Treehouse Shakers

Treehouse Shakers
Hatched, BAM Fisher, Hillman Studio

Monday, March 26, 2012

Creating A Creative Child

Teaching my daughter to be creative comes easily to me. I was raised by a painter, so in many ways I am raising her similarly to the way I was raised. Except instead of watching her mother paint, my daughter sees me pretending for a living. She also sees me directing, writing, negotiating.

22 months, exploring homemade playdough
I wasn't sure how I would juggle motherhood with a career in the arts, but I knew I wasn't going to give up what my business partner, Emily and I had created and built. Shortly after my daughter was born, I found out what that juggling would exactly mean. I wrote the majority of our dance-play, Let's Talk About IT! with my daughter in my lap; mostly nursing, and the sound of her sleep machine set to the ocean. She returned to rehearsal with me at three months old, strapped to my stomach, as I caught the subway to our rehearsal space in Queens. At rehearsal, I jumped back and forth between nursing and learning the choreography for Let's Talk About IT! I also relied so much on Emily (an entire blog could be dedicated to all she has done for us) and company members. They helped me gear back up for the subway, held her, cooed and rocked her back to sleep. They were the ones who visited us back home, took me out of the apartment in the early weeks, and helped with babysitting. My overall sanity nurtured by their laughter and support. They are our family.

My daughter backstage with Emily and myself at 18 months at Victoria Theater Association
By six months old my daughter had already been to two arts conferences, tours in Massachusetts and Wyoming, board meetings, business meetings, mailings and many performances by colleagues. I introduced her to art museums, music, yoga classes, read to her, and had her explore textures; shaving cream, feathers, fabrics. I told her stories, rehearsed my storytelling performances for her, and danced with her in the living room while remembering my steps.

Stretching with Aunt Emily at 2 in the dance studio, Wyoming
Now three, she has been to more performances than most adults will ever be in their entire lifetime. She loves performances, and will quickly shush the other children should they break the code of theater etiquette. She pretends to write grants for her fairies while I am on a deadline, helps put stamps on the mailings, and plays director in her room. She also dresses up, uses voices, and is already reading a variety of words. She loves taking pictures and rushes to her art sets daily to paint and draw. She immerses quickly into creative play, can tell a story with a clear beginning, middle and end. It is an understatement to say she is obsessed with folklore, myth and fairy tales. We spend hours contemplating mermaids, dragons, and witches.
After a show of Desert Travels, age 3
Playing Wizard of OZ dress-up, age 3
As she grows, we will continue to support her into whomever she becomes. For now, though, I hope her creativity continues to lend itself to a life that is inquisitive, thoughtful and caring. This creativity will help foster problem solving, create emotional health, and support her to make strong choices in life. It is also a delightfully fun way to parent.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wyoming: Forever Home

We returned late Tuesday night from our annual pilgrimage tour to Southwest Wyoming. This was our 8th year working in these communities. This year we primarily targeted 500 second and first graders. We led workshops in dance and storytelling in the elementary schools. At the college in Rock Springs, Roderick Jackson led two master classes in Afro-influenced dance, and Emily Bunning led a master modern dance class. We performed Desert Travels: Tales from the Middle East for two performances at WWCC's theater.
Desert Travels: Tales from the Middle East at WWCC's Theater
Desert Travels: Tales from the Middle East at WWCC Theater
We also were hosted by Nancy and Mark Anselmi at The Outlaw Inn. They threw us a lovely reception and benefit. Friends, family and supporters from the community attended. At one point, while Emily and I were giving our speech, I couldn't help but flash to our childhood; Saturday art classes, camping trips, the many art events we attended, the people who influenced us. In some ways, we were always destined to be artists, made from these people, this place, this land, the events of our childhood.
Food at the Outlaw Inn, reflected our Treehouse Shakers' characters.
Treehouse Shakers' Company at the Outlaw Inn Benefit
Emily Bunning, her son, and Mary Hay at Benefit
Going home always brings out such deep contemplations on my past, present and future. As soon as we drive into the High desert mountains, I feel my NYC layers making way to the deeper memories of sagebrush, antelope and mountains. Sometimes cracked, these memories are like the desert itself. Did I really play with lizards once, skipping rocks into the river by myself, laying nestled in the dirt staring at the blue skies and watching the clouds? Could I, now long-married to New York City and her skyscrapers, have once been the child of this desert?

My daughter out for a walk by the Green River
My daughter, now three, kept saying, "Momma take me to the top of the mountains." I repeated their names as we drove, wanting them to be etched into her memory like the red rocks themselves. Kissing Rock,  White Mountain, South Mountain. And here is where mommy found her first lizard. There I rode my bike, I hunted for arrowheads here. The town now has paved roads where I used to play, but my memories will forever be etched between shale and sandstone, beneath the open blue skies. Wyoming, forever my home.
Playing Dress up in Mommy's costume post-performance
Thank you to Sweetwater County BOCES, Western Wyoming Community College Faculty, Students and Staff, Bernadine Craft, Outlaw Inn, Nancy & Mark Anselmi, our amazing performers; Roderick Jackson, Miranda Wilson, Ashley McGill, Sarah Young, Emily Bunning, Amber Ford and Sarah Milosevich. Special thanks to all of the many family,  friends and supporters who help make our trip so wonderful! 

Performance photos taken by Florence Alfano McEwin.