Discovering the Magic of Theater Arts: Cirque du Soleil

In the past few months, we’ve had the wonderful opportunity to see two Cirque du Soleil performances that captivated not only our hearts but also our imaginations.

We were fortunate to catch Corteo while we were staying in Lima, Peru in October. Corteo, which means “cortege” in Italian, is a joyous procession, a festive parade imagined by a clown. The show brings together the passion of the actor with the grace and power of the acrobat to plunge the audience into a theatrical world of fun, comedy and spontaneity situated in a mysterious space between heaven and earth.

Corteo was a great introduction to the magic and theater arts of the popular Cirque du Soleil.  When we returned home and reflected on our trip, the kids stated that seeing Corteo was one of their most memorable moments.

cirquedusoleilIntrigued, my son began watching behind the scene documentaries and shared that he’d love to see another performance. When we had the opportunity to accompany Patrick on a business trip to Las Vegas, we selected Kà. Together my husband and I had previously seen O and Zumanity; he had also seen Kà. “The effects on stage of both O and Kà were mind blowing,” he stated. I was curious to compare the two.

These experiences provide entertainment surely, but I have also found that they have helped in creative writing assignments and art. For students interested in theater arts, dance, music, and even engineering, I highly recommend seeing a performance.

History of Cirque du Soleil

In the early 1980’s in Baie-Saint-Paul, a charming village nestled on the north shore of the St-Lawrence River, east of Quebec City, a theater troupe emerged. The performers walked on stilts, juggled, danced, breathed fire, and played music. Among these young entertainers was Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté.

During the 450th anniversary celebration of Jacques Cartier’s discovery of Canada in 1984, the province of Quebec sought an event which would bring the festivities to all Quebecers. Guy Laliberté convinced organisers the answer was a provincial tour of Cirque du Soleil performers. With resounding popularity and public acclaim, the Cirque du Soleil performers have not stopped touring and sharing their artistry.

To raise money, Laliberte convinced his partner, Mr Ste-Croix, to walk 56 miles in stilts.

 Global Citizenship

Ever since Cirque du Soleil began performing around the world, it chose to become involved in communities, particularly troubled youths. Concerned with the future, Cirque du Soleil turned its attention and resources to global issues, such as the fight against poverty. Working together with valued partners, Cirque du Soleil is making a difference in nearly 80 communities, in over 20 countries on five continents.

CorteoCirque du Soleil‘s citizenship principles are founded on the conviction that the arts, business and social initiatives can, together, contribute to making a better world. Cirque du Soleil utilizes a sustainable development approach. It furthermore treats its employees, partners, customers and neighbors with respect, as it does the environment, laws and cultures of every place it goes.

Cirque du Soleil strives to be a responsible agent of change and a citizen of choice with a view to sustainable development. For the beach scene in , for example, the sand is created using 350 cubic feet of granular cork from Portugal.

Bring it Home

For students interested in music, like my son, consider researching the instrumentation of a specific Cirque du Soleil show. For example, the unique string instrument heard in the soundtrack of O is an erhu, a traditional Chinese bowed string instrument.

KaMy daughter has developed a growing passion for art. While we were in Las Vegas, we enjoyed visiting the Art Gallery of Richard MacDonald. It reminded us of one of our favorite artists, Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland.

His work focuses on the spectrum of performing life, capturing a fleeting moment in time and immortalizing the grace, strength, joy and discipline of dancers and acrobats.

Engineering minded students may be interested in learning about the contraptions behind the scenes. Hanging 49 feet above the stage, the carousel and conveyor system in O carries tons of equipment as well as performers during the show.  Additionally, the carousel horses have a small propeller underneath their tails that are controlled by a joystick located on the back of the horse.

OOther students may be fascinated by the elaborate costumes. To create the 131 costumes for the 41 characters in Corteo, Designer Dominique Lemieux wanted to accentuate the artists’ natural beauty. She used some 900 different fabrics, including natural fibers such as silk, linen, cotton and lace.

