Treehouse Shakers

Treehouse Shakers
Hatched, BAM Fisher, Hillman Studio

Monday, August 12, 2013

Finding A Way Without Words

I have always loved words. I spoke early in life, and was reading picture books by four. Words make sense to me. They calm me down when I am feeling anxious, pick me up when I am feeling down. They are my daily companions. My lifelong partner. I love to make rhythms, puzzles, riddles with their meanings. I love to tell stories, I love conversation, I love to read, I love to write. Words are my eternal oasis.

When we first started Treehouse Shakers, we had to discover how our creative process would work. Over the years, we perfected our process. I wrote the script and then the words and the story were infused with choreography. This process worked for us for many years. But no artist can keep making art in the same way. Otherwise it becomes stagnant, boring to the maker, and then boring for the viewer. With Hatched I wanted to push the creative process in a new way. Making a piece for such young children, I wanted the story to be visual, tactile, auditory. There are no words in Hatched. Only the sounds of the animals and the musician's live score. To think I made a story without my most beloved companions--words--amazes me.

Audience Members During Hatched: Our tactile part of the performance for very young audiences
In our next piece, Under The Tangle, Emily* is the choreographer, and creator. She is also pushing the process. She is taking her movement to build story. Beginning with layers of choreography and imagery, Emily has created a rehearsal environment rich with improvisation, conversation, movement. The story is there, just not etched into a script, the performers are finding new ways, as artists, to make story through movement. The words will follow as this new process unfolds.

Under The Tangle Rehearsal, August 2013. Dancers were given images by the
choreographer to help build the movement story. Images on floor by Jaime Zollars.
About Under The Tangle
Visually vibrant, Under the Tangle, choreographed by Emily Bunning, tells the story of an adolescent girl lost in a labyrinth using modern dance, absurd costuming, and minimal text. The mysterious maze not only provides an intriguing set of challenges but is also the metaphor for her journey into adulthood. Throughout her journey, she twists along the maze finding numerous clues and meeting many unusual characters; a flock of whispering black birds, a haunting shadow that plays hide and seek, and a crone who swings on a ladder dangling from a grim tower. Under the Tangle, for ages 8-13, is an artistic adventure filled with obstacles, relationships, and discoveries, which strengthen the young girl’s character and enlighten her path.Under The Tangle will premiere at The Ailey Citigroup Theater, May 2014
*Emily Bunning is Treehouse Shakers' Co-Founder, Artistic Coordinator & Choreographer.

Photo Credits
Top photo by Bob Bader
Bottom Photo by Ashley Chavonne

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Stories for My Daughter

When I was pregnant with my daughter, who is now five, I often performed with her inside the womb. I told stories to audiences until the final week of pregnancy and performed with the company until the seventh month. She developed in her embryonic sac, infused with stories. At the time, I was working with students ages two to eighty. So she heard nursery tales to ancient folklore, rich with deep and divine meaning.

Some of My Favorite Stories to Tell From #augustbreak2013 #day3
When she was born, I comforted her that first night, telling her some of my favorite rhythm stories. She fell asleep listening, nursing, content. She knew these stories already, having heard them throughout her early development. The chanting and repetition, cradling her to sleep.

Mom and Daughter, 2013
By two and a half, I was able to tell her stories reserved for my kindergarten students. She repeated the phrases in our every day activities. She often requested stories of witches and fairies. She knows every princess story from Hans Christian Anderson, and the variations from different parts of the world.

Each year, she grows her roots farther into the rich soil of folklore. She is fully engaged, listening to tales from Old Ireland, The Americas, Italy, The Caribbean, Africa. After a long day, she still wants me to cradle her with story. We play stories, tell stories, and listen to stories throughout our day. May our relationship always be nurtured through story.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The August Break

How fun is this? I'm doing The August Break with Susannah Conway. Nancy Moon, our wonderful Treehouse Shakers' publicist (check out Moon PR), gave me a gentle nudge to do this. This is a great way to enjoy August, with my iphone, and really get the most out of it. Knowing that in only a few quick weeks I will be knee deep in our Virtual Auction, Touring, and Fundraising for the new piece, Under The Tangle. 

So today's prompt, breakfast. I started the morning off writing, drinking very light coffee and eating granola. Mostly I was writing the new tech rider for Hatched, and getting our fall mailings ready for schools. The nitty gritty of working as an artist is not always so creative. I am not sure I'll keep up each day on the blog, so follow me on instagram, and hopefully I will figure out Flickr by the time the month is over.