Oh Brave New World: In Studio with Shula and Stuart

Editor’s Note: Last week the GeriActors had the great pleasure of working with three distinguished artists in the intergenerational arts community: Shula Strassfeld a resident artist with Dance Exchange in Washington DC, Stuart Kandall the founder of Stagebridge in California, and our Artistic Director David Barnet. Here is the last post of a three part series Bill has written about the experience. (Check out Shula’s blog about the experience: http://danceexchange.org/2014/10/02/storytelling-dance-and-shakespeare/)

     It’s the last day. We’ve had a full week of workshops, rehearsals, meals, and discussions. In the last six days, it feels like we have tried to take every ounce of knowledge and experience from Stuart and Shula. We’ve just finished our final showcase at the Second Playing Space which featured the dances we created with CRIPSiE, performances by students from David Barnet’s Drama 357 Shakespeare class, the GeriActors & Friends, and an intergenerational dance piece choreographed by Shula Strassfeld.

"Brave New World"  Choreography by Shula Strassfled Performers: David Barnet, Becca Barrington, Stuart Kandall, Barry Bilinsky, Shula Strassfeld & Bill Yong Photo by Mat Simpson
“Brave New World”
Choreography by Shula Strassfled
Performers: David Barnet, Becca Barrington, Stuart Kandall, Barry Bilinsky, Shula Strassfeld & Bill Yong
Photo by Mat Simpson

     As we desperately try and record Stuart’s storytelling and Shula’s dance tools and reflect on the week’s events, we begin to ponder about the future: Whats next? How do we keep the momentum going? How do we continue to create evocative and meaningful prompts? How do we keep being physical in the work that we do?

Makram Ayache & Kianna Woo performing Merchant of Venice Photo by Mat Simpson
Makram Ayache & Kianna Woo
performing Merchant of Venice
Photo by Mat Simpson


     “You know how to do it now, so just keep doing it.” said Shula during a talkback this week. “It’s about giving yourself permission to do all these things.”

We will. Thank you for a week of dance, storytelling, advice, and the provocative offers to continue with this work. Thank you Stuart Kandall and Shula Strassfeld.

Until next time.

Stuart Kandall
Stuart Kandall
Shula Strassfeld
Shula Strassfeld

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Our time with CRIPSiE: In Studio with Shula and Stuart

Editor’s Note: Becca, David, and Bill had an opportunity this week to participate in a project that Stuart and Shula were collaborating on with CRIPSiE. CRIPSiE, formerly known as iDance, is a mixed ability dance company based out of the Glenrose Hospital in Edmonton, comprised of dancers with disabilities and their allies. This group creates socially engaged dance pieces in hopes of promoting a more inclusive society. Here is a post by Bill on his experience.  (For more information about CRIPSIE check out their website: http://www.cripsie.ca/)

After Stuart gave us the prompt, “my favorite item in my house is..” the room was full of chatter. We each described the physical details of the item: the texture, colors, the object’s placement, and the way this item made us feel. The entire gymnasium was buzzing with poetic energy.


“When I go home, I imagine there are hundreds of adoring fans cheering, and I start to play my electric drum set.”

“I’ve got a collection of crystal sculptures in my house, and whenever I get a bit of extra money, I try to add to that collection.”

“I’ve got this screen in my bedroom where I can watch my favourite shows, lounge, and eat crackers, I love it.”

Later, Shula had everyone create a gesture based on someone’s description of an item and  another based on an impression of the entire experience. This started the process of creating two very dynamic and unique group choreographies.

Photo by Mat Simpson
Photo by Mat Simpson

After, we created a sequence in duets based on the premise of support. 

Photo by Mat Simpson
Photo by Mat Simpson

Its was incredibly inspirational working with CRIPSiE. I admire their inclusivity and openness: from the moment I walked into the room, I became a part of the conversation, the creation, and the process. The thing I will take most out of this experience was the group’s ingenuity: the challenges experienced by members of the group became beautiful offers, gifts unique to CRIPSIE. This is something to keep in mind in our practice with the GeriActors and Friends. Thank you CRIPSiE for sharing this experience with us.

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Home is where the Heart is: GeriActors in Studio with Stuart and Shula.

Editor’s note: Last week the GeriActors had the great pleasure of working with three distinguished artists in the intergenerational arts community: Shula Strassfeld a resident artist with Dance Exchange in Washington DC, Stuart Kandall the founder of Stagebridge in California, and our Artistic Director David Barnet. This is the first post of a three part series Bill will be writing about the experience. (Check out Shula’s blog about the experience: http://danceexchange.org/2014/10/02/storytelling-dance-and-shakespeare/)

     Our journey began with Stuart Kandall on Tuesday with an exploration of what we defined as home. We explored this question through a variety of mediums: drawing, physical exploration, free writing, and two-minute stories. As we explored the question, other questions began to emerge: When do we not feel at home? What are the essential things in our lives that make up our home? What senses are triggered when we think of home? It was an interesting process witnessing the various things that grounded people: a loved one, sitting beside a fire on a rainy day, a sense of play or, a warm blanket knit by a grandmother.

Photo by Mat Simpson
Photo by Mat Simpson

     At the end of the day, Stuart shared a story about a moment when he was forced out of his home and only had a few short moments to take items with him. We followed the story with a simulation of this situation with the group. Suddenly everyone was forced to do a quick filter of things that were essential to their being: tokens from grandparents, photo albums, pills, iphone 5s, laptops, beloved animals, and comic books. We discovered that much of what made us at home we already had: our memories and our experiences. Everything else we had the ability to replace. We then shared stories of moments when we had to move and downsize and our mechanisms of filtering what was necessary and what wasn’t.

Photo by Mat Simpson
Photo by Mat Simpson

     The exploration continued on Thursday with the addition of Shula Strassfeld, a dancer who had worked with GeriActors two years ago. From the discoveries made Tuesday we told stories about these items and selected ten words to create physical gestures with. From those words each person selected one to incorporate into a piece of group choreography. After a sharing our movement pieces with the group, we incorporated text into the original choreography. What came out of these groups was incredible. Each performance had a unique movement quality, style, and story: some had music, some incorporated full narrations, and some became a mosaic of fragmented parts of multiple stories. I was astounded by our ability to produce incredible art in such a short period of time.

Photo by Mat Simpson
Photo by Mat Simpson
GeriactorsSep2014Photos-47
Photo by Mat Simpson

Photo by Mat Simpson
Photo by Mat Simpson
GeriactorsSep2014Photos-53
Photo by Mat Simpson

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