Our year in photos

Every December I make a month-by-month year-in-review update to tuck into the Christmas cards we send to all our friends and family this time of year.   Today as I dropped a nice, big stack of holiday cards into the post office box, I thought it would be fun to start a new holiday tradition celebrating another year of working with alight. I hope you enjoy our first annual alight year-in-review photo gallery.  Lots of people like to do retrospectives things like this during that first week of January, but I think the holiday season is all about taking time to reflect on where you’ve been and we’re you’re headed. So, this is where we’ve been this year.  We hope you enjoy taking a glance back with us as we are already busy preparing for our first performance of the new year on January 21, 8pm and January 22, 4pm at Dance Place.   See you soon?

Our day in photos

M. Cardoso & S. Kramer in Speechless at Project Dance DC

Special thanks to Gregory Miller, husband of alight dancer Heather Creek, for these amazing shots of us performing on the outdoor Sylvan Theater stage with Project Dance DC on Saturday, August 20 along with about 100 other dancers from all over the country. It was so hot out there that the black dance flooring on the stage was practically melting, but the dancers managed to give a beautiful performance despite the crazy conditions. Not sure how Greg got such great shots out there in the sun and elements, but it was a treat to get photos in the my inbox. Enjoy!

M. Cardoso, H. Cameron & H. Creek in Speechless at Project Dance DC

H. Creek in Speechless at Project Dance DC

M. Warren & L. Cisneros at Project Dance DC

H. Creek, M. Cardoso & H. Cameron in Speechless at Project Dance DC

M. Warren & L. Cisneros in Speechless at Project Dance DC

M. Cardoso at Project Dance DC

M. Cardoso & S. Kramer at Project Dance DC

M. Cardoso & S. Kramer at Project Dance DC

C. Jordan & S. Kramer at Project Dance DC

M. Warren & L. Cisneros at Project Dance DC

alight likes: Project Dance

Alight will be performing at Project Dance D.C. on the Sylvan Theater, near the base of the Washington Monument, on August 20, 2011.

Project Dance is a movement of dancers seeking to positively impact culture through artistic integrity. The movement was born ten years ago out of a desire to serve the people of New York City directly after the events of September 11th and it has managed to do just that. Each year thousands of New Yorkers stop to watch the concert held on a temporary stage on the corner of 44th Street and Broadway.

This year Project Dance is bringing their signature three day event to Washington, D.C. for the first time during this 10th anniversary of September 11th.  The weekend will be centered around an all day outdoor dance concert on the National Mall which is free to the public. The goal of the concert is to bring a message of  hope, joy and healing through the universal language of dance.

Alight Dance Theater is excited to be part of this year’s Project Dance event. We’ll be performing excerpts from Speechless as well as some sections from our current project, Truth Be Told.  If you want to catch us performing on the National Mall next month, be sure to make your way towards the Washington Monument on Saturday, August 20th. The concert runs from 10am-5pm, and Alight will definitely be performing in the afternoon hours. So, throw some water and sunscreen in your bag, and come join us.

Angella travels to Chicago!

Angella is going to Chicago to conduct research for Speechless.

Angella heads to Chicago next week to conduct research for Speechless!  She will interview some of Taylor’s teachers, friends, doctors and classmates to build her knowledge of parenting “a silent child in a noisy world.”

Since Speechless explores the experiences of those who help raise children like Taylor, Angella will explore stories from Taylor’s mom, Bonnie, and other parents and caretakers who face similar obstacles.  We are also interested in hearing from parents around the DC Metro area.  If you or someone who know has experience working with children who cannot communicate, we would love to hear from you!  Feel free to contact Angella if you would like to share your story.

Angella will blog about her experience in Chicago all of next week.  Check back for videos, photos and thoughts from her trip and interviews in upcoming posts.  You might also catch a glimpse of some of the source material for Speechless’ introductory video!

If you were Angella, what questions would you ask?  What do you want to know about raising a child like Taylor?  Submit your questions and we will respond when Angella finds out!

Scribbling in space

Heather Creek dancing with one of Jessica's "scribbles in space"

Last week I got a really delightful package in the mail– a big box from our collaborator mixed media artist Jessica Braiterman.  Inside I found two of her playful creations for Speechless, one large yellow and one smaller bright pink “scribbles in space.”  This was the idea behind making these roughly spherical tangles of wire wrapped very tightly with yarn.  They were supposed to to appear almost as though a child was drawing a bead by quickly scribbling in one spot in a roughly round fashion. Jessica had sent me  photos of a the bright pink one, but the image didn’t do it justice.

In your hands, the forms look delicate but feel really strong, almost indestructible.  I love the look of contained chaos in the form. They have the appearance of being creating spontaneously, almost recklessly–with yarn wrapped wire passing haphazardly over and around itself.  Of course, that’s just how they appear.  In fact , the chaos and spontaneity was all carefully hand-woven over many hours.

