DVD and VHS Reviews for Family Viewing
Piano Books to Accompany Dance and Ballet - Kids and Adults
Susan Helene Kramer
DVD and VHS Reviews
for Family Viewing
1. Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - DVD
2. Meetings with Remarkable Men - G. I. Gurdjieff - VHS and DVD
3. The Railway Children - DVD
4. The Secret Garden - DVD
4a. The Tales of Beatrix Potter Ballet - DVD
Piano Music Books - to Accompany Dance and Ballet Lessons
5. Nursery Rhyme Book - Piano Music
6. Joy of Ballet Music - Piano Music
7. Joy of Beethoven - Piano Music
8. Joy of Christmas - Piano Music
9. Joy of Mozart - Piano Music
The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, the Witch and the
is out on DVD as of April 26, 2006, and the wait was worth every second! There
are so many levels of viewing this film from the story by C.S. Lewis.
Set in the time period of WWII during the London bombing we first see the 4 children - Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter Pevensie being sent to the large home of an elderly professor in rural England.
And that is where reality as we know it steps into the world of imagination. Lucy, at first, (and who plays the foremost role of the children) literally falls into the land of Narnia through the upstairs wardrobe while playing hide and seek in the big house with her siblings.
Eventually in Narnia, we and the other siblings meet the main players in this beautiful and captivating land. Think of the winter and spring scenery you'd like to see most, and this is how Narnia appears.
The filming was done all over the world and the effort put into the background and many humanized animals certainly keeps us and the children amazed. My husband who viewed the DVD with me agreed the animals look real.
Now, I have to tell you a little secret - we were previewing it before giving it to a nephew for a birthday present, but after the movie my husband said to me, "Do you think it is suitable for Mike?" I was surprised and said, "It is one of the best movies I've seen," and then I realized my husband probably wanted to keep the movie, which is just what he then admitted. We want to watch it again and again! In fact, on a second viewing I noticed more of the symbolism bringing the plot together.
The issues coming up in the children's adventures in Narnia, mainly with King Aslan, and wicked White Witch Jadis, let us follow along to see how values we hold dear do win out in the end - I don't want to give the specifics away!
The movie has some violence, but because all comes right and just in the end, I'd recommend it for school age children. I feel the values discussed and played out make it a teaching tool for all children, regardless of ability, during their formative years.
I was sorry when the story ended (or did it)!
Highest recommendation! And recommended, too, to view the fun features of interesting facts about C.S. Lewis, and how he was inspired to write this adventure.
Details - 134 minutes; Walt Disney Video; April 4, 2006; Director - Andrew Adamson; starring Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton, and the voice of Liam Neeson as Aslan; ASIN: B00005JO1X
Available from Amazon.com
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on DVD
Have you heard the name Gurdjieff and wondered what he and his work were all about?
In the film we follow along the path Gurdjieff took growing into manhood and ever more intensely into his quest for the Truth.
Overall, I find this video uplifting every time I view it, which is probably 4 times a year.
The music and scenery filmed in the Middle East are just beautiful. They lend to the feeling of mystery and enchantment, that the search for knowing 'what' is behind the sounds and scenes in the unseen planes of existence must entail.
At the beginning we witness the portrayal of harmonic singing - high overtones and low notes from the same voice concurrently. That has to be heard to be believed and in the film we see the singer doing just that. Apparently the overtone notes are from high in the throat or nasal cavities above the vocal chords - truly remarkable.
After many scenes on unexplained phenomena and guidance in meditation leading into Gurdjieff's young adulthood, the film culminates with the very grand 'movements' which have grown to be his legacy to us today in movement and dance meditation.
I have enjoyed many forms of movement and dance over the years; watching the meditative Gurdjieff movement in the film brings upliftment to my soul that is elsewhere unequaled.
Details - Studio is Parabola; VHS 1997; Leading actors - Grégoire Aslan, Martin Benson, Colin Blakely, Mikica Dimitrijevic, Cimenli Fahrettin; ASIN: 0930407377
To order from Amazon.com:
DVD - G. I. Gurdjieff - Meetings with Remarkable Men
VHS - G. I. Gurdjieff - Meetings with Remarkable Men
Susan Kramer reviews a performance of Gurdjieff meditative movements in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Gurdjieff Meditative Movements - Commentary on a Performance
Based on the novel by E. Nesbit, The Railway Children takes us on a journey back in time to 1905 Edwardian England.
From the moment the story began I fell in love with the setting and faithful artifacts in the rooms of the family's city house and later in their country cottage.
The 3 siblings face challenges and struggles children in each generation go through in the process of growing up. Learning begins at home, it is said, and in practicality this was the case for these 2 sisters and brother homeschooled children.
In each situation the children faced, they ended up going up the higher road - even when it meant extra work for themselves.
