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This lesson uses video segments from Great Performances: The Little Mermaid from San Francisco Ballet to help students explore the role of the author in relation to his/her work. In the Introductory Activity, students discuss the structure of the original The Little Mermaid tale as they remember it. Students then read the original story and compare their memories to the original text. In the Learning Activity, students examine John Neumeier’s artistic interpretation of the classic fairy-tale by looking at two video segments that feature the main characters of the ballet. Finally, for the Culminating Activity, students craft their own contemporary interpretation of a classic fairy-tale (e.g., Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty).
(1-2) 50-minute session(s)
Author’s Inspiration Document
1. Ask students if they are familiar with Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Little Mermaid. Discuss with students the structure of the story as they remember it. To help facilitate discussion, ask the following questions:
2. Distribute The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen handout. Ask students to read the full text. Once completed, lead a class discussion. Prompt discussion with the following questions:
3. Tell Students they will be watching video segments from Great Performances: The Little Mermaid from San Francisco Ballet, a ballet choreographed by John Neumeier for the San Francisco Ballet. Explain that this ballet incorporates dance, theater, and a unique artistic interpretation of this classic tale.
students they will watch a video that offers a different perspective on the original Hans
Christian Andersen tale. In this video, they will see how the ballet introduces
the story of the Little Mermaid. Note:There is no sound when this video
begins. Play the Artistic Interpretation in The Little Mermaid Video.
2. Ask students to compare the introduction in the original story to the introduction in the video. Tell the students to watch the video again. This time, ask them to look for the elements that tell the story (e.g., dancer’s movements, facial expressions, music, symbolism, etc.). Play the video again.
3. In a class discussion, encourage students to answer the following questions:
ask students to summarize the passage in the original story when the Little
Mermaid makes her fateful decision to become human and meets the Sea Witch.
5. Tell students they will now watch a video highlighting the Little Mermaid’s transformation from sea creature to human. As they watch the video, encourage students to take notes on the different ways the Little Mermaid and the Sea Witch interact and how this tells their story. Play the The Little Mermaid: Transformation Video.
6. After watching the video, use the following questions to stimulate discussion:
1. Tell students they are going to adapt a well-known fairy-tale such as Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, or Sleeping Beauty into a contemporary story. Explain that just as John Neumeier used the Little Mermaid narrative in a new, unique way, they will do the same. Tell students to watch the interview with John Neumeier. In this video he describes his artistic vision and inspiration for The Little Mermaid ballet. Students may also watch a video interview with Lera Auerbach, the composer of the original score for San Francisco Ballet’s The Little Mermaid.
2. Distribute the Author’s Inspiration handout. This
handout will help guide students as they develop the narrative for their story.
Students may work in pairs or small groups to complete the handout and devise
their story ideas.
3. Encourage students to watch the Little Mermaid video segments again. Tell students to analyze how different characters’ movements develop the Little Mermaid narrative and use this as inspiration to develop character(s) in their own fairy-tale. Instruct students to complete their interpretations on their own.