As we worked with them in rehearsal, the openness of their shape played nicely over the forms of the dancers’ bodies.  They also have an opening the middle that slips easily over the dancers’ hands, wrists and arms which is a lot of fun to see as well.  And, I loved the sense of playfulness that using the forms evoked in the dancers; they became almost immediately engrossed in the act of play, of discovering what the forms could do and how they could be experienced.   This is precisely what I was hoping to explore through the use of these whimsical creations as props and sets for Speechless.

My cousin, Taylor, who is the primary inspiration for the work is both soothed and delighted by the texture and weight of small ordinary objects in her hands.  She loves rolling her fingers over the beads of a favorite bracelet or just an average drinking straw.  My family calls her little objects of interest “holdies.” And, sometimes I’ll find myself buying a new key chain or trinket thinking of the object’s intrinsically interesting weight and texture–its potential to be a “holdie.” I wanted something in the visual look and the kinesthetic experience of Speechless to explore Taylor’s appreciation for the intricacies of small mundane objects, and I think Jessica’s “scribbles in space” are just perfect.

Caitlin Jordan & Heather Creek in rehearsal

Alight hosts first open rehearsal

On Wednesday, April 28th, alight dance theater invites the community to an Open Rehearsal for a sneak peek at Speechless.  The event will take place in the Greenbelt Community Center dance studio between 7-9 p.m.  The dance studio is located on the lower level across from the Greenbelt Nursery School.

Alight dance theater received a 2010 Local Dance Commissioning Project grant by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of Performing Arts for Everyone and the Millennium Stage for Speechless.  Weaving together dance, gesture, text, and live music, Speechless explores the struggle of parents of special needs children with communication issues to care for and understand their silent child in an increasingly noisy world.  The work is inspired by the experiences of Angella’s cousin, Taylor Ann Clark, who relies primarily on non-verbal communication tools to “speak” with her family members. 

This is the first of several events promoting Speechless before its premiere at the Kennedy Center.  Check out alight dance theater’s Facebook and event pages for alight’s upcoming performances and community events.

“No, she really doesn’t talk…”

Bonnie, Angella, Rick and Taylor on Angella's first day of college -- the day Jen and Taylor met.

When I was in college, I brought home a particularly chatty friend Jen to visit my family in the Chicago area.  With my own parents out of the picture, my Aunt Bonnie, Uncle Rick and their beautiful daughter, Taylor, were my new nuclear family.  Taylor was very young at the time, but she was at that age when most kids are playing with language, babbling & baby talking & demanding a lot of  attention.

But, not Taylor…she was quiet, very quiet.  My friend, Jen, kept commenting on how Taylor didn’t talk and how it was so nice that she was such a quiet, well-behaved, serene little girl.  We kept trying to explain to Jen that Taylor doesn’t talk because she can’t talk.  It took several exchanges over the course of the weekend for Jen to really understand.  Taylor didn’t talk.  We weren’t sure when, if ever, she would talk.  And, once Jen really understood, a gentle sadness passed over her usually wide-eyed face and, for a moment, she was as speechless as Taylor.

The whole thing is a big inside joke for my family. We laugh about it a lot–about how ridiculously hard it was for my friend to understand:  “No, Jen, she doesn’t talk….No, she really doesn’t talk.”  Even now that Taylor does have a small spoken vocabulary, the story still stirs up in me something two parts humor and one part heartbreak.

We knew Taylor was listening to our every word–and we’re a family of loud, fast talkers–so that’s a lot of words.  We knew she understood us, understood she was loved, but we wanted to hear from her, from inside her mysterious little world.  We wanted her to babble loudly and incoherently at inconvenient times like other kids her age.  And, at the same time, she was absolutely perfect the way she was.

That’s part of the tension we’re exploring in Speechless.  Loving a kid like Taylor means  always fighting against her physical limitations, wanting more for her, and yet always feeling a little like you can’t imagine her being more remarkable than she already is.

Speechless cast finalized


alight dance theater is happy to announce the cast of Speechless.  Heather Cameron, Michelle Cardoso, Lucia Cisneros, Heather Creek, Caitlin Jordan, Sarah Kramer, Alyssa U and Monica Warren Schaeffer will perform the work when it premieres at the Millennium Stage in the Kennedy Center and at other events. Check out their bios on our Web site for more information about the cast members’ history and training.

Here is a sneak peek at some of the material we are building in rehearsal.  This clip features most of the cast members performing duet material developed by alight dance theater.  Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more alight videos!

Welcome to our blog!

Hello everyone and welcome to alight dance theater’s new blog, “alight chat!”  Every week we will post news, events, and other musings about the company.  The blog will also serve as the main channel to receive information and get involved with our current project, Speechless

Angella Foster in Women's Work.

In addition to our blog, we also recently created a new Facebook page and YouTube channel.  Be sure to visit either of those sites for more news and new photos and videos of our projects.
We would love to hear your feedback about what you see!  Feel free to comment or e-mail us at info@alightdancetheater.org to give us suggestions about how we can improve our site.  Remember — we are dancers, we are used to getting corrections!

Finally, a big THANK YOU to everyone who helped with our new site, especially my wonderful boyfriend, Sergio!

So, to end this inaugural post, tell us what you think!  What topics would you like to see covered in the blog?  What do you think so far?