Into The Light: A Tale of Hope

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.

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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

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WATCH NOW: Into the Light: A Tale of Home

YouTube Premiere link: https://youtu.be/yQ2fNJ8coR4

Available online to the public, through the month of January 2021.

Ticket Donations: https://app.moonclerk.com/pay/5vfo3reuyc0j

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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”

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Vanaver Caravan

https://vanavercaravan.org/ | @VanaraCaravan

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

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Arm of the Sea Theater

www.armofthesea.org | @armoftheseatheater

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.

Kindergarten Family Art Night 2017: “Listen to The Water”

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On Thursday, October 5, 2017 former Rooftop Kindergarten teacher Mary Ann Cruz and Kindergarten parent Laura Jean Ruppert sailed into the Burnett MPR, to lead Kindergarten Family Art Night, an art & music workshop for families at Rooftop School.

In addition to dancing the Lobster Quadrille and singing water songs, families made their own ocean-inspired shadow puppets. Ms. Cruz and Ms. Ruppert also spoke about their on-going work  exploring the theme of water with the kindergarteners in Ms. Lampear, Mr. Lane and Mr. Mayhew’s classrooms  This classroom introduction to opera was conceived as pre-engagement for this Fall’s work of art for study, Harriet’s Spirit, a children’s opera composed by Marcus Shelby, with a libretto written by Roma Olvera, for Opera Parallèle.

kinder-art-night-songs program_Page_1Download a copy of the kinder-art-night-songs

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To play is to engage. When we play, we pick up objects, ideas, or themes and turn them upside down, experiment with them, often arriving at something inspiring and amazing; yet we don’t play for the outcome, but for its own sake. For humans and some animals, play is a vital part of development. Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Adults also play to break from conventions, to experiment, to shift from normality into a rich world of imagination or to push themselves in new ways.

Play in children can be generally divided into four broad types based on the developmental purposes each serves. These are: physical play, play with objects, symbolic play, pretence and socio-dramatic play, and games with rules. Beyond participating in children’s play, adults can support it by creating a supportive environment, providing a range of opportunities for play and thoughtfully providing structures that support play. 

— from the Lego Learning Institute’s “The Future of Play: Defining the role and value of play in the 21st Century (2016).

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Engaging play experiences offer a set of gifts, innate rewarding experiences that encourage individuals to continue their engagement. These are reflection and integration of what we have learned, the pleasure of Flow, self-expression, positive emotions, new ways of seeing, mastery, innovation, connecting with and learning from others, and lastly self-realisation.

— from the Lego Learning Institute’s “The Future of Play: Defining the role and value of play in the 21st Century (2016).

Cultural Exchange: Kung Fu Panda 3

With the success of the 2008 animated film Kung Fu Panda, Chinese moviegoers praised the film’s depiction of Chinese culture and careful attention to details, “from the martial arts scenes to its depiction of family expectations and how the ancients were believed to pass into the afterlife.”  Wu Jiang, president of the National Peking Opera Company, told the official New China News Agency, “The film’s protagonist is China’s national treasure and all the elements are Chinese, but why didn’t we make such a film?”

Now, eight years laterKung Fu Panda 3 is DreamWorks’ first official U.S./China co-produced film opening simultaneously in the US and China on January 29Po the kung fu-fighting panda, Oogway, Shifu, and the Furious Five return in Kung Fu Panda 3.

Thanks to the San Francisco Film Society’s Education Program, Kung Fu Panda comes to Rooftop School. On Friday, January 8th at 12:30pm, 3rd, 4th and 7th grade students will attend a special presentation with Kung Fu Panda 3’s producer Melissa Cobb and co-directors Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh Nelson (who has the distinction of being the first woman to direct a big-budget animated film for a major studio).

The film’s creative team will share how the Kung Fu Panda 3 artists researched China’s culture (architecture, food, clothing, and, of course, kung fu!) for the film. The artists were also inspired by China’s natural beauty, the country’s distinct landscapes and wildlife — including the endangered golden monkey, South China tiger, red panda, and Giant pandaWe’ll get a peek at scenes from the new movie, enjoy a drawing demonstration and Q&A with the filmmakers.

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Weather permitting, the entire school is invited to come to the circle for a post-presentation performance which will include a Shaolin animal-style kung fu demonstration with special guests.

There will also be an art activity available for all classes to make their own bolang gu, a Chinese rattle drum, one of the earliest toys dating back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Practice playing your drum with friends and use your power to speak up for Giant Pandas.

Kung Fu Panda Art

Meet the Characters of Kung Fu Panda

Meet the Creative Team

Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Alessandro Carloni

DreamWorks Animation invited artists, photographers, designers and illustrators worldwide to create art that illustrated Po on his journey home for Kung Fu Panda 3. Inspired by Po, his friends and all the amazing places around the world, artists went straight to work and submitted over 400 stunning submissions of Po in different continents. Whether he was fighting bulls in Spain, trying on some lederhosen in Munich, riding the train in New York, or even attending a festival in India, Po popped up in almost every landmark around the world.

Five Animals Kung Fu

The foundation of the Southern Shaolin martial art systems can be attributed to these five animals – Snake, Tiger, Leopard and Crane, and the mythological Dragon.

Part of the kung fu student’s training is to emulate the spirit and the movement of these animals. They are instructed to visit the city zoo and the library to study the quintessence nature of the animal.

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Sifu Young Wong of the EY Lee Kung Fu School teaches third graders some animal style kung fu.

Panda Resources & Links:

Explore.org: Happiness Village – Pandas in Gengda, China

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding: Panda Live

National Zoo: Giant Panda Cam

 

Nature Works Everywhere: Virtual Field Trip to China’s Great Forests

Join expert scientist Yue Wang, a conservation planning officer for The Nature Conservancy, on a virtual field trip across the world to two stunning provinces in China—Sichuan and Yunnan. Explore majestic forests, towering mountains, and other iconic landscapes. While examining the role these vital natural areas play in the carbon cycle and climate change, as well as the benefits of reforestation, we will learn about the magnificent creatures who call these habitats home: giant pandas, golden snub-nosed monkeys, and the elusive and odd-looking takin.

 

World Wildlife Fund: What is the story behind the panda logo of WWF?

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Aware of the need for a strong symbol that would overcome all language barriers, founders of the World Wildlife Fund chose the Giant Panda. “We wanted an animal that is beautiful, is endangered, and one loved by many people in the world for its appealing qualities.” The black-and-white panda has since come to stand as a symbol for the conservation movement as a whole.