Sunday, January 22, 2012

Article and Video in Temple Times

Jazmyn Burton has written a thoughtful article which appears in the Temple Times along with a video piece by Gina Benigno. Yay!

Also check out some of Marisol Diaz's photos of the WINTER performance at Wave Hill. The warm brilliance of the light comes from the setting sun.

Monday, January 16, 2012

WINTER @ Bluebell Meadow: Dedicated to the memory of Niles Ford

Sunday's performance at Bluebell Meadow set the record for the coldest branch dance performance to date: 23 degrees.

Somehow it didn't feel so cold to me. Perhaps I was numb inside from the sad sad news of Niles' unexpected passing the day before. How could it be? So young, maybe 50? Such a daring, vibrant and generous dancer and friend, gone in his sleep. Niles created unforgettable roles in several of my works-- Historias (1992) Familias (1995) and Pelea de Gallos (1998). He was an incredible support to my growth as an artist.

Numb. I was focused on my role as director. Gotta do the work. Gotta get to the site. Didn't check the temperature; can't find my watch. Didn't write in the blog. No matter. The show must go on. Ha, its not a show, its a performance.

It was a brilliant day. There were only 2 or 3 people out with their dogs when we arrived. Odd, I thought, I had expected more people would be there, especially on such a gloriously beautiful morning. The practice is to perform no matter what, no matter who is there or not. We follow the plan. Set up, and go. We started and they came! Wonderful to see some familiar faces: Ken and Annie Goldenberg, Leila Macbeth, Judy Williams, Colleen Hooper, Karen and Deanna Bond. In retrospect, knowing the temperature, its amazing that anyone came.

The moment I entered the dance, I once again felt deeply grateful to the dancers and audience for this shared moment in time and nature. "the fragility of balance" Ken called it. Something magical happens in the space and time of the branch dance practice. In the challenge to stay present and find balance, we connect. We re-connect to the branches, ourselves, to each other, to nature. In moving towards stillness and riding the fragile edge of ever shifting balance we enter a dynamic state of flow and awareness.

I felt a powerful connection with the dancers: Marion Ramirez, Jumatatu Poe and Beau Hancock. I felt a powerful connection to the bare trees and the play of sunlight and shadows, to Tigger Benford's delicate music.

Remembering Niles, I felt a pang in my heart. The suddenness; we are here a moment and gone the next. Jenny went to bed beside her spouse and awakened next to a corpse. The heart breaks suddenly. My heart gave a cry and I yielded. The branch crashed to the ground beside me.

My hat loosened from my head I felt the cold on my neck. I check the impulse to protect my head and neck from the cold. This is right. I remember the branches breaking and crashing under the weight of the snow at Wave Hill during the storm last fall. I feel my chest expanding and contracting. Breath, breathe. My weight on the ground, my face in the ground. To the earth we return. Safe travel Niles; may your spirit be free.

I waited there with my face in the ground. Someone approached me and asked if I was OK. I waited, smelling the earth, sensing the breath, listening, honoring Niles. I waited a long while until I could no longer hear Tigger's music.

Slowly, I sat up to see Marion too, lying on the earth, and Juma and Beau were crouching. The end. Sadness, gratitude and love. Most of the audience was gone or scurrying to their cars, except for a few friends who stayed to say hello.


Friday, January 13, 2012

How to deal with the cold

The forecast for Sunday is sunny and COLD! (high in the low 30's). I hope you will join us for a performance adventure with the elements!

Bluebell Meadow is the easiest of the sites to get to in the Wissahickon Reunion series (scroll right for directions). You can drive right up to the field in you warm toasty car and then run back to it when the performance is over. We will start promptly at 10:30 and be done by 11:15.

This performance will surely be an adventure of the body and the will. How to survive the cold? How to remain calm, fluid, and focus while the body shivers and shakes?

First of all, you have to be prepared. Layer up! Long underwear is a must, as are glove and sock liners, a scarf, a hat, and warm shoes. Sunglasses will come in handy as the angled sunlight on Bluebell Meadow at that time of day can be quite blinding.

We have also developed some techniques for generating warmth from the inside (since running and jumping about to keep warm is somewhat contrary to the branch dance practice). These may come in handy:
  • Bone hugging — This body awareness practice, developed by Elaine Summers, consists of moving the muscle fibers surrounding each bone, into the bone. You apply three-dimensional tension into the bone, wrapping the bone or hugging it with your muscles. You do this with all the bones in your body (or as many as you can conjure into your consciousness), sequentially, all at the same time, or jumping around from part to part. Don't forget to release after every good hug! Bone hugging works well with the cold as it not only builds internal heat, but also harnesses (and releases) the tension from shivering, and helps even out the tension patterns in the body. One begins to sense the possibility of lighting up inner fires of the energetic body.
  • Letting the body stretch itself from the point of contact with the branch — In letting the body stretch itself (another Elaine Summers practice), you follow, sequentially through the body, the impulse of the body stretch . Like bone hugging, letting the body stretch itself accesses all parts of the body, bringing heat to remote places, and balancing tension.
  • Opening the soles of the feet — At all times open the feet, don't let them tense up. Sensing all the bones and joints in the feet grounds the body and keeps open the channels of energy within.
  • Inner humming/ vibrating breath — Letting breath or sound VIBRATE through the body activates the inner fires.
  • Using the eyes and vision to expand the edges of the body (created by Jumatatu Poe) — Focus the eyes at different distances and allowing the body to sense itself at each distance. For example, start by focusing on a hand, sensing into the hand, and noticing the body consciousness expand into the hand. Then shift to a place beyond the body and sense the body consciousness expand into that place, even into the distance.
Cool stuff! or should I say, hot stuff! Come out and practice lighting up your inner fires with us!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