Cirque du Soleil On Demand

While not everyone may be able to attend a live performance, Cirque du Soleil televevision specials and documentaries are available in North America, On-Demand through your local cable operator, as well as through a variety of online platforms including iTunes and Hulu.

Teaching Music Theory & Composition

My son has been interested in music for a long time. When he was four years old he exclaimed, “I want to be like Bach!” At the time, I thought it may be a passing phase. Little did I know how much music would be a part of our lifestyle.

We’ve always tried to cultivate their passions. It has now been nearly 7 years and my kids have taken music lessons every week (my son piano and my daughter violin). My son’s passion for piano has never wavered. In fact, this past year he begged to increase his lesson time from 30 minutes to an hour. My daughter expressed interest in auditioning for youth symphony earlier this year.

musictheoryMusic Theory

It has been fascinating to watch my children progress in their music education. Each approaches their lessons in dramatically different ways, staying true to their unique personalities.  We are fortunate to have a music teacher who is adept at teaching each of the kids according to their unique styles.

Even so, I have known for sometime that we needed something more, particularly for my son. We needed an instructional guide to music theory that was not overwhelming (he is only 10 after all) and not too “babyish” as my son would say. When I found The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory from DK Publishing, I knew this was exactly what we needed – not only for my son but for myself as well.  {Many thanks to DK Publishing for providing the book to us for review. Please see my full Disclosure Policy for more details.}

This book breaks down a difficult subject in a simple way – with clear, concise language, it explains everything from bass clef basics to circle of fifths. I feel that this is a solid guide for children interested in music composition as well as people either new to music or who are returning to playing an instrument, like me.

Contents at a Glance:

  • Tones
  • Rhythms
  • Tunes
  • Accompanying
  • Embellishing
  • Arranging

musiccompositionMusic Composition

As a result of my daughter’s interest in symphony, we have begun to attend regular performances both locally and regionally. A few weeks ago, we stumbled upon a DVD at our local library, Copying Beethoven and I thought it was the perfect accompaniment to our recent experiences.

My daughter didn’t care too much for the movie but my son watched from start to finish. I should not have been surprised to observe him a few days later listening to a performance on YouTube of Beethoven’s Symphony No.5. He had the iPad propped up on his piano with the sheet music laid out on top. With a pencil in his right hand, he proceeded to conduct the musicians through the piece. He was as intense as the conductors we’ve observed perform.

He then shared with me the symphony that he is writing. Though his work is rudimentary, I was amazed to see that he had correctly transcribed the notes he played.

We have just begun to work through the chapters in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music TheoryAlready, I can see an improvement in his performance as well as his music composition. I look forward to the doors his experiences will open.

Finishing Strong #44: Passions & Future Goals Edition

Happy Wednesday and welcome to Finishing Strong. We are a link up that supports families as they homeschool their middle & high school children.

Finishing Strong ~ Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years #44

Make sure to visit our co-hosts: Aspired Living, Blog, She Wrote, Education Possible, Eva Varga, & Starts at Eight

As our kids grow, we are given unique insight in to their passions and potential future goals. Recently, a number of bloggers shared their personal experiences raising children with distinct paths and interests.

Not only were they fun to read, but they were also some of our most popular links from last week.

How to Grow a Reader from Blog, She Wrote

Growing an Introverted Warrior from Education Possible

Growing a Musician from Eva Varga

Homeschooling a Horse Lover from Our Journey Westward

4 Tips for Raising a Crafty Kid from The Sunny Patch

What makes your child one-of-a-kind? What endeavors are you fostering while homeschooling your teen?

We would love to hear about your family’s experience teaching middle & high schoolers at home, so link up with us below.

Bloggers, by linking up, you may be featured on our co-hosts’ social media pages or our Pinterest board. We may even select you to be featured in a future post!

Guidelines for the hop:

  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
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  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

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Growing a Musician in 3 Easy Steps

Music instruction has  always been a major part of our homeschool. A music-rich experience for children – singing, listening and moving – provides a huge benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning.

