Sunday, November 22, 2009

Photos of Postcards from the Woods by Cylla Von Tiedeman

Postcards from the Woods premiered at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival in September.

Below are some photos by Cylla Von Tiedeman. Also click here for Jonathan Stein's review in the Broad Street Review.

Noemí Segarra:

Olive Prince:

Jumatatu Poe:

Jumatatu & Olive:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Postcards @ The Live Arts Festival

It’s been a little over a week since we closed Postcards From The Woods at the Live Arts Festival. I want to thank all who supported the work throughout its creation and those who came to see the work.

The show was a resounding success both artistically and in terms of audience attendance and response. It was an awesome experience to perform the work with my talented and committed collaborators Noemí Segarra, Olive Prince and Jumatatu Poe, and to present at the Ice Box. We were expertly supported by Laura Zimmerman’s video support work, Cicada Brokaw’s sound, Leigh Mumford’s lighting, the tech and house staff of the Live Arts Festival, and we were thrilled with the enthusiastic feedback of audiences. Thanks to all who voted it Amazing! in the Turn You Cell Phone On poll.

The one disappointment has been the meager critical coverage by the press. To date I have seen only one review in the City Paper. A bit of investigation has revealed that several critics assigned to cover the show were no shows. So in lieu of the critics I want to share some peer reviews. Thanks for your feedback!

“What a delightful experience to be at your performance last night. Even before any movement began I was entranced by the beauty of the "limbs"...dancer limbs and tree limbs and by the power of Cicada's soundtrack. And then seeing the projections and the wonderful interplay of dancers and shadows was really moving. “ Alan Harler

“The dancers danced as nature would, if nature danced (a paraphrase of John Cage) but then I thought, "Well, they ARE nature, too!" The setting for the piece was comprehensively used and made the experience rich and full.” Jo-Anna Moore

“You do "subtle" with power! Very impressive...” Gabriel Martinez

“I loved the show. It was totally transcendental and such an incredible spiritual experience. I couldn't even speak after the show....utterly speechless. It was wonderful.” Barbara Hogue

“On Sunday I took a walk at the Wissahickon, starting at the north end near the stables, which is a newer area for me to explore. I had seen “Postcards from the Woods” the day before and as soon as the view of the creek widened out from along the path, I could see all the tree trunks on the opposite bank reflected perfectly in the water. In the late afternoon light, the contrast of light air and leaves and darker trunks was just like the shadows cast on the Ice Box walls. I thought about the earlier year of performances and how the park is marked now by it. But also, in looking at the park without the dance, my experience was enriched through recollecting your hyper-representation of it indoors. Here was nature imitating art!

Being in a big white space with you all, the branches, and the images was an exceedingly meditative experience. We were captive, unlike in the park, and surrounded, unlike in a theater. My response, as it usually is on the first leg of a meditation retreat, was to become settled and then drowsy. That a dance performance could do this to me, creating such peace, seems completely delightful.

What more powerful partners to invite into your process than the elements – earth, air, water, fire. And that you keep dancing with them is a testament to the wisdom of growing older.” Lisa Kraus

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rehearsals for Postcards at the Ice Box

I’ve lost track of how many branch dances I’ve made since I started the practice of dancing with branches. Beyond the numerous park pieces, which include dozens of solo “guerilla” performances, there have been many dances for the stage, some solo, some group, some with and without live music and/or projections. You see, it’s a practice, something one performs/practices over and over again (so its easy to lose count).

Part of the beauty of the branch dancing is that it always changes and thus it keeps one flexible, helps one practice non-attachment. And yet because the practice is always the same — to pay attention, to connect — the dances are all similar. Always similar but always different, as every moment is different. And different because each branch, every performance space, each performer(s) has its/his/her own exigencies which in turn establish new parameters for the dances.

A case in point is Postcards from the Woods, the newest edition in the Branch Dance series, to be presented at The Ice Box, 1400 N American St., Philadelphia, as part of the Live Arts Festival in September (for details go to the Live Arts web site:

The Ice Box is a big white rectangular space--- Wanting to work with the long thin tree trunks we had found at Silo last March, and knowing that only a space like this could permit this (they simply don’t fit in a most spaces), we had decided to work with these at The Ice Box. I had also been developing work utilizing video images projected side by side, carefully studying the space between the images. However, the various plans and ideas for how to inhabit the space were quickly abandoned once we were working in it. After just one day in the space it was clear that we I needed to go back to the drawing board. Once we were practicing in the space it felt important to acknowledge the large emptiness of the space free of clutter. The video concept that I had been developing all spring in proscenium situations would now have to be transformed for the round.

