Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Hi Everyone! I'm so excited to announce that I will be going to Israel in 2 weeks with the LABA group. We will be working together with a group of Israeli artists, sharing, studying and creating art together based on text. The group of Israeli and US artists is called: LABALMA. After Israel, I will head to Spain to connect with old friends and the dance and Jewish communities near Madrid and Sevilla.

I will present a short adaptation of "A Way In" in solo form. For right now, I am focusing on using the props to show entanglement/untangling/searching/yearning/finding meaning. I am going to play with our long red felt fabric that is tied in knots as well as the yarn tangled upon a chair. I am also thinking of bringing some fabric that the audience in some way is all connected to like a Maypole but not. Some way to show how we are all connected and how sometimes that brings joy and support while other times it brings suffering/suffocating sensations. The theme is still Pardes, which is the mystical orchard. For me right now, I am thinking about the challenges in finding the way into these places, but the paradox that the search/the yearning/the untangling equals being inside. I sense that it is our search for meaning (through creating art, through study, through our relationships, through our losses, through our joys, through our day to day activities, through "the gutter") that connects us deeper to ourselves to the truths of the universe.

I also will be making connections with some folks in Israel and Spain to lay the foundation for Planetary Dances (the ritual dance of peace created by Anna Halprin 30 years ago) next year. I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

LABA Festival April 18th 2p and 7pm

I've been one of 20 Laba Artist Fellows that have gathered at the 14th Street Y to discuss texts based on Pardes, Hebrew for Orchard. I have been so impressed by the imagery throughout our discussions...singing trees praising creation, blood on the earth, non-burning fires, pillars of cloudsmoke...
I've been thinking about environments, digging my hands in the dirt, unifying with nature, seemingly unnecessary rituals that supposedly bring one to deeper mystical states of being.
It seems that much of what we've read describes the process of entering the mystical garden, but the actual realizations and penetrations are more elusive.

So...I created a dance that includes the images (supported by the creative insight of set/prop/costume designer extraordinaire Magdalen Pierrakos) from our text studies. I played with the ritual of creating a space for entry. I played with creating an environment that invites each viewer to experience entering as well as the obstacles to entering a 'mystical garden.'

I hope you come see the piece at the LABA Festival on April 18th at 2pm or 7pm at the 14th Street Y theater. Tickets are $10. 212-780-0800 for tix or www.labafestival.org

Spring Residency at York CI

Our 9th season at York Correctional Institution was very successful and heartwarming. The theme was "Remembered Moments," and the women created text and drawings based on memories. The women then created movement solos and group movement "murals" that depicted details and portrayed overall emotions from their individual backgrounds. The performance was a collage of snapshots and memories along with several group phrases that referred to the passing of time. Also some of the women who have been participating in Avodah residencies for several years created movement based on the instruments from "Newman's Blanket." Each dancer chose an instrument and choreographed a short phrase while Newman Taylor Baker composed and accompanied her.
This year's program included two performances in the school at York and a special performance for visiting families and friends, also in the school.
We also performed Stephanie Miracle's piece, "so we fix our eyes not on what is seen," adapted for the setting. The women were very intrigued and had many comments and questions about Stephanie's piece. We hope to develop the piece to include participation from the women at York.
Looking ahead to next year's 10th anniversary at York, I am dreaming about: bringing guest artists throughout the year for performances and workshops including hip hop, afro-cuban, rhythm and percussion, and African inspired modern dance.
I'll keep you posted!

Performance at Bedford Hills Correctional Institution

On March 1-5th Avodah dancers Sarah Zitnay and Meredith-Lyn Olivieri joined me in leading a week-long residency at Bedford Hills Correctional Institution for women in Bedford Hills, NY. In December 2009, Regina Ress and I led a workshop for the participating women including "The Body Poem," a series of movements based on Tai Chi that include imagery and visualization. The women created drawings with markers based on their experience with The Body Poem. Later in March each woman built a movement mural using their drawing and the rest of the participants as part of their palette. One woman broke through a human chain, another woman represented being called to action through sound, some depicted memories, while others worked with more abstract images. The dance included choreography by Sarah Zitnay and a large group phrase that we built altogether--purely movement based. The 15 minute piece featured seven women from BHCP (Bedford Hills College Program) and was performed at "Crossing Borders III," the third academic conference held at Bedford Hills Correctional Institution. If you'd like to read an article about the event go to: http://www.mmm.edu/cgi-bin/MySQLdb?MYSQL_VIEW=/news/view_one.txt&newsid=1546

Monday, December 21, 2009

New Residency at Bedford Hills Correctional Institution

We finally began a residency at Bedford Hills Correctional Institution (college program) in Bedford Hills, NY in November, 2009.
We started by creating 4 visits with the goal of introducing the women to our work and the artists as well as a way for us to get to know the women and their interests/level of dance exposure and involvement.
Sarah Zitnay visited twice offering beautiful and thoughtful lessons on choreography basics. She was able to lead the women in choreographing a short dance that will be developed further in 2010. Newman Taylor Baker led a wonderful and exciting session that combined movement and sound basics. By the end of the 2 hour session, women were performing - making music and moving at the same time. Regina and I led the last session. Regina led many different storytelling activities that engaged the women in a lively discussion. Then she led excerpts from "The Body Poem" which is a series of movement and image exercises that felt very meditative. The women created drawings after "The Body Poem," which I hope to develop with them further in 2010.
On March 5, 2010, Bedford Hills will offer an academic conference --yes that's right!!- hosted by the correctional institution's college program (Marymount Manhattan College offers a college program at Bedford Hills). Avodah will create and perform a dance with the participating women to be shown at the conference called, "Crossing Borders." We will keep you informed about this project.
To support this project, please send a tax deductible donation to Avodah, Inc. c/o Hebrew Union College-JIR, 1 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10012.
Thank you! Please email avodahdance@gmail.com if you have any other ways you'd like to offer support or inquire about our work.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sharing our work on the INSIDE with people on the OUTSIDE

Avodah has been working on the INSIDE of women’s prisons since 2002. We have all been deeply affected by our work, often having preconceptions shattered, realizing the amazing power of music, movement and the arts, and becoming highly aware of the complexity of the prison experience. People often ask us about our experiences with fascination and curiosity.
In this upcoming performance, we have the opportunity to share
with the public an insight into our work and experience
at women's correctional institutions.

So, if you are one of those people, please mark your calendar for September 23rd at 8pm!
Avodah is part of a showcase concert for DNA's SAS
(Subsidized Administrative
Space) members, and Avodah has been the recipient
of a SAS
grant at DNA since 2006. Avodah dancers Stephanie
Miracle and Sarah Zitnay will perform a duet
choreographed by
Yong Mi Olsen, a woman
resident at York Correctional Institution, the only state
prison in Connecticut, who has
participated in several of Avodah's dance
residencies. The duet explores the experience of
imprisonment, the duality of physical and mental
confinement versus a
spiritual yearning for openness and freedom.

Anna Halprin--an inspiration!

This past year I attended two seminars in California
led by dance pioneer, Anna Halprin, called "Dance for
Life." Anna Halprin's work has put dance
and movement at the center of community building,
creating rituals of healing and human
expression. I believe that Avodah's
mission of bringing the power of dance to diverse
audiences and communities aligns with Anna's

I look forward to integrating much of what I have
been learning from Anna into Avodah's programs,
services and performances.

There is a new film about
Anna was made by Ruedi Gerber, who has known
Anna for 25 years and also attended the "Dance for
Life" retreat. His film is called "Breath Made Visible,"
and it is
the only documentary about the life and work of
Anna, who at 89 years old is still breaking down
barriers. The website for this film is: