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Achievement Curriculum: Module 1: Student Handout

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Suzanne Farrell
Ballerina Extraordinaire

Suzanne Farrell: My feelings started to change when I realized that dancing was getting inside my body, emotionally, as well as physically. And that it was taking on a whole new dimension, and my life was changing, and I had a performance where I got on stage with an orchestra. At the dress rehearsal, there was no one in the audience, but I suddenly was in the real atmosphere of the theater. I looked out at these empty seats. But I felt all this sort of dust, or feelings of people who had been there before. It was palpable. And I just thought, this is what I want to be. And I knew that dancing would be my chosen profession.

[ Interview ] Suzanne Farrell

Twyla Tharp
Dancer and Choreographer

We thought that there were certain possibilities, in terms of physical movement, in terms of community, and in terms of what dance could address in our society. And those were the issues that we went after. And we worked with a great deal of rigor. Which is to say, we were very, very dedicated. We worked six days a week, we worked at least six hours every day. We did not perform much at all. It was really about the experience of learning and exploring and growing, for five years.

[ Interview ] Twyla Tharp

Twyla Tharp: I do weight training, and have for quite a while, and I'm much stronger than most women. Consequently, when I work with men, or when I'm partnered by men, I can do things no other women can do. Just in terms of counterbalances and how I support myself against him. And we can actually go into kinds of movement that haven't been available before, simply because I've strengthened myself as a woman, not because I've weakened him.

I don't think politicians should be allowed into power who are not familiar with their bodies, because that's where our bottom line is. And I know that they would make totally different decisions if they felt responsible simply for their own bodies, for starters, for example. I think that anybody who wants to challenge their mind to operate -- any artists, any writer, any economist, any entrepreneur who wants their mind to function at a peak knows they have to work physically at something, whatever, on a daily basis. It is a necessary part of the human machine. We're a machine and we have to be worked in the same way we have to be fed. So it's not a question of being turned on, it's a question of respecting a necessity.

[ Interview ] Twyla Tharp

Twyla Tharp: When I'm in the studio, when I'm warm, when I'm what people call improvising, but what I call futzing because improvisation seems like such a somehow institutionalized word. What I do is completely the opposite of institutionalized, it's the messiest thing you can imagine. That when I'm in a certain state where the cerebral powers are turned off, and the body just goes according to directive that I know not of, it's at those times that I feel a very special connection to I feel the most right. I don't want to become too mystic about this, but things feel as though they're in the best order at that particular moment. It's a short period. It goes only, at maximum, an hour. I pay a very great price to be able to maintain that. But it is, that hour that -- I use the same phrase over and over again -- that tells me who I am. I think it's that way for anyone who does anything that is personal to them. There are moments where things come, and they don't know where they've come from. It's the business of discovery, and being able to have that freshness in your daily procedure that enrichens the life. It keeps the discipline that's necessary for any artist from becoming stale.

[ Interview ] Twyla Tharp

Twyla Tharp: In and of itself, breaking rules is not an art. That's simply an extension of, and a challenge of, what the traditions are. You have to create something either with the rules, or without the rules. But simply breaking the rules, which I've done my fair share of, is not all that creative.

Trevor Nunn
Theatrical Director

I think a director does have a huge responsibility to draw strands together and to seek extension and development of his or her own ideas. I don't say that involving other people's input is at all going into the rehearsal room saying, "I don't have any ideas about this, I hope somebody else does." No, not at all. No. I tend to arrive in the rehearsal process with very strongly developed ideas about what I want to do. But I don't like those ideas to be things that are not subject to change, or subject to development, or subject to challenge.

Lloyd Richards
Tony Award-Winning Director

Lloyd Richards: It's built into your life. If you aspire at all, you're taking a risk. If you aspire as a young black person to something where there is not a beaten path, you're taking a risk. So risk is nothing new in your life. But then, some risks cost more than others, and I guess those are the ones that you recognize as risks. But all of life is a risk. You try and achieve whatever you as an individual human being can achieve. To make that attempt is a risk. I guess I never decided to take risks with my life, I just had no choice.

[ Interview ] Lloyd Richards

Lloyd Richards: It's built into your life. If you aspire at all, you're taking a risk. If you aspire as a young black person to something where there is not a beaten path, you're taking a risk. So risk is nothing new in your life. But then, some risks cost more than others, and I guess those are the ones that you recognize as risks. But all of life is a risk. You try and achieve whatever you as an individual human being can achieve. To make that attempt is a risk. I guess I never decided to take risks with my life, I just had no choice.

[ Interview ] Lloyd Richards

Lloyd Richards: I don't work for the critics. The critics are something that happens to the work. If I try to guess what the critics might like I know my producers do that all the time. I've been a producer, and I am a producer, but I do the things I like. I do the things that really affect me. I do the things that mean something to me, where something of me is being articulated through the work. I say what I have to say. Now that may be accepted, it may not be accepted. I say it the best I can, and if they don't accept it, okay.

