Sunday, December 8, 2013

My Chanukkah present

For those who have gazed out of their car windows and noticed a woman slowly and unsteadily wandering around town in a long fluffy coat, that's me. I have been struggling with vertigo the past few weeks. My whole working life is physical; I am flummoxed, to put it mildly. How am I supposed to dance and perform puppet shows and be funny and lively, or wear a frog costume, or dance, when I am gripping the walls as I walk and attempting to not fall and hit my head!? I have cancelled a lot over the past few weeks, which is a DOOZY when you're a freelancer and then on top of the vertigo, I got nailed with a wicked virus on Monday night! By Tuesday I had lost my voice and was advised by my doctor to be completely silent for 24 hours and that maybe I would be able to perform my annual Chanukkah puppet show on Thursday at the Warner library. So, starting on Wednesday, I set out to revamp the puppet show to make it less physical and to not require my voice. I had written the show to be heavily musical- lots of ukulele singing and dancing and storytelling. I am used to leading the show with my voice-narration, leading the songs, engaging the adults and kids in the activities...OY VEY!! So I wrote and wrote and modified the show, but something was still missing. I listened to Chanukkah music all day Wednesday and was extremely silent and listened for inspiration. By Thursday morning, I admittedly was a little nervous-I still hadn't nailed the show into a new format. The phone rang- it was the nurse from Ruby's school. Would I come over and give her some medicine? She was having an allergic reaction to something and her nose was running. I grabbed the Children's Benadryl and my earphones and headed out into the gray and rainy day, walking slowly and unsteadily. I played my favorite Chanukkah song this year, “Miracle” by the Maccabeats over and over on my Ipod. I must have listened to it 5 times and on the corner as I turned to walk up to school, IT HIT ME. I HAD NOTHING TO LOSE. GO FOR IT. In what felt like a Chanukkah miracle of artistic inspiration, I came up with the silliest opening scene for the show. I figured that either that it would flop hugely, or that I would have the audience with me for the rest of the show. I felt it in my chest. It was ridiculous and out there and crazy and I had never done anything like it before. It was show time, Thursday afternoon. Lily read the opening posterboard to the audience for me- “ Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, cats and kittens- I have lost my voice. I have a great show for you and with your cooperation, we're going to have a great show celebrating Chanukkah.” She had the crowd count to twenty while I dashed out the door and into the librarian's desk to change into a dancing zebra puppet costume with a gold glittery potato latke hat. She clicked 'Miracle' on the stereo and I goofily and awkwardly disco danced into the room with the zebra puppet attached to my wrists, neck, knees and ankles to this song about Chanukkah miracles. The crowd giggled and a few kids got up to dance with me. There happened to be a group of teenagers in the room (not my usual puppet show demographic) and their surprised faces seemed to say “ Wow. That woman is dancing like a complete fool with a zebra puppet strapped to her body. There might be something sort of cool about that.” I danced the whole song with the Chanukkah miracle puppet and then continued to do a mostly silent movie, vaudeville type of puppet show. The crowd was gracious and attentive and kind and I thought that the show was even better than it would have been if I had my usual faculties! What a beautiful Chanukkah present, as the sun set outside of the children's room at the library and we celebrated the last night of Chanukkah.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

"FUNK-IFY YOUR MOVES" dance party Dec. 6 7:30 pm Curious on Hudson $20

"Jill is so comfortable in her own skin, if even a fraction of it rubs off on you, you'll be jumping up to get on the dance floor!" Indira My 43rd birthday is this Friday and what better way to celebrate than to boogie with friends?!? "Jill's unique authenticity and commitment to movement gives you all the permission you'll need to ignore your inhibitions and just let loose!" Naomi I am running an introductory workshop to recreational dancing. (Meaning: the kind of dancing that you would do at a party!)I have broken down some basic dance floor moves into easy, fun and FUNKY ways that YOU can step out onto the dance floor with confidence! No dance experience necessary! "If I know that Jill is at a party I'm sure I want to be there, too. Her dancing is so much fun to watch, carefree and contagious that you're sure to have a good time. Jill is a great dancer, artist as well as a wonderful friend!" Bettina Dec. 6 7:30 pm Curious on Hudson 145 Palisade St #412b, Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522 $20 "Jill is an awesome dancer, dance teacher and person! She has motivated thousands of people to join her in "feeling the beat" as a professional dancer (in a 6 foot frog costume!) during my concerts. And seeing her dance at parties in her full Wonder Woman regalia is inspiring. I even got out on the dance floor for that one! HER DEDICATION TO MOVING FUNKILY IS A SIGHT TO BEHOLD." Jeffrey Friedberg, leader of The Bossy Frog Band

Thursday, November 7, 2013


I am renting a small dance studio in Tarrytown to practice my dance choreography and rehearse with my puppets. I am so often filled with dread the morning before entering the studio: It's just me in there! It's so hard to face myself, alone with the mirrors and the clock and the hard wood floors, with what feels like too little physical energy, or a lack of creative direction, or the solitude of the endeavor. But I am not really alone in there, if I am listening. I am filled with stories and breath and sounds and freedom. All of this accompanies me when I do face myself and allow my body to move freely, to find whatever is out there, within myself. And this is why I am an artist. Connecting with this force fills me with so much gratitude, hope, faith, and peacefulness. Thank you everybody who believes in me, and in the power of art to heal.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

House party!!!

Wow. Time warp. I have a lot to catch up on, but first, here's some reflections from Saturday night's house dance party at Naomi Vladek and Eric Putter's house! I perform house parties all of the time, with The Bossy Frog Band and with Jilly Puppets and now as an independent choreographer. The closeness and involvement with the artistic experience that a house party allows, participants and artists situated together in living rooms, back yards and basements, for BOTH the artist and the participants is a beautiful, connective and extremely human experience. Think about life 200 years ago (in my fantasy world!). Neighbors and families would gather to sing and tell stories and dance together. I love that we are bringing that togetherness back, infusing our souls with personal encounters with the arts that change us, motivate us to seek connective expressions, to build communities, to support the arts for their power and value in our complicated world. I enjoyed Saturday night's house dance performance so profoundly--dancing two feet away from my friends and neighbors, the awareness that they could hear my breathing, see the sweat building on my body, perceive my facial expressions and literally be a part of the performance- I felt connected. Performing in that warm setting was a reciprocal experience; I could hear the audience too- their exclamations, laughter, surprise and delight. Watching Stephen Alex Tracy-Ursprung perform a structured improv was a magnificent, beautiful, transformative artistic moment. My heart is still glowing from Saturday's Sleepy Hollow house performance. And now, I wonder what's next?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A 5 year Anniversary at the Warner Library!

These pictures are from my first public puppet show in May 2008: Today, as I was setting up for my Spring Puppet show in the children's room at the Warner Library, I realized that my first public puppet show occured in that same space, almost exactly 5 years before! I had planned a Mother's Day tribute show for May 2008, and Patty Cohn, the children's librarian at the Warner Library, gave me a green light to try my hand at public puppeteering. Dressed in my Wonder Woman costume, my sister in law Kate holding my four month old daughter in a pouch, I gave it my all and began the journey. It's cool having markers-remembering how it felt to do that show-how many months and late nights it took me to plan the show, using store-bought Folkmanis puppets, having a fussy baby to watch out of the corner of my eye and being covered in sweat as I juggled the throngs of kids and the newness of performing. I remember feeling so vulnerable after that show.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A million dollars

After a weekend of performing-Saturday with the Bossy Frog Band and Sunday as Jilly Puppets, I feel like a million dollars. I am filled with so much positive feeling about what I do and the many gifts that it brings, that I might as well be sitting here surrounded by piles of glittering gold. Being with the children and their families, whether it's in my six foot Bossy Frog costume or in a goofy Jilly Puppets get-up, means the world to me. I get to dance, sing, play, tell stories in all sorts of ways, teach valuable information, and learn about what motivates people to laugh-what brings people together to share in communal experiences. I am going to bed tonight feeling so rich, so full, and so blessed to have such dynamic,zesty,unique, and life-enriching work.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Spring puppets

I took a short hiatus from focusing on my puppet business to take a Dance Education Laboratory class in the city, at the 92nd Street Y. The class, DEL, was time consuming and wonderful, I met amazing people and had an adventure every Monday evening. Just the act of heading down to the train station in Tarrytown was an act of faith about how important dancing is in my personal and professional life. The DEL class is wrapping up in two weeks. I hope to springboard into choreographing a piece that's been bubbling around in my limbs. Whenever I stop moving, it comes up and forces my mind to explore new movement options. I put down whatever I am doing and dance. But what's kinda cool is that just as DEL is coming to a close, I have started back with puppet show season! Last week I had four puppet shows and I could see that they were all profoundly influenced by what I have learned in the class. Being surrounded by teachers, by master educators and people who really think about how to impart learning in the most holistic, gentle, exciting and fun way has really rubbed off onto how I view and produce my puppet shows. Due to the nature of the beast, a puppet show has a huge improvisational element. Like, when it's freezing out and I can't strum my ukulele because my fingers are numb...then what? Or when twenty more kids show up to the show than planned-what do I do? Yesterday a lawn-mower was blasting in the near-distance. How can I still do a peaceful and connective show with that WHIRRRRRR sound behind me? Staying calm and creative is the only way to appoach these situations, and it's part of what makes being a puppeteer so fulfilling. I plan each show meticulously, just as I would prepare a lesson plan for a classroom, but my mind is always prepared to hover above the plan and improvise to meet the situation. Like when my hands were numb with the whipping Spring winds on Saturday, I could still bang on my drum, so I extended what I had planned for the drum 'call and response' section. And then I used the soft plushy worm puppet as a mitten to sing “The Teacher Song!” With the lawn-mower, I just brought in extra amplification, and with 20 extra kids I pulled up a game where the kids got to talk into the microphone. Keeping focused on my ultimate goal, whether it's communicating an Earth Day theme in a silly and fun way or helping a birthday girl enjoy her birthday show, is my essential focus. And getting there is the improvisational part!