This great DVD is a teaching in itself on how to overcome obstacles in growing up and life in general - a role model for kids of all abilities to strive to do their best and be their best!
I've watched this story several times and can't recommend it enough for all the family! Finding good family entertainment is sometimes a challenge and this story is so much more than just a film to take up a rainy afternoon. I learn more about the time and culture everytime I watch it.
And, I appreciate that I live in a modern age where the conveniences we take for granted now were not always available to the average worker - like indoor commodes, for instance, or a separate bedroom for the kids from the parents.
Details: DVD wide screen in color; closed-captioned; Anchor Bay Entertainment Studio; 109 minutes; formatted for viewing in the United States and Canada; ASIN: B00008G8LC
To order from Amazon.com go to
The Railway Children - DVD
Be prepared to be spellbound by the gorgeous photography and splendid acting in The Secret Garden DVD based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett!
There is only good to say about this wonderful heartwarming family picture!
The story opens in early 1900s India, where we see the 10 year old child Mary Lenox, of British parents, being raised with monetary luxuries, but without the loving attention of her parents, who are mostly concerned with their own privileged class amusements.
After a misfortune kills Mary's parents she is sent back to Britain to the home of her Uncle, Lord Craven - who we find has also lost his wife, the twin sister of Mary's mother.
Now the plot thickens and we find Mary has a bedridden cousin Colin, also 10 like Mary, the son of Lord Craven, who is hidden away in a darkened chamber, because of his supposed disabilities and not allowed to go outdoors.
Feeling lonely living at the large estate of Misselthwaite Manor Mary finds a locked garden behind a wall of ivy, fortuitously led there by a red-breasted robin. Here Mary and Dickons, the brother of the housemaid Martha, restore the garden to its former beauty through the planting of bulbs, flowers and tending the many climbing roses. It is an uplifting sight to behold!
While the housekeeper on the estate in charge of the children knows nothing of the youngsters' use of the "secret garden" we see the very magical properties it contains in the wild animals who live there as if they are tame house pets.
The magic of the story extends to a healing in spirit for Mary, bodily healing of Colin's supposed disabilities, and emotional healing for Lord Craven.
The inspiring ending line is uplifting and will stay with you a long time. It is for children and adults alike to enjoy and draw inspiration. And, there is so much fine detail, it is a film to be watched time and again!
My highest recommendation!
Details - 101 minutes; Warner Home Video; 1993; Director -Agnieszka Holland; starring Kate Maberly as Mary, and Maggie Smith as the manor housekeeper; ASIN: 6304698690
Available from Amazon.com
The Secret Garden on DVD
The ballet, "The Tales of Beatrix Potter" is with dancers of the Royal Ballet of London. As soon as you hear that this company is performing this delightful and exquisitely costumed ballet you are right in suspecting you are in for a treat. And with the choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton a more intricate and inspired interpretation could not have been devised.
From the beginning the dancers in elaborate costumes so resembling their animal characters nearly took my breath away. And I was especially impressed with the large pink pigs dancing on pointe. Only a 1st rate company could have pulled this off.
In fact, all the Beatrix Potter characters were performed with technical brilliance and interpretation. I remember my own days long ago as a dancer in opera ballets at the Lyric Theater in Baltimore and I know how the weight of a costume can hold you down.
I was doubly amazed to see the dancers looking like animals bounding around the stage with such apparent ease. This shows the strength and determination of the dancers to give a lively performance and interpretation of Beatrix Potter's characters in her stories.
I grew up loving these tales and I know all your children will sit back and relax while listening to the stories, and then enjoy seeing them come to life on the stage as the characters in this most unusual ballet.
And let's remember that ballet is a blend of movement and music but no words are spoken; the success of communication is through the ability of the dancers' pantomime to express the story line and emotional feelings of the characters portrayed.
I highly recommend this frolicking ballet treat for you and your family!
Details: DVD; paperback; Starz / Anchor Bay (February 10, 2004); ASIN: B0000844JM
Disclosure: I am an Amazon.com Associate and a friend and I watched this ballet together at his house.
Here is the link at Amazon.com
The Tales of Beatrix Potter Ballet on DVD
Review by Susan Kramer
This is a 64 page book of very easy piano music to songs and traditional nursery rhymes that I've used more than any other while teaching basic rhythms and kinesthetic movement to preschool through K-3 students!
I am an intermediate player and easily sight read this music. As I am able to play these pieces on the piano, and watch children move to the music at the same time, it eliminates having a separate accompanist.
The Nursery Rhyme Book contains 64 rhymes in song to the piano music, plus an additional 50 rhymes without music, included on the lower half of the pages.
