Monday, January 30, 2023

Creative Team, Creative Dream!

 These incredible artists have been joining me on this journey of Dark Adaptation. Next month, we're sharing Seeking, one of the pieces from the entire performance, at the Reading Theater Project's 5-Minute Fringe Festival: Shadows. 

Arielle Ridley found her passion for dance at the age of thirteen in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. She joined her local dance studio and was featured in shows such as Jasmine and the Lamp and Alice in Wonderland. At the age of seventeen, Arielle began exploring her own choreographic skills and found a passion for teaching and performing. She earned her BFA in Dance Theatre with honors from The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, where she attended both the NY and LA campuses. She has trained under choreographers and instructors such as Genevieve Carson, Laura Berg, and Tracie Steinfield. She currently resides and works in the Philadelphia area, performing as a company artist with Anne-Marie Mulgrew and Dancers Company and JCWK Dance Lab. In addition to company work, Arielle has also performed works with choreographers such as Grant Jacoby, Michael Kerr, and Stephanie Tolbert-King. She currently teaches contemporary, jazz, ballet, and more at Synergy Dance Center and the Ballet Guild of Lehigh Valley. When she's not dancing, she loves spending time with her big family and giving herself and her friends manicures! 

Cady Monasmith feels that movement is a powerful way of speaking through our bodies. Cady emphasizes change and choice through movement, awakening the conscious by letting the spirit dance in the flesh. Her use of interpretative movement helps individuals reflect their story of emotional pain, explore the past and bridge their experiences to their present self. Cady has helped her clients reconnect to their bodies by finding compassion, self-acceptance, and a sense of freedom and inner strength. This connection reintegrates the physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual aspects into the client's past experience with present meaning. Cady was given artistic guidance from Philadelphia artists, including Kun-Yang Lin, Jillian Harris, Ellie Goudie-Averill, Elizabeth Reynolds, Janet Pilla and Laura Katz-Rizzo. She is elated to join JCWK Dance Lab.

Richard Maldonado, Jr is an All Styles Hip Hop dancer. Richie started dancing around the age of 7, learning break dance foundations. By the age of 13, he continued to train wherever he could outside on the concrete, at family gatherings and at his local church in his hometown Bridgeport, Connecticut. By the age of 14, the Maldonado family relocated to Reading, PA where he continued to dance and joined a street dance crew called The Boogie Monsters, an all breaking and pop group. By the time Richie was a junior at Reading High School he took a leap of faith and auditioned for The Red Knights Dance Team and danced with them until he transferred to I-Lead Charter School. He graduated from I-Lead Charter School and became the choreographer for their dance team. During this period, Richie joined another street dance crew called Dramatic Influence where he began to have more performances and intensive choreography training. He taught at Wandra Holdren's Dance Academy. Richie continued his education at Reading Area Community College and choreographed for the RACC Dance Team. Richie continues to dance for non-profit community organizations such as The Rize Program and Barrio Alegria and teach. 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Getting Muddy with Play

 This is often how I know my child has had a good day: 

Please notice the mud all over any surface that wasn't covered with an additional layer (not pictured). The hair matted from sweat. The face reddened from intense physical exertion (tactile learning). The readiness to shed one layer in order to fully jump into the next adventure. 

This is a GOOD DAY. 

JCWK Dance Lab is continuing the process of creating choreography/ dance performance to Stephen Grieco's Dark Adaptation. Please click here to learn more about Steven's process and experience for yourself. 

We're also preparing to share one of these pieces at the Reading Theater Project's 5-Minute Fringe Festival in February. Click here for more details of that performance. 

And, friend, we're covered in mud and matted in sweat! As director, I'm so frustrated, unclear, confused, covered in an uncomfortable layer of soot. I want to keep my people safe (which I can still do, even if we're trenched in the dirt. I recognize that safety isn't the same as comfort and comfort has many layers based on individual experience. I'm grateful that my dancers recognize that too). 

We're in that metaphorical/ real place where, after you've seen the river and are ready to cross it, after you visualize or see what might be on the other side, you have to take the first step into the undisturbed, clear, water to begin the crossing journey. 

Maybe not with the first or second step, but somewhere along the way across, you look down to see a bubbling of murky water around your feet. The path forward is no longer clear and you recognize that not only your feet are cold and wet but water has also slowly infiltrated your clothes. The skin of your legs is clammy and a cold dampness seeps through your skin. 

Wow! This moment is uncomfortable! 

Do you go back to the known and stop the journey or do you continue trusting what you saw and what you think could be? Do you keep mucking through the immediate moment, not quite being able to see or feel the next step? 

Your breath quickens. You start to sweat even though you're freezing. 

But! This is also the moment of PLAY. (Especially if you're in the metaphorical river and not a real one).

This is the moment of LEARNING. 

This is the moment that needs to happen before the next and the next and the next. 

Below is a fuzzy image of yesterday's rehearsal: 

We were in a new space. We're still relatively new to each other. We're developing a dance based on trust that our feet will find grounding even though we can't see through the mud right now. The mud is present because we've been together for a few rehearsals that were beautiful gems/ clear water. The mud is present because we've passed the point of knowing and are moving into the unknown.

We're literally getting sweat soaked, tripping, forgetting, trying again, falling, and getting more dirty.     

And, yet, we're able to continue. 

We're able to laugh through the uncomfortable moments and acknowledge them as such. We can say with our voices and our bodies "This moment is MUDDY!" (Other words might have been used in real time and real life....)

The process of play - of learning and growing and developing and creating - is covered in dirt and sweat soaked. 

Play is work. They're both 4-letter words. Work can be play. 

The above image is fuzzy, but there's movement. There's incredible trust. There's security and alignment. There's safety in venturing into the unknown. 

In a few weeks, will you, as an audience member, get to see this moment onstage? Honestly, I don't know. I don't know where this journey is going to take us. You might see this or you might see something that became because of this. 

We've taken more than the first few steps and the next few have been murkier and muddied by our ambition. 

How exciting! 

Human-development experts write that a child's work is play. They learn and grow and develop through play. In the class I teach about Creativity, the students reflect that my encouragement for them to play is "like when I was a kid" 

"I felt free"

"I could let go of my stress"

"I didn't feel judged" 

"For a moment, I could do anything!"

When do we lose that? Why do we lose that? 

What is possible if we allow ourselves to be emersed in the muddiness? In the play? 

Friend, I hope you find a time and space to play. What might that look like for you? 

Monday, January 16, 2023

Orbit - A Collaborative Performance


Orbit: a performance of music and dance by Dr. Mara Parker and Jessica C. Warchal-King

When: March 23, 2023 at 4pm

Where: Widener University's Kapelski Recital Hall (LC1). Click here for map and directions. 

Cost: Free and open to the public

More info? Email Dr. Mara Parker at