Cal State East Bay

In 2019, while we were working on After the Lullabies, we found out that my dad was dying. In the liminal space surrounding his death, I realized I wanted to become a therapist. That fall, I started taking prerequisite courses. In the fall of 2020, I entered the CSUEB graduate program to become a Marriage and Family Therapist. I’ll finish my education in the spring of 2022, right after my fiftieth birthday.

Cracking Open: The Final Offering

This is it. Most of you know the story.
Exactly two years ago, while on vacation in Norway, I got an idea for a dance-theater piece that I felt driven to create. I went back into the studio as a director/choreographer for the first time in September of that year, with a title (Cracking Open), a few skeleton movement phrases, and a lot of ideas. Then, just a few weeks into our rehearsal process, my little sister died. This piece became her piece.
We’ve performed it at the end of each phase of our rehearsal process, and we finally premiered it this past May. Now, we are sharing it one last time.
If you always meant to join us, but the logistics never worked, this is for you.
If you’ve seen it every time we’ve performed it and still want more, this is for you.
If you saw it long ago but missed our premiere, this is for you.
What: Cracking Open, the Final Offering. Part of SAFEhouse’s SPF/11 summer festival.
When: Thursday, July 12th & Friday, Jully 13th, at 8:00 PM
Where: SAFEhouse Arts, 145 Eddy St in San Francisco.
Who: June Banks, Ari Holtan, Dawn Frank Holtan, Mia Holtan, Amy Marie, Savanna McGrew, Kati Pienimäki Schenker, and Raven Malouf-Renning.
Tickets are available on the SAFEhouse website.
More information is available here.
Please join us.

The Premiere of Cracking Open

It is finally time.

On May 19th & 20th at 6:00 PM at SAFEhouse Arts, we will share the complete premiere of Cracking Open. Tickets are available via Vendini, courtesy of the SAFEhouse RAW program. Seating is extremely limited, so please get your tickets early to ensure that we have space for you.

Cracking Open is a journey through loss. We travel through the darkness. Through saturated colors: red, gold, green, and blue. Through different human frameworks for making sense of our mortality, including nursery rhymes, fairy tales, mythology, biology, and philosophy.

This work has seen me through the loss of my little sister, and it has become an homage to her, and to the wildness of childhood that she so deeply embodied. In this work, we are honoring the loss of innocence, the loss of hope, and the loss of life. In this work, we are celebrating connection.

Cracking Open is like nothing I have ever created before. I am honored to share it with you.

Please, join us.



We are so close to the end of Cracking Open. I have never made a piece like this before. I have never been so driven and so clear about what I want to make. I have never been so willing to spill my sad little girl guts onstage. I have never felt so determined to make exactly what I want to make, regardless of what it looks like to anybody else. I have never worked with people with such different skill-sets, all brought together simply by their real belief in what I’m doing. I still don’t know whether this experience is the product of stepping away from choreographing for 13 years and then coming back, or the result of using the creation process to make sense of grief, or the natural integration of all of the above. Whatever the reason, it is exhilarating. I am grateful to be here.

So. Green is now complete. Steeped in the language of biology, Green looks at how we grow and evolve, the simple fact that everything we need to be fully ourselves has existed within us from the beginning, and the truth that we are never as alone as we sometimes believe ourselves to be.

We will perform the first four sections of Cracking Open (Light in the Dark, Red, Gold, and GREEN) at the new SAFEhouse Arts this weekend. Our performances are:
When: 8:00 PM on Saturday, March 10th and Sunday, March 11th
Where: SAFEhouse Arts, 145 Eddy St in San Francisco.
What: Cracking Open, the Fourth Draft, in a shared program with Rhea Speights and Jenna Valez.
Tickets: Available on the SAFEhouse website.

Since we first started rehearsals in the fall of 2016, we’ve lost three dancers to their busy lives, and we’ve been joined by four more. For these performances, we are welcoming Benny Avalos and June Banks to share the stage with us for the first time. I am stunned by all that they have brought to the piece in the ten short weeks we’ve rehearsed together. June is invigorating our sonic landscape and joining Mia in a delicious duet, and Benny has learned and generated a phenomenal amount of choreography.

In addition, I had the distinct pleasure of working with Randee Paufve during this last rehearsal period. She set a wild, running, dancing, space-consecrating solo on me, which will be our transition from Gold into Green. She makes me breathless. I love her for that–for seeing me, and pushing me.

This is all still a work-in-progress, but we are so close to completing the journey. I get goosebumps thinking about it. Our final performances are also coming up…please, save the dates: May 19th and 20th, also at SAFEhouse, 6:00 PM shows.

Winter Performances!

Thanks to a generous residency at SAFEhouse Arts, we have just passed the halfway point in our creation process. I am so excited to share all three of the sections we’ve created with you!

You are invited to join us for Cracking Open: Light in the Dark, Red, and Gold, at SAFEhouse Arts in November, and Cal State East Bay in December.

All of our upcoming performances will be part of shared evenings of work with other artists, so you’ll be able to see where we are in our process and also enjoy other new performances by awesome local dance, music, and theater folks.