Some of the songs included are: Baa, Baa, Black Sheep; Bobby Shaftoe; Ding Dong Bell; The Farmer in the Dell; Frère Jacques; Georgie Porgie, Goosey, Goosey Gander; Here we Go Round the Mulberry Bush; Hey Diddle Diddle; Hickory, Dickory Dock; Humpty Dumpty; Hush, Little Baby; I Saw Three Ships; Jack and Jill; Jingle Bells, Little Bo-Peep; Little Boy Blue; Little Jack Horner; London Bridge is Falling Down; Mary Had a Little Lamb; Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep; Old King Cole; Pop Goes the Weasel; Rock-a-bye-Baby; Row, Row, Row Your Boat; Three Blind Mice; Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star; Yankee Doodle. And, piano music for the entire song and poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas'.
And, here are some of the rhymes: Bye, Baby Bunting; Christmas Is Coming; Diddlety, Diddlety, Dumpty; Early to Bed, Early to Rise; Hark, Hark, the Dogs Do Bark; Hickety, Pickety, My Black Hen; Hot Cross Buns; The House That Jack Built; I had a Little Pony; I Saw a Ship A-Sailing; It's Raining, It's Pouring; Old Mother Goose; The Queen of Hearts; Solomon Grundy; Star Light, Star Bright; There Was an Old Woman; Thirty Days Hath September.
This is the one piano book and resource of nursery rhymes all-in-one that I wouldn’t be without! And a great bonus is it's a very reasonable price for piano music.
It can be ordered from Amazon.com at this link
The Nursery Rhyme Book - Piano Music
Whether you're looking for music to accompany ballet or dance classes, or just enjoy playing ballet music yourself, here is an inspiring collection from the great ballets.
Denes Agay has once again selected and arranged pieces in "The Joy of Ballet Music" so an intermediate player as myself can sit down, and with a little practice play the ballet melodies I so love.
Selections include: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker; Russian Dance from The Nutcracker; Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker; Sheherazade from The Young Prince and The Young Princess; Mazurka from Coppelia; Czardas from Coppelia; Valse Lente from Coppelia; The Sleeping Beauty Waltz from Aurora's Wedding; The Rose Adagio from The Sleeping Beauty; Scene from Swan Lake; Dance of the Little Swans from Swan Lake; Pas de Deux from Giselle; Grand Valse excerpt from Giselle; Pas de Fleurs from Naila; Scene from Bluebeard; Russian Sailor's Dance from The Red Poppy; Hesitation Waltz from The Red Poppy.
And, Prelude from Les Sylphides; Nocturne from Les Sylphides; Saber Dance from Gayne; Theme from Prince Igor; Polovetzian Dance from Prince Igor; Can-Can from La Vie Parisienne; Pizzicato Polka from Sylvia; Aragonaise from Le Cid; Dance of the Hours from la Gioconda; Mirror Dance from Faust; Danse Antique from Faust; Dance of the Priestesses from Aida; Dance of the Princess from The Firebird; Finale from The Firebird; Pas de Six from William Tell; Polka from the Golden Age; Folk Dance from Romeo and Juliet; Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah; Valse Grotesque from Petroushka and Dance of the Ballerina from Petroushka.
I highly recommend this collection of ballet music that will never go out of style!
Details - 80 pages by Yorktown Press (January, 1997); 11.9 x 9.0 inches; ISBN: 0825680352
Available from Amazon.com
The Joy of Ballet Music - Piano Music
have to admit that Beethoven is my favorite composer so I may be prejudiced in
my review of this set of his works selected and edited by Denes Agay. But, I don't think so.
The good news is that though I am at an intermediate level I can sit down and play most of the scores from sight. And, that is very important in playing the music in this book while teaching movement, rhythms and ballet.
The features of The Joy of Beethoven piano book are excellent for sight reading and using in the classroom. The notes are comfortably large and the pages turn without too much trouble. The book is perfect bound so what I do with a new copy is thumb through each page and press it open with my palm. This is almost like breaking in a new pair of dance shoes.
The selections included are: Tyrolean Air Op.107, No.1; Six German Dances; Sonata in G; La Marmotte Op.52, No.7; Walzer (1824); Happy and Sad Wo054; Rondo in C Wo048; Six Ecossaies (1823); Für Elise Klaverstück; Bagatelle in F Op.33, No.3; Sonata (quasi una Fantasia) Op.27, No.2 - First Movement; Minuet in G; Bagatelle in A Op.119, No.4; Adagio from Easy Sonata in C (1791); Andante Espressivo from Sonata Op.79. - Second Movement; Bagatelle in C Op.119, No.2; Andante (con Variazioni) from Sonata Op.14, No.2 - Second Movement; Variations On A Russian Song Op.107, No.3; Piano Piece (1821); Sonata Op.49, No.1.
