Sunday, June 28, 2009

PA Arts Sunday - June 28th 2009 - Part II -- YouTube in the Classroom - A Question

Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City announced Friday that they are lifting a ban on YouTube:

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - After being banned since 2006, YouTube is back online at on the campus of BYU.
All this month, school administrators talked about lifting the block. They said they chose to life the ban because of the educational value of YouTube.

Along with the access to YouTube, BYU has also created a site, to make sure students and the general public stay web savvy. [emphasis added]

I use YouTube a lot in a college course I've taught since long before YouTube existed. Music Appreciation. My basic responsibility in teaching the course is to get students to obtain a lifelong love of any kind of music, no matter how much exposure or non-exposure they have had to music before they have taken the class.

Each year there are more excellent videos at the site to help supplement the class materials. I've encouraged publishers and authors revising texts and creating new ones to find ways to engage students through audio-visual materials that have some of the punch one finds at YouTube.

I'm in a dilemma this semester. In the course, I usually use two YouTube episodes from Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps. Many regard this 1913 ballet to be the most important musical work of the 20th Century. If you think you know what is generically called "classical music" and you don't know le Sacre, you don't really know "classical music." The work has had a profound impact on thousands of composers, tens of thousands of performers and millions of people who have heard or seen the work. I regard it, along with Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, Beethoven's 3rd Symphony and Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, to be one of the most important advances in musical thinking of all time.

In class, after introductory material played from the course CDs, played by me on piano, and illustrated in a powerpoint presentation, I usually show two YouTubes of excerpts from the ballet.

The first is of the introduction. I use the magnificent restoration of the original sets, costumes and choreography, created by Millicent Hodson, Kenneth Archer and Robert Joffrey, in 1987 (I wish it was available in DVD. I've looked and looked):

Then I play the ending of the work. The entire work shocked audiences to the point of madness, but the ending Danse Sacrale, even more shocking, in which a young virgin, chosen by her peers, dances herself to death, was not at all like The Nutcracker, or Stravinsky's earlier masterpiece, The Firebird.

There are several versions of the Danse Sacrale on YouTube, a couple of them done completely nude. I've use the version, danced by Malao Airaudo, that is performed by the Pina Bausch Wuppertal Dance Theater. In it, the solo dancer's top - by purpose - reveals her breasts.

I've never felt reluctant to show this tremendously powerful performance to college classes, but should I show it to a college class in which a high school student or students are enrolled?

That's my dilemma. Here's the performance:

image - 1913 set design for Le Sacre du Printemps Part One, by Nicholas Roerich


mlaiuppa said...

So, BYU now considers it's students adult enough to make their own choices in web content? Mighty big of them.

Anonymous said...

You should have no qualms about showing it to High School students. It's completely PG-13.

"A PG-13 motion picture may go beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements, but does not reach the restricted R category."

The R category states:
"... sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, ..."

I don't think anyone could think the nudity in the piece is sexually-oriented.

KB said...

I don't think it's a problem to show this to high school students. If they can't be mature about it, they have no business being enrolled in a college class.

KaJo said...

I have to admit, I'm pretty much totally ignorant about ballet, or Stravinsky...the summary at Classical.Net was fascinating to me, as ignorant as I am.

After watching the ethnic (original concept?) "introduction" and the modern dance "virgin death dance" that you've featured, and two others -- one that features the lead dancer nude, and another, a segment from choreography by Heddy Maalem -- I would present all of them to your students, suggesting to them that they note how the costumes and settings differ but the dance is the same and the theme immediately recognizable.

I would think even high school students would be able to be objective, and able to concentrate on the music and the dance if they see more than one production of the death dance.

I thought the setting in the nude-lead-dancer version was the most pleasing, to be honest -- an undulating spotlighted grassy platform. It was a perfect foil for the violent movements of the dancer.

the problem child said...

Agree with K.B.. If you remain concerned, discuss it with the university registrar so that they are aware of the possible partial nudity issue.

But believe me, any teen has seen far more explicit stuff, likely in the company of their parents.

Ripley in CT said...

the art transcends any of the perceived sexuality due to some breasts. However, best to get parental permission if you have a 17 (or younger) aged kid. A note to the parent, with a link to the video would likely suffice. While I agree that any high school student in a college music appreciation class should be "mature" enough to handle some nudity, there are parents who might take umbrage (and legal action), as they are still responsible for what their child takes in until they are 18.

Mary said...


One of the things my students were always tickled about Rite of Spring was that it literally caused a riot. Adults were shouting and fist fighting in the aisles. Pushing, shoving. People were literaly fighting over a piece of music.

Stravinsky ducked out a back window of the theater and walked home.

No high society adult would think about punching someone out over a piece of ballet music these days. But that's what happened opening night of Rite of Spring.

There are many other things that make this piece of classical music....iconic. But I think the reaction of the audience rates right up there.

Philip Munger said...


Thanks for the advice, comments and interest.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine it being a problem for any high school student, but their parents could be a problem. To CYA you might want a signed permission slip. I look back at 30 years of teaching music and can see several lessons I taught years ago that would not be tolerated today because of changing viewpoints.

Philip Munger said...

Anon @ 10:02,

Interesting. What lessons from past years would now be a problem?

Laurel Nelson said...

BYU is in Provo, not Salt Lake - it's about 45 minutes South.

And all of the costumes are breast revealing in that video - lead dancer more so obviously, but you can see all the others too.

Anonymous said...

Each year there are more excellent videos at the site to help supplement the class materials. ......

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