Instilling a love of music and dance

Jun 16, 2023 | Arts & Culture

The Wolf gets ready to pounce (Photos contributed by Sharon McCormick)

By Julianne Homokay – Special to the Alpine Mountaineer

Recently Arrowhead Arts Association (AAA) brought its Introduction to the Orchestra, an assembly for mountain third-graders, to Valley of Enchantment Elementary School. This program is designed to inspire students to pursue music education by signing up for a string or band class in the coming fall.

On the heels of this successful program, Arrowhead Arts brought two performances of Peter and the Wolf to Lake Arrowhead Elementary School.

The ballet was choreographed to the score by Russin composer Sergei Prokofiev by Sharon McCormick, director of the Lake Arrowhead School of Dance and artistic director of the Lake Arrowhead Classical Ballet Company. She also serves on the AAA board.

McCormick has been involved with AAA for at least 15 years. When she got involved, “there was no dance represented at that time. Chyrl [Russell, director of Youth Enrichment] was paying lots of money for outside groups to come in.” These were quality ensembles, but McCormick envisioned local representation and wanted a dance presence in the program, so she joined the team.

Lake Arrowhead Classical Ballet Company has been performing Peter and the Wolf for about 20 years. McCormick has been producing it for AAA’s school program for about 10, and now the piece rotates in and out of mountain elementary schools every three years.

It’s educational for children, because “every character has an instrument that represents their dancing,” McCormick said, which ties in with the Introduction to the Orchestra program.

In fact, Prokofiev was commissioned to write a symphony for children back in 1936, and Peter and the Wolf was the result. It was his exact intention that each character be represented by one symphonic instrument.

The cast of Peter and the Wolf with Sharon McCormick.

The cast of Peter and the Wolf with Sharon McCormick.

This ballet is especially exciting for children because “they’re not told you need to be sitting quietly. This is not your typical ballet. You can laugh! You can be afraid! We want to hear it,” said McCormick.

Another part of the program focuses on student reaction to the piece. AAA conducts talkback sessions after the performances. This is where “you want them to be able to think, ‘I can do that!’” said McCormick. During these question-and-answer sessions between the students, McCormick and the dancers, McCormick often witnesses the kids express interest in pursuing an artistic endeavor themselves. “I wanna be a ballet dancer!” is a common refrain.

Peter and the Wolf also toured Charles Hoffman Elementary earlier this year, and will visit Valley of Enchantment Elementary School during the 2023-2024 school year. “My purpose is to get them interested,” said McCormick. “We just try to get in any way we can.”


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