Research has found that learning music facilitates learning other subjects and enhances skills that children inevitably use in other areas. Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways.

Though not all students will pursue a career in music, providing music education can be both a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

growingamusicianGrowing a Musician

While attending a symphony performance last month, the conductor spoke directly to the youth in the audience. He stated that to become a musician one needed to do only a few things: take lessons with a great teacher, listen to great artists, and practice. He then explained that lessons should include the study of music theory and composition, not just how to play. He also stated that performance is an important part of the practice piece – becoming comfortable playing for others and receiving accolades for your hard work.

Take Lessons with a Great Teacher

My son first expressed interest in learning piano when he was about four years old. In the beginning, we had a little trouble finding an instructor who was willing to work with a child so young.

His first instructor was a gem. She related very well to young children and my daughter began taking piano lessons with her as well. When he was a little fidgety, she would incorporate other instruments to keep him interested and engaged.

The earth has music for those who listen. ~ Shakespeare

As he has gotten older, his interest in piano has only grown. My daughter, on the other hand, chose to continue her music studies with the violin. This was partially prompted by our move to California. We were initially partnered with a charter school that provided the option of violin or guitar lessons as part of their enrichment.

Though we didn’t stick with the umbrella school, my daughter continued instruction in violin. We are fortunate to have a private tutor who adjusts her teaching methods to the learning style of each child. Additionally, she works with each of the kids on music theory and composition.

I started playing clarinet when I was in fifth grade. While I enjoyed Symphonic Band when I was in high school, even participating in district honor band each year, theory and composition wasn’t taught. With 60+ students, my band teacher just didn’t have the time. My children are thereby much more knowledgeable than I.

fall recitalListen to Great Artists

We have many CDs of classical masters in our home library. We enjoy listening to them while we read or do chores. The kids also spend hours watching videos of their favorite artists on YouTube and then trying to emulate them.

Whenever possible, we also attend the concerts of professional musicians. In addition to the North State Symphony performances, we have also seen The Piano Guys, Alpin Hong, and Lindsey Stirling perform live. We all know that attending concerts is fun but there are hidden benefits as well.

Music can change the world because it can change people. ~ Bono

Listening to music elevates you mood. This is attributed to the fact that a live performance brings a more memorable experience when compared to a video taped clip. Additionally, there is more joy to listening to live music, as a performing artist gets to share his or her sentiments with the audience. He or she can freely express emotions and it helps in passing across a certain idea to the audience.

In live concerts, artists involve the crowd in singing along, clapping and even dancing. For this reason, live music can be used to bring people from different backgrounds together.

Where words fail, music speaks. ~ Hans Christian Andersen

Additionally, most performers will offer an opening act or two to get the crowd excited and on their feet. These acts may be bands or individuals you have never heard of and attending a concert gives you a chance to experience their music live. You may discover new sounds that you didn’t know you liked.

You don’t have to go to a large venue to experience the fun of a live concert: many communities offer live music as a way for people to socialize and visit in a safe setting. Local bands may play live in parks or venues, and attending these shows gives you a chance to get out, meet new people, and get involved in your community.

growingmusicianPractice

Your ability to play well is fostered primarily by the amount of time you spend playing well. Practice lets us execute a task while using less and less active brain processing. It makes things automatic. When performers master one aspect of their work, they free their minds to think about another aspect.

Practicing regularly goes way beyond music — it’s a skill that has hugely positive ramifications for personal fulfillment and lifetime success. The trick, though, is that self-motivated discipline isn’t exactly first nature for most kids, so it’s up to families to help create positive, engaging and fun ways to practice as a path towards self-motivation.

Great accomplishments do not come easy. Practice can be grueling at times, but improvement in any instrument or at any activity requires hard work. Every student (and teacher!) has days where they don’t feel like practicing, but we all do things we don’t want to do when we are working towards something valuable. Getting your children to practice, even when they don’t want to, is just one part of the process when your child is learning an instrument.

