‘Jilly Puppets’ and DEL

I have been performing puppet shows for young children for six years. I incorporate singing, movement, pantomime, storytelling and thematic content that hooks in kids’ imagination and playfulness. I have been drawn to movement more and more as an expressive vehicle and took the DEL foundations course on a leap of faith.

What I found at first was a HUGE bright light-bulb, that my puppet shows, which are 45 minutes of songs and puppets and movement, could be written in a lesson plan format. The show could be performed as a class lesson, with the introduction of theme, development, exploration, culminating activity and cool down. Thinking of my puppet shows in an educational paradigm clarified my preparations for the shows and reinforced my conviction that I was delivering meaningful, thematic early childhood entertainment.

I began writing out every step of the shows in exacting detail, planning my transitions more thoroughly and assessing the educational value of each stage of the show. I enjoyed this transformation immensely and felt that I had reached a new level of performance skill. I heard Barry, Ana and Jody’s voices in my ears as I navigated through the challenges of working with young children and their parents.

And then, wonderfully, to add to this learning, this summer, I took DEL’s Wonderdance and Planet Dance.

The morning after Ann Biddle’s ‘Planet Dance’ class ended, I woke up super early and rewrote two shows on butterflies that I was performing later that day. I had performed the ‘Butterfly’ show a number of times before, but so much information had seeped into my consciousness and I felt that I needed to incorporate this new learning into my artistic life!

“OK…Butterflies live all over the world,” I thought as I sipped my cup of coffee. “Six continents have butterflies..that’s amazing!” I researched the continents and regions where butterflies lived. I discovered Indian music with a funky beat that could use during one number with a tiger puppet. I chose Japanese music to accompany a hand puppet exploration of the metamorphosis process. The Japanese music segued into delicate Chinese music that accompanied a chrysalis spinning exercise, which led us into West African drumming for our culminating butterfly dance. I was fascinated by the possibility of bringing a whole other dimension to the show, expanding multicultural horizons while learning about something as basic as an insect.

I am experiencing the excitement of how much my toolbox has expanded since taking Wonderdance and Planet Dance earlier in July. The other day I worked with a group of rowdy older kids. As they squirmed around in their ‘egg’ shapes, I gently tapped each kid’s back as I walked around the room, commenting on their amazing creations, which is a tool that Deb had demonstrated with the young children in Wonderdance demo lesson.

Jen Katz, Deb Damast and Ann Biddle modeled such lively and kind teacher voices. My own teacher voice has developed this summer and I feel that I am communicating more positivity, more excitement and more dynamic teaching. It’s such an amazing tool to use: loving-kindness and generosity of spirit.

Looking back on the summer and gearing up for the year ahead, I am thrilled to have learned so much at DEL and I am looking forward to the awesome workshops on the calendar this year! The DEL programs have opened up a new set of pathways for my artistic and professional expression and I am grateful for their ‘right-on’ educational philosophy and commitment to dance and children and educators.