Treehouse Shakers

Treehouse Shakers
Hatched, BAM Fisher, Hillman Studio

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vegetarian Lasagna: The Role of A Choreographer

This week's post is by Emily Bunning, Treehouse Shakers' Artistic Coordinator, Co-Founder, Choreographer, and Performer. Emily graduated from Stephens College in Missouri and is a Wyoming native. As a co-founder of Treehouse Shakers, she has choreographed, created and produced many dance-plays for children and adults.  Her work has been presented in the New York area at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, International Dance Festival, DanceNow/NYC Festival at Joyce SoHo, HERE Arts Center, Tribeca Film Festival, Westhampton Beach PAC as well as various theaters across the nation including Jacob’s Pillow (MA), Alden Theater (VA), and the Aronoff Center (OH). Emily recently earned a Master’s Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. To Read More About Emily Click Here. 

When Mara asked me to write a blog about being a choreographer and my role with Treehouse Shakers a year ago, I cringed and didn’t do it.  When she asked a few weeks ago, I cringed and promised with no intention of rushing into it. Finally, here it is. Welcome to my FIRST blog post. 

Mara’s catchy title on her last blog, inspired mine; Vegetarian Lasagna.  Life, like lasagna, is all about layering.  I also make a great lasagna.  For my lasagna recipe and secret ingredient donate $20 to Treehouse Shakers and I will send it to you.

I’m the choreographer and co-founder of Treehouse Shakers.  My working title is Artistic Coordinator, which seemed appropriate at the time we chose it, but for the most part Mara McEwin and I are Co-Artistic Directors.  I also like to call myself the CFC, Chief Financial Choreographer.  I do many jobs including bookkeeper, budget maker, and treasurer of the board.  I make the performers and numbers dance.

Performing in Animal Rhythms; Treehouse Shakers' longest running performances.
Emily, Her son and her inspirational Grandmother, Fan Hay.
Under Covers by Emily Bunning, at Ailey Citigroup Theater, NYC

I love to dance.  I started as a little kid in creative dance and was lucky to have had the opportunity in Rock Springs, WY.   My sister and I were encouraged to dance by my Grandmother.  She was part of the dance group at Smith College and taught at the YMCA in New York City and performed with a group in Boston.  When she was married at age 34, my Grandpa told her not to tell anyone that she was a dancer, they wouldn’t understand.  Needless to say, she is the reason I am still dancing today.
My college teacher once told me, “You have to dance while you are young.”  When I graduated Stephens College, I headed to New York and have been here ever since.   The rest is Treehouse Shakers' history.

The Treehouse Shakers’ process starts with Mara and I deciding on a story theme.  Then before knowing much more, I hit the dance floor to improvise and develop phrases using my own images and feelings on the subject.  Then we go into more structured rehearsals where they become dance sequences, eventually supporting, expressing, and furthering the story at hand.  And voila, a dance-play is made and baked nearly 1-2 years later.

My choreography is built by using momentum to make movement that flows in unpredictable patterns.  I am also really interested in shaping the space and relationships on stage.  In my lasagna I arrange the layers to create just the right amount of flavor for each bite.

Work/life balance seems to be a big topic these days.  I’m barely staying on the tightrope myself, but I love the word “balance” and a fine balance it is.  Being a new mom, wife, choreographer, dancer, Treehouse Shakers' administrator, acupuncturist/herbalist, and trying to exercise, is like making a good lasagna.  There are many exceptional layers to the recipe to make a truly tasty and fulfilling life.