Start the New Year with a holiday journey that can be shared with friends and loved ones anywhere in the world.
Arts educator, theater director and dramaturg Antigone Trimis shares her thoughts about Vanaver Caravan & Arm of the Sea Theater‘s online theatrical event, Into the Light: A Tale of Hope, which is available for the public to view online through the month of January.
Peter Schumann, founder of the Bread & Puppet Theatre is known for saying: “Art is food. You can’t eat it, but it feeds you.” I chose to reference Bread & Puppet because I had the great pleasure of experiencing just this, the nourishment of art on the longest night of a long dark year.
Winter Solstice somehow had extra weight this time around and its observance led me on an online journey discovering poetry, music and dances from around the world that filled me with hope. The excitement around the visibility of the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn added to the winds of hope that I felt despite the continued escalation of the Covid cases in California and beyond.
The journey began with an invitation to watch the online performance of Into the Light, a collaborative production by the Vanaver Caravan and Arm of the Sea Theater, companies that have been creating work since the 70s and 80s fostering cultural understanding; the first through world music and dance the second through soft mask and puppet theater.
Vanaver Caravan & Arm of the Sea Theater’s Into The Light: A Tale of Hope
The production performed by the Youth Company of the Vanaver Caravan was inspiring to watch, not only because I delighted in the story, the dances and the theatricality of the production, but also because it was rehearsed and produced during a pandemic. According to the program notes, all precautions were taken to keep everyone safe, making it possible for these young people to express themselves and share space with their peers. All this during a time that was metaphorically mirroring the story of Into the Light, a “fairytale-like story” that follows a young girl as she struggles to find joy and hope in a winter with no sunlight.
The piece first premiered in 2007 and was conceived by Patrick Wadden, Livia Vanaver, Miranda ten Broeke and Isabel Cottingham. The 2020 version of the show was rechoreographed and filmed as a social dis(DANCE) virtual performance and masks were central to the production. Not only because of the giant puppets that have always been a part of the show, but because of the face masks worn to keep everyone safe due to the pandemic. The creators took extra precautions filming with doors and windows open in the theatre space, and filmed dances in the open air as well. The young dancers were also given an opportunity to experience not only an internal and communal journey, but empathized with fellow humans around the globe who are all experiencing these dark times. From the program notes: “…as we filmed this year’s masked journey around the globe, we were humbly reminded that everyone, everywhere, is in the same position. Whether you are celebrating Christmas in Italy, Kwanzaa in Brooklyn, or Sankta Lucia in Sweden, people everywhere are wearing masks to keep each other safe.”
These young dancers were given an extra challenge to express themselves not only through movement, but also through their eyes. And it is true that they managed to “smile through [their] eyes and shine [their] light from [their] bodies.” They were able to do this through the added obstacle of sharing their light across the computer screen and this is why I am sharing the performance with you here to experience this beautiful journey from darkness to light with your family during the holiday break.
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine” was what I hummed to myself during a dark and gray week during which human beings around the world found ways to connect and be reminded that the light is always shining even in the darkest of days.
— ANTIGONE TRIMIS, January 1, 2021
Over 30 years ago, folk singer and activist Pete Seeger, reached out to The Vanaver Caravan’s founders, Bill and Livia Vanaver with an idea to bring their diverse and expansive dance encyclopedia into schools.
“The arts, “ he said “will save the world”
The Vanaver Caravan is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1972 by Artistic Directors, Livia and Bill Vanaver. The internationally renowned company continues its mission to foster cultural understanding through an interplay of world dance, music and song. The Vanaver Caravan offers concerts, classes, workshops and art education programs.
In Miranda ten Broeke’s words, the soul of The Vanaver Caravan’s mission is found in their education programs as much as it is found in their performances, such as Into the Light and Turn! Turn! Turn! (The Story of Pete Seeger in Dance and Music). 2020 was challenging, but opened a pathway to broader connections across the country. The Arts Education programs are now available online and The Vanaver Caravan can be a viable resource for schools this winter across the country, including the Bay Area! https://vanavercaravan.org/arts-education
Dance is life and young ones have an opportunity to explore creative movement and choreography. Older dancers can experiment with percussive movement, Hip-Hop and Afro Caribbean and swing and the whole family has a chance to dance together as well! https://vanavercaravan.org/registration/winterdance
Arm of the Sea Theater
Arm of the Sea Theater fuses visual storytelling with live music in contemporary works of mask and puppet theater. Founded in 1982 by Marlena Marallo and Patrick Wadden, the company tours original shows throughout the eastern US, conducts community based artist residency projects and host their annual outdoor spectacle, The Esopus Creek Puppet Suite each summer in Saugerties, NY.