In the early 1990s, SMB launched an important program designed to “enhance the cultural life of the community” through educational outreach to students in Caddo and Bossier Parishes: the “school performances.” The school performances are designed to be the cornerstone of SMB’s arts education outreach in the Shreveport-Bossier City community, because they provide many students with a cultural opportunity that they might otherwise not be able to experience due to socio-economic challenges or other hardships. Since the early 1990s, SMB estimates that approximately 170,000 Caddo and Bossier students have had the unique opportunity to discover the historically important art of classical ballet through our professional-quality productions.
SMB hosts approximately 8,500 Caddo and Bossier students every year at free and/or low cost performances of Act I of our holiday classic, The Nutcracker, and selections from our rotating spring performance – past spring offerings have included Aladdin, Peter and the Wolf, Snow White, The Wizard of Oz, Cinderella, and Coppélia. School performances for The Nutcracker are first targeted to third-grade students and then opened to other grades as space permits. In the spring, middle school students are given the first opportunity to attend the school performances, but many other grades attend as well. On March 18, 2011, Caddo and Bossier students were the first audience to experience a world-premiere ballet, Aladdin, featuring new choreography by SMB Artistic Director Kendra Meiki and an original score by composer Kermit Poling.
Each Caddo and Bossier Parish teacher in the targeted grades receives an invitation packet to our school performances. Once teachers have made their reservations, they receive a carefully crafted lesson plan to help prepare their students for the trip to the ballet. The lesson plan is closely tied to the Louisiana state curriculum and is designed to fulfill certain testing benchmarks in the fine and performing arts. Through these lesson plans, students can learn about the history and development of classical ballet. They also explore themes such as fantasy and fairy tales, theatre history and etiquette, and social and intellectual topics specific to the ballet being presented. For example, the Aladdin lesson plan encouraged students to think about the many ways in which stories and tales are adapted as they are passed from generation to generation – most of these students will be familiar with the animated Walt Disney version of Aladdin, but the history of the tale behind it is centuries old!
Students who attend school performances of The Nutcracker also have the opportunity to submit original artwork for our Nutcracker Art Contest. SMB created the Art Contest in order to foster student creativity and to reinforce the connection between the visual and performing arts.
An important 2002 study by researchers at UCLA found that middle and high school students with strong involvement in the arts performed better on standardized tests, watched fewer hours of TV, participated more in service to their communities, and reported less boredom than their peers who were NOT involved in the arts. The path to this kind of success must start early, and SMB believes that our school performance education program can provide the “spark” needed to set many children on a lifetime course of appreciation for and participation in the arts.
For more information about the school performance program, please contact SMB at 318-221-8500.