Participating in Renaissance fairs is what brought teacher Ken Nichols and student Ann Nicholson together in Nichols' current class through the Mount Airy Learning Tree, "Swashbuckling for Stage and Screen." At fairs around the country, Nichols would focus on swordplay, jousting and choreographing. He eventually earned certification in stage-fighting and now teaches the art at colleges and choreographs fights for theater productions. At the medieval fairs, Nicholson, alternatively focused on the dramatic portrayals and now hopes to add combat skills to her repertoire. Your correspondent signed up for the course fancying it might be fun to flourish a sabre like Errol Flynn. In class, we are learning and practicing an array of thrusts, slashes and parries with our blunt edged and tipped swords along with some footwork. We are working our way toward performing a convincing sword-fight scene and, with proper cuing, not getting hurt! Video of class stage-fighting with swords for theater and movies
Your correspondent's classmate got interested in Indian dancing after she Bhangra danced all week at her stepsister's wedding in the Punjab region of India. At the last class of the session the classmate brought along her young daughters who closely followed the moves of the teacher.
Sarah Mitteldorf's physical theater ensemble, Kaleid ("As in Kaleidoscope. As in Collide") had a work in progress last fall and then, as she tells it, "November 8th happened" and they had to scrap the piece. In response to the nasty and violent rhetoric directed against women, people of color, and the LGBT community that led up to President Trump's election and in response to what Mitteldorf calls a developing "national narrative" of disconnect and exclusion, they are using the tools available to them as creative artists. In her director role, Mitteldorf asks her actors to express the emotions that the current social climate triggers, such as disbelief and anger, through layered text and movement. Kaleid Theater will perform "Scape-ing" at the First United Church of Germantown on April 27, 28 and 29. Watch video interview here.
On a business trip 30 years ago to the west coast, Kim Neubauer's desire to go Israeli folk dancing prevailed over her wariness that it might be a meat market. Now with two grown children, she jokes how she approached her Israeli husband Avram of nearly 30 years now to dance and how, despite his stepping on her toes with his two left feet, she was drawn by the fun he was clearly having. Their fun continues at Israeli folk dancing at the Germantown Jewish Center in Philadelphia. Watch video here.
Karen Kaur (left) of Punjabi heritage and Zeel Patel of Gujurati , danced an exuberant duet, “PunjGu” at the 4th Annual “Taal Se Taal” Indo-Pak cultural show on March 28, 2015 in Northeast Philadelphia. Part of their soundtrack to their dance routine was "Bhoom Trivedi/Sanjay Leela Bhansali-Ram Chahe Leela" (copyright administered by Merlin/Eros Music.) The hours long show and competition featured singers and dancers from Northeast High, Girls High, Central and from Penn State and raised money for charity.
Kaur and Patel think that their respective Punjabi Bhangra and Gujurati Garba dance styles are similarly filled with love and joy and typified by jumping! Some of Kaur’s high energy, she laughed, came courtesy of Red Bull.
The story, according to Ron Kravitz, goes that some years ago, Elise Rivers of Community Acupuncture of Mount Airy called him from Ashland, North Carolina 9 pm one Saturday night where she was participating in a community drum circle and said, “Ron we got 85 drummers here. We got to do this in Philadelphia.” And so she arranged for a gathering space in the shaded park-like area adjacent to the Lovett Public Library in Mount Airy. The local drum circle is now in its third year. Along with Kravitz, Bobby Tyrone and Quint Lang, a drum teacher from Collegeville, help lead the sessions, open to novices and experienced drummers alike.
But Kravitz, of Glenside, appears to be the force behind the drum circle. He is well known in the area for his association with or founding of a number of other grass roots music ventures: Music in the Moment, Underground at Ron's, African drum classes and more. He brings a selection from his 1000 plus collection of Bata and djembe drums, bells, and other percussion instruments for anyone to use.
About 25- 30 people participated at the first Sunday of the month July session on a steamy hot afternoon including some kids who just had happened to be passing by.
Among the other attendees were several first-timers like 12-year-old Jacob Slifker who had discovered the existence of the circle while searching online with his parents for somewhere to use his djimbe. During breaks, he got some tips from the experienced hands on using it.
The afternoon heat and repetitive, shifting drum rhythms induced a hypnotic effect and Kravitz drew the circled drummers into chanting along and some into dancing. The circle next meets on Sunday August 4th from 1-3 pm next to the Lovett Public Library at 6945 Germantown Avenue.
Frank Moore, a tall muscular man, pulls on the strings of a 2-foot tall high Tina Turner-esque puppet; it lip-syncs and dances to funky music blaring from his boom box in eerie mimicry with his arm and torso motions. Moore and “Tina” (he doesn’t give his puppets names) reeled in passersby at a corner in Old City one evening in downtown Philadelphia. Moore makes his own puppets, and this year’s bunch are ones he has revamped from last year. During the school year he performs at parties. But because practices always go so smoothly at home, during the summer he works the kinks out of his routines in different public spots around the city. This was Tina’s first time out and she was not doing well, Moore joked. In addition to Tina, his current cast includes a young boy, an old man and four others, all siblings, he says. They bear resemblances to each other but dance to different international grooves - German, Korean, Hindi, Chinese, Japanese. Two young girls passing by were visibly intrigued by Moore’s act. Giggling, they hesitantly approached the puppeteer, hanging on to each other for support. Then one dashed forward and stuffed a bill in Moore’s donation bowl. Tina was not putting on too shabby a show after all.
Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Estonian and Italian can be heard spoken as mothers of these heritages prepare their 5, 6 and 7 year olds for a ballroom dancing class at the Water Tower Recreation Center, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. Victoria Scotti brings 5 year old Isabella, who also takes ballet, both for the music and the chance to dance with boys. Instructor Alina Fiorella, a teacher of 17 years, says she stopped professional competition in ballroom dancing which led her to two Ukrainian national championships when she started a family. But she began instructing young children when she was a teen in the Ukraine and continues to do so, now bringing her class to Chestnut Hill.
Fiorella listens solicitously as one child asks for more snacks and another complains of a sore arm. After addressing their concerns, she firmly directs her students through the hour lesson in both dance etiquette and a variety of dance, along with music or with voice commands alone.
Of the promenades, polkas and such, the “Box dance” is 7 year old Emma Barton’s favorite. Late in the lesson they heel-toe-heel-toe, “Shuffle off to Buffalo and then come back to Mexico.” And then their tired selves are taken up in their mothers’ arms.