Also included are themes from Concertos and Symphonies arranged by Denes Agay: Themes from - Symphony No.2, Op.36 - Second Movement; - Symphony No.7, Op.92 - Second Movement; Symphony No.8, Op.93 - Second Movement; - Piano Concerto No.3, Op. 37 - First Movement; - Piano Concerto No.1, Op. 15 - Third Movement; Violin Concerto Op.61 - First Movement; Symphony No.5, Op.67 - First Movement (Exposition).
I think it is enriching to introduce your students to the classical composers. Using this music for accompaniment and instruction is an opportunity that is easy to include in your classroom when a piano is already sitting ready.
Yes, I highly recommend this book of piano selections for your own enjoyment and use in teaching dance and movements.
Details - 80 pages by Yorktown Music Press, Inc.; December 31, 1998; 11.6 x 8.8 inches; ISBN-10: 0825680263; ISBN-13: 978-0825680267
Available from Amazon.com
The Joy of Beethoven - Piano Music
Once again Denes Agay has put together in The Joy of Christmas an inspiring collection of holiday piano music that can be played, sung or used as accompaniment for dances.
As an intermediate player I can sight-read most of the selections. I have used this collection of carols and music with children while teaching dance, and with my own family and holiday gatherings.
One of the pieces that inspires me most is the original version of "Silent Night" by Franz Gruber. The melodic 6/8 time just rolls along.
In addition to 6/8, there are songs and carols in 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 time. This is a great opportunity to clap along to the different rhythms - a kinesthetic approach to learning about pauses in spoken language, and for older kids the written language. Singing more than one verse is even a math lesson in sequencing - remembering which verse comes next. For a child having difficulty learning academics - song, music and dance are fun opportunities to teach these math and language concepts.
Extra verses of many selections are written out following the song or carol - very handy for learning more than the traditionally well known first verse.
I'm not going to list every piece in this handy music book, but here are some of the selections: Angels We Have Heard On High; Away In A Manger; Christ Was Born On Christmas Day; Christmas Is Coming Three-Voice Round; Come All Ye Shepherds; Deck The Halls; The First Noel; Fum, Fum, Fum; Go Tell It On The Mountain; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; The Holly And The Ivy; I Saw Three Ships; It Came Upon The Midnight Clear; Jingle Bells; Jolly Old Saint Nicholas; Masters In This Hall; O Christmas Tree; O Come All Ye Faithful; O Holy Night; O Little Town Of Bethlehem; O Tannenbaum; Rise Up, Shepherd, And Follow; Silent Night; The Twelve Days Of Christmas; Up On The Housetop; We Three Kings Of Orient Are: We Wish You A Merry Christmas; While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks.
I highly recommend this "joyful" book of holiday piano music for playing, singing and dancing!
Details - 80 pages by Yorktown Press (December, 1972); 11.9 x 9.1 inches; ISBN: 0825680018
Available from Amazon.com
The Joy of Christmas - Piano Music
Denes Agay has selected and edited a great collection of piano pieces that I, as an intermediate player can mostly sight-read. I have used these pieces in teaching dance by playing right along with my classes while teaching. I do this by sitting at the classroom piano placed on a diagonal slant from the front corner so I can glance at the kids while reading the music.
I think it is invaluable to have live music in the classroom while the students are moving. You can start and stop as needed; put emphasis where needed; combine phrases and pieces spontaneously; play softer or with more emphasis or gusto - whatever the class is needing at the time.
These pieces by the Mozart are unsurpassed for quality listening. The melodies are uplifting and full of phrases that are akin to the students' language lessons. Even being able to play the pieces for your students is more than listening pleasure - it opens their ears to the nuances great music provides.
One of my favorite pieces to accompany the students while they skip in patterns is Spring Song K.596.
Here are the selections for the keyboard: Menuett K.7; Allegro K.3g; Air K.16kk; Menuetto K.15qq; Andante K.15mm; Spring Song K.596; Contredance in A K.151; Minuet and Trio K.315a; Burleska Composed in 1766; Rondino K.15d; Sonatina; Andante Cantabile from Sonata K.330; Rondo K.15hh; Alla Turca from Sonata K. 331; Viennese Sonatina No.2 in A; Variations on an Allegretto K.54; Sonata K.0Anh.135-547a; and Rondo K.511.
And, favorite themes from: Marriage of Figaro; The Magic Flute; Don Giovanni; Piano Concerto No.24; Piano Concerto No. 21; Piano Concerto No. 15; Piano Concerto No. 17; Symphony No.40; and A Little Night Music.
I highly recommend this piano music book for your own playing pleasure and for helping teach movement and dance to your students!
Details - 80 pages by Yorktown Music Press, Inc.; 1983; 11.6 x 8.8 inches; ISBN-10: 0825680255; ISBN-13: 978-0825680250
Available from Amazon.com
The Joy of Mozart - Piano Music
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DISCLOSURE: I am an Associate of Amazon.com and bought my own products.
page created July 8, 2009; updated July 26, 2014