I often think in music. I live my dreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. ~ Albert Einstein

My son has never needed reminders or incentives to practice. He will sit down at the piano multiple times throughout the day to practice – both pieces he is learning with his instructor as well as pieces he is composing himself. We have come to discover that he does best when his practice time is divided up throughout the day rather than all in one siting. 

My daughter, on the other hand, has not had the same level of enthusiasm. In the fall of this past year, however, upon encouragement she auditioned for youth symphony. She worked hard with her instructor and was over-joyed to be selected for second chair. This opportunity has provided her with the inspiration to practice more often – a little competition goes a long way.

Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory. ~ Oscar Wilde

We have also learned that my son practices in this way because the piano is easily accessible to him. He can hardly walk past it without sitting down to play a short piece. Taking this into consideration, rather than packing up the violin after each day’s practice, we now leave the instrument and bow out all the time. Now, as our daughter goes about her day, she can pick it up and play whenever she likes as well.

fallingleavesPerform

In addition to improving creativity, learning and performing music cultivates many skills that will continue to be useful to your child throughout their lives. The act of learning and playing an instrument, the encouragement of a teacher and the enthusiasm of a proud parent, will build in a child a sense of pride and confidence. Additionally, assigning pieces for a performance helps to teach students about setting goals and obtaining them within a specified time frame.

Much to the delight of parents, our music teacher provides her students with an opportunity to perform at a recital twice a year – once in the fall and again in the spring. In addition to providing the kids a venue to share what they have learned, they come away inspired by others and often hear pieces that they would like to learn themselves.

Here’s a peak at their spring recital a year ago, Spring Recital: Japan & Norway edition.

I mentioned earlier that my kids enjoy watching their favorite artists on YouTube. Inspired by The Piano Guys’ Charlie Brown Medley, my son recently began volunteering to play the piano at a local retirement home. He performs twice each month and has a growing fan base.

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I certainly have no idea where the interests of my children will lead them in the future or what career path they may choose. In a related post, I outlined 5 Steps to Cultivating Passions in Children.  Regardless, I know that a foundation in music education will help to encourage self-discipline and build skills in cooperation, creativity, and communication.

GrowingaSuccessDiscover more posts in the series by visiting iHomeschool Network’s Growing a Success.

The Collision of Art & Literary History

My children and I love historical reenactments and living history. Not only does it literally bring history to life – it captures our emotions and connects us to the stories of individuals who have made a difference in the lives of others.

In my post last week, Traveling Through Time, I shared with you a little snippet of our experience at a recent Civil War reenactment. Living history volunteers worked together to recreate aspects of a Civil War, sharing with us tales of battles, living conditions, and hardships they faced. We loved singing songs from the era and learning about their pastimes.

Living history is an activity that incorporates historical tools, activities and dress into an interactive presentation that seeks to give observers and participants a sense of stepping back in time.

livinghistory

Pictured here are my children dressed as Snowshoe Thompson and Marie Curie and their friends dressed as Anne Sullivan and Ole Kirk Christiansen in 2013.

Each year, I coordinate a living history day for our local homeschool community.  The event is always a highlight of our homeschool year and we look forward to “talking with the historical people we meet”.

Living history is an art form whereby performers connect art and literary history.

In my post, Bringing History to Life, I share a video of the presentations my children did as Irena Sendler and Arnold Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller earlier this year. Sadly, the video I captured of their presentations the preceding year was very poor so I am unable to share that presentation with you.

My kids have just begun to think about the characters they wish to research for their presentation in 2015. I won’t reveal just yet who they have selected, but I will give you a hint. 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the man who rediscovered the lost art of the guara, a kind of aboriginal center-board used by the indians of Peru and Ecuador for navigation.

I encourage you to consider hosting a living history event of your own. In my post, Bringing History to Life, I share guidelines and tips for success.

If you have taken part in living history performances or have enjoyed local reenactments, I would love to hear about it. Share your story in the comments! 🙂