WINTER @ Bluebell Meadow, Sunday Jan 15 at 10:30AM

The WINTER performance of the one-year cycle of seasonal performances, Wissahickon Reunion, will take place this coming Sunday, January 15, from 10:30 to 11:15 AM. Its absolutely FREE and open to anyone.

Wissahickon Reunion consists of four outdoor performances, one each season spanning from October 2011- June 2012. Performers include Beau Hancock, Shavon Norris, Jumatatu Poe, Olive Prince, Marion Ramírez, and Merián Soto; and musician Robert “Tigger” Benford.

Attending a branch dance performance outdoors in winter can be a particularly invigorating experience. Audiences are advised to check the weather, layer their clothing, wear appropriate shoes, gloves, and (on sunny days) sunglasses.
Of the four Wissahickon Reunion sites, Bluebell Meadow is the easiest to get to as you can drive up to the site. Bring your dog, everyone else does!

Cancellations only in EXTREME weather. Audiences should consult the project blog for up-to-the-minute updates.

Directions to Bluebell Meadow:

From Center City, take Kelly Drive to Lincoln Drive. Turn right on Rittenhouse Lane. Go to Wissahickon Ave (first traffic light), turn left. Go to Walnut Lane (2nd traffic light), turn left. Follow Walnut Lane towards Henry Ave. Go around the circle on Walnut Lane so that you are heading back towards Wissahickon. The first right past the circle is the entrance to Bluebell Park. From Chestnut Hill: Take Wissahickon Ave to Walnut Lane (last street before Lincoln Drive). Turn right. Follow instructions above.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Saturday's Performance

One of the reasons I love this work is you never know what its going to be until you do it, and then magic happens. Like the weather yesterday, and the sunset and the almost full moon rising, and the children dancing and playing with branches all around us while we performed! And of course, there are the unexpected places we find ourselves in; the choices we make particularly the choice to trust that the practice will generate connection and balance; the places we go together, and the way we are changed in the doing.

A shout out to all the people that came out yesterday to Wave Hill! Such good energy; it felt like we all created that magical space together, especially the kids (thanks parents!). It was exciting to hear so many people say they will be back for our Spring performance. Ache!

A shout out to Jennifer MacGregor and Wave Hill for hosting the the project, Michael Max Knobbe and Bronx Net for videoing, and to the amazing creative team -- Beau Hancock, Shavon Norris, Jumatatu Poe, Olive Prince, Marion Ramirez, Tigger Benford, and Jane Gabriels.

Looking forward to Bluebell Meadow next Sunday!

Photos by Marisol Diaz

Friday, January 6, 2012

WINTER @ Wave Hill Tomorrow!

The WINTER performance of Branch Dances at Wave Hill will take place tomorrow starting at 3:30PM. is forecasting temperatures in the high 40s and sun! It will be a perfect day for spending time outdoors, and a perfect opportunity to watch the winter sunset over the Hudson River.

Just a few pointers to make your experience most satisfying:

Make sure you layer up. Even though the temperature is mild, one tends to get cold when spending time outside. Wear gloves, scarf, hat, warm socks and walking shoes. Sun glasses are recommended.

Try to arrive before the start time. The performance will take place on the northwest area of the grounds-- a ten minute walk from the entrance.

AND, take your time, slow down,open your senses. Like my sons would say, chill.

Hope to see you there!

For directions to Wave Hill scroll to the right.....

A few listings in the media:



This Week In NY

Monday, January 2, 2012

WINTER: Branch Dances @ Wave Hill-- Saturday Jan 7 at 3:30PM

Join us this Saturday at Wave Hill. Enjoy the winter sunset over the Hudson River!

Also performing are dancers Beau Hancock, Shavon Norris, Jumatatu Poe, Olive Prince, and Marion Ramírez; and musician Robert “Tigger” Benford.

Branch Dances @ Wave Hill consists of four outdoor performances, one each season spanning from October 2011- June 2012. The seasonal performances offer audiences the opportunity to enjoy the natural outdoors. Audiences are encouraged to attend the year-long performance cycle to experience the change of seasons and qualities of shifting light.

Attending a branch dance performance in winter can be a particularly invigorating experience-- see the video of the Fall performance below! Audiences are advised to dress for the weather, layer their clothing, wear appropriate shoes, gloves, and (on sunny days) sunglasses. The weather forecast for Saturday is mostly sunny!

Check back ( for last minute updates and suggestions. For directions to Wave Hill scroll right.

Video by Bronx NET