begins with a team of female acrobats performing with yo-yos. It continues with a transition in which Zoe swings and the father walks through the air, an aerial performer works on a suspended red fabric streamer, and a clown runs with sparklers.
  • When a clown enters with a hula-hoop, stop.

In the video, look for specific examples of:

  • where art history influenced the performance and
  • where individual art forms affected or informed each other in the performance.