Luckily the artists I work with, Noemí Segarra, Jumatatu Poe, and Olive Prince, are not only exquisite dancers, they are flexible and open and willing to try new things. The artists working on tech—Laura Zimmerman, Leigh Mumford, and Cicada Brokaw, were equally responsive.

In truth I was not surprised by this turn of events. As I stated before the experience of working with the branches has shown the need to be responsive in the present. But I was surprised by the fact that this particular work feels closer to the park performance experience than any of the proscenium dances I have created thus far. Going into the experience I had anticipated that placing and controlling the work within a visual art space it would somehow become a visual experience, that each dancer would be distinctly separate from the others. In fact, the space and the gigantic branches defined a different outcome. As in the park performances the audience can move around us to view us from different vantage points. It has brought back the original consciousness of performativity as occurring simply and directly as a result of the awareness of being seen. From audience responses to the work, it feels that more so that in the park performances the audience becomes aware of themselves as being seen, of being part of the performance.

I want to take this opportunity to thank those who attended the showing on Friday, August 8. Not only was your feedback was enormously helpful, it was also incredibly satisfying to learn that the worked moved you and touched you. Very satisfying!

Photos: Bill Herbert

Monday, June 29, 2009

Postcards from the Woods @ Pregones Theater in the Bronx

Pregones Theater invited me to conduct a creative residency throughout spring 2009 to develop a new work in the branch dance series. The residency funded by the National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpieces Presenting Program would culminate in a performance as part of their Dancing in Da Bronx series.

It was a total delight to be back in Da Bronx where I lived and worked for 15 years prior to moving to Philadelphia. I was lucky to stay at Mi Casa Tu Casa bed and breakfast on 150th Street. I strongly recommend it. Its comfortable and homey and oh so convenient. There’s nothing like getting up and crossing the street to work when you want to immerse yourself in the creative process.

On June 19 I presented a first draft of Postcards from the Woods at Pregones. I was joined for this performance by dancers Olive Prince, Jumatatu Poe, Jung Woong Kim, and Marion Ramirez. Dave Overcamp designed the lights and Cicada Brokaw the soundscape. Laura Zimmerman assisted with all the video tech and she shot and edited the OYWPP documentary video that ran in the lobby.

The crowd was smallish but enthusiastic, surely helped by the margaritas being served in the lobby. Thanks to all my friends who attended: Jane Gabriels, Bill Aguado and Cathy Pavlik, Janet Rodriguez and Kayte Ringer, Irene Sosa, Arthur Aviles, Patti Bradshaw and Tom Ross, Beka Lloyd Jones and Sasha Welsh, Kathy Westwater, Bill Bragin, Tanya Calamonieri. The overall POSITIVE feedback affirms that we are on track as to concept of the work and impact of the work.

This work feels whole. It accomplishes what it sets out to do—bring the audience into an experience. Performing it is thrilling, not in a high pitched sort of way, but in deep tones, in the exactitude of waiting, the heightened awareness. It feels good to do and good that the audience is moved.

On to Live Arts!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Branch dancing at The World Dance Alliance Americas Assembly May 28-31

The 2009 World Dance Alliance Americas Assembly was held at The University of Wisconsin, Madison this past May 28-31. This conference and festival brought an international cohort of dance artists, educators, and students from over 15 countries and throughout the United States.

What a pleasure to participate in such a rich gathering of dance artists, scholars, and educators! I was invited to present my work in one of several shared concerts and to conduct a three-day choreographic workshop which would culminate in a site specific performance on the fourth day. This was a welcome opportunity to pilot a residency concept that includes both a staged performance and a choreographic workshop within a short span of time.

The title of the assembly was What Moves Us? How appropriate! I spent the whole weekend feeling my heart swell and expand! I was moved by the wealth and vitality of dance presented. I was moved by Paul Mabwa’s dancing, presence, and gaze. I was moved by Mark Taylor’s teaching of Body Mind Movement. I was moved by entering Authentic Movement under the guidance of Melissa Rolnick.

Five dancers of mixed abilities and ages participated in the entire choreographic project: Melissa Rolnick from Gustavus College in MN, Paul Mabwa from Kenya , Anadel Lynton from Mexico, and Ellen Gerdes and Monica Frichtel from Temple University joined the company, Shavon Norris, Jumatatu Poe, Toshi Makihara, and me, for a four days of branch dancing. I was moved by the group’s interest and commitment to the work.

And I was moved by the audience’s response to the work. I had felt curious about what the audience response would be. This work is not dance in the traditional sense; would the world dance community resonate with it? I received abundant enthusiastic feedback: “the work drew me in immediately”, “it was beautiful”, “I was moved”. Wow! Its exciting that the work is received this way.

We keep moving.