[ Interview ] Lloyd Richards

Lloyd Richards: One person once said to me, "The theater is a place of survivors, people who have survived all those things you are talking about." And what makes them survive, I assume, is a real deep belief in themselves a need to express that, and then having the tools to do it with. I guess I may have some tools. I know in other areas of the arts, I don't have the tools. I can have a wonderful image, but you put an easel and a brush in my hand, and a palette, and all those colors there, I cannot make that vision, as wonderful as it is, realize itself up on the canvas. I can't do that. I don't have the technique, and I may not have the talent for it, but I certainly don't have the technique. In the theater, I have some technique. And I'm presumptive enough to think that after this length of time, maybe I had a little talent somewhere along the way.

Lloyd Richards: I want to make something of my life? Or my life in the theater? Either way it's the same thing. It's commitment. Trust. Work. there is no substitute for work. There is no substitute for commitment. You've got to commit to something that you love. Invest yourself in it, and trust it.

Lloyd Richards: Okay, you've got to go out and fight that battle again. Freedom of expression. Are we still fighting that battle? Yes. Will we go on fighting it? I assume so. Over the number of years that I have lived, those are the things that I have learned, that the most precious things are never totally won. It's like love. It's never totally won. It has to be worked at in order to be maintained. It's not easy. The whole thing of casting, and non-representational casting, I was doing that 40-some years ago. We were having those same discussions, and they will go on. You keep thinking, it's another generation, they've got to learn, too. They've got to discover, too. You don't realize the turnover in generation, the turnover in understanding. Anti-Semitism! Astonishing! I thought we dealt with that in the Second World War! I thought we understood something when we came out of that. But there, you see it cropping up again in the very major ways that it does. We have to do that one again? All right, we will do it again. I guess that's what life is all about. There are certain eternals, and you have to struggle to keep those eternals fresh, alive, and there for the next generation.

[ Interview ] Lloyd Richards

Grades 4-6

Ballet Training Project
Suzanne Farrell said that dancing is "getting into the body emotionally as well as physically." Twyla Tharp talks about the benefits of learning about your body and becoming powerfully trained through the discipline of dance. Ballet performed is dynamic and beautiful - able to powerfully communicate story, emotions, and ideas to audiences. Yet, people who have no intention of dancing professionally, from football players to clerks at desk jobs, also sign up to take classes in ballet because of the benefits it provides physically. Read the complete interviews of Suzanne Farrell and Twyla Tharp in the Gallery of Arts to learn more about dance training. Research ballet technique and the physical challenges and benefits of this discipline. Develop a brochure that introduces students to the physical training program ballet or dance can offer them.

Commitment and Risk: Theatrical Profile
Interviewees Lloyd Richards and Trevor Nunn describe their love of theater, the risks inherent in embarking on a theatrical career, and the importance of commitment and hard work. Lloyd Richards states, "there is substitute to commitment" for a young actor or director trying to follow their theatrical dreams. They must be true to their belief in themselves. It is not an easy profession. Research the life of an actor or director who works in live stage theater rather than film or television. It might be someone who is well-known in your local area rather than nationally. Use your information to develop an online magazine article profiling this successful artist. Describe their commitment and dedication to their art. What made them continue to take risks and persevere in the face of barriers and challenges.

Grades 7-9

Dance Kaleidoscope
Suzanne Farrell is a famous ballerina with the New York City Ballet. Twyla Tharp is a contemporary leader in modern dance with her own nationally touring company. Ballet and modern dance are two different very different areas of dance training and expression. There are many forms of dance including jazz, tap, folk/ethnic, hip hop, ballroom and more. Think about all the different forms of dance that you have seen performed or danced yourself. What type of dance has the most appeal to you? Research the various forms of performance dance. Develop a storyboard and content outline for a Dance Kaleidoscope web site designed to introduce students to at least three different forms or styles of dance.

Theatrical Technique and Talent
Having a successful career in theater requires a combination of training, understanding of technique, and talent. It is the same in for any art form. Director, Lloyd Richards describes having "an easel, a brush in hand, and a palette of colors" but without any knowledge and experience in painting technique, he isn't able to transfer his visual ideas onto a canvas. What careers are available in theater? What are the techniques, training, and tools required for each career path? Research three different theatrical careers. Develop an interactive chart that describes each career and the techniques, training, and tools required for each option.

Grades 9-12

Choreographer Profile
Twyla Tharp is both a choreographer and dancer. A choreographer designs and crafts dances. The choreographer teaches the movements to dancers and stages the work for performance. In her interview Tharp describes the role of both improvisation and tradition in the art of setting dances. As an innovative cutting-edge choreographer she has often pushed dancers and audiences into new areas of movement. She maintains that "in and of itself, breaking rules is not an art." But building from existing rules and moving in and out of tradition is the work of choreography. Research Twyla Tharp or another innovative choreographer for stage, film or music video. What elements of movement, sound, costume, and set do they manipulate as they set a work? Create a multimedia presentation about the role of the choreographer that includes a profile of the work of a choreographer you admire.

Freedom of Expression
Lloyd Richards, Tony award-winning director, describes freedom of expression as one of the "most precious things that is never totally won." Go to the Gallery of Arts and read Lloyd Richard's complete interview. What did Richards experience in his own theatrical career teach him about freedom of expression? Why is this issue important to him and to other theatrical artists? Research the history of theater. Identify either a historical or current issue that is related to freedom of expression. In an interactive report, identify the issue and describe the economic, social, religious, and cultural factors that contribute to it.

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