At SAFEhouse Arts 1 Grove St in San Francisco.
Wednesday, November 29th at 8:00 PM
Thursday, November 30th at 8:00 PM
As part of the SAFEhouse RAW series, we will share a program with Cookie Harrist, Nicole Mari Casado, and Maribel Lopez.
Click here for $15 tickets.

At CSUEB PE 140 in Hayward.
Friday, December 15th at 6:30 PM
As part of Eric Kupers’ Shabbat Art-In, we will perform Cracking Open. There will also be healing music, a brief Shabbat ceremony, a Bandelion performance, and the opportunity for you to get up and perform. This is a free event. Click here for more information.

Our current cast of performers includes Chris Gallegos, Mia Holtan, Amy Marie, Savanna McGrew, and Kati Pienimäki Schenker. And!!! I will be performing a new solo created by Kimiko Guthrie to ease our transition from Red to Gold.

As usual, all sound will be performed live, and we will be joined onstage by composer/songwriter Eric Kupers and his musicians Keith Penney (all performances) and Reese Johnson (December only).

Please let me know if you have any questions, and stay tuned…we will create our next section, Green, beginning in January at SAFEhouse Arts so that we can share it with you in March. Then we will get to work on the final section, Blue. Finally, we will premiere the full, evening-length work in May 2018!

SAFEhouse Arts, here we come!

Thanks to Joe Landini and all the amazing folks at SAFEhouse Arts, we will create Gold during my residency there this fall. My residency that begins on September 8th. In other words, rehearsals for Gold, the third section of Cracking Open, are finally about to start. I am so excited! It will be such fun to PLAY again. We’ll take advantage of the lovely upstairs performance studio at SAFEhouse, as well as the downstairs studio that has the ability to go totally and completely dark during the day.

I can’t wait to be back in rehearsal with Mia, Amy, and Kati. We’re going to work with greek mythology and ideas about desire, striving, failing, and falling. Plus gold. Lots of gold–lighting, and apples, and wings, and wealth, and more. (Think Atalanta, Icarus, and Midas.) I’m playing with ideas about the Moirai, the three greek fates controlling the thread of life, and, of course, the classic maiden/mother/crone (Persephone/Demeter/Hecate). Three is a good number.

This past week has been super busy. On Monday, I met with Eric Kupers to talk through my musical plans (he’s taking my reinvented lyrics for “The Distance” by Cake and transforming that into a quirky pseudo-cover that really deviates from the original song). I also had a blast at the SAFEhouse Community day yesterday, running into old friends and making new connections with my fellow lead artists. And, of course, this morning I gutted a broken umbrella and turned it into a golden tree. I’ve also got gorgeous golden wings ready to go. I just need to track down or create some durable golden apples before next Friday…

…stay tuned for future updates, and information about our performances of Gold at SAFEhouse Arts on November 29th and 30th!

June 18th Performances!

: You, and all of us…me, Chris Gallegos, Mia Holtan, Amy LaFaille, Savanna McGrew, Belgica Rodriguez, Kati Pienimäki Schenker, Eric Kupers, Keith Penney and more…
What: A work-in-progress showing of our ficropped-dsc00969.jpgrst two sections of Cracking Open.
Where: PE 140, California State University East Bay, Hayward, CA
When: June 18th at 7:00 PM, and again on June 18th at 8:00 PM.
How much: FREE! Everyone is welcome.

This work-in-progress performance features the first two sections of Cracking Open, which will have a total of five sections when it is completed. Cracking Open is a full-length dance theater performance piece slated to premiere in the early summer of 2018 at the Temescal Art Center.

Cracking Open is created collaboratively. I choreograph and direct, but I always draw from movement devised by the dancers for their bodies. My dancers choose me–I forego auditions in favor of working with anybody that genuinely wants to dance with me, is excited about the work, and shows up to rehearsals. The dancers for this work-in-progress performance of the first two sections of Cracking Open are Chris Gallegos, Mia Holtan, Amy LaFaille, Savanna McGrew, Belgica Rodriguez, and Kati Pienimäki Schenker. Eric Kupers is writing almost all of the music for Cracking Open, and he will perform live with us alongside Keith Penney and other musicians.

This is a piece about experiences that crack us open. We are looking closely at those moments when who we *are* is forever changed. The death of a loved one. Adolescent transformation. The birth of a child. A move across the country. A word used to describe us that transforms us as soon as we hear it. Huge, tiny, happy, sad. What happens when we recognize that we were wearing a shell, and it has cracked open, and we are forced to emerge, raw and exposed? When we have to figure out who we really are? Cracking Open is lit entirely from within by the dancers. Using dramatic shifts in color and tone, we will immerse the audience in an experience that “cracks open” over and over again, to reveal layer after layer of dance, color, language, and music.

Each section of Cracking Open, like a series of nesting dolls, features elements that appear in previous sections, but with a unique color, theme, and feel. While things will seem familiar, they will also constantly be new and emerging. Each section has an associated color of light: Light in the Dark (white light), Red, Gold, Green and Blue. Each color carries an ideological framework, as though when the sections shift we are suddenly viewing the world through a different pane in a stained glass window.

The first two section of Cracking Open, which we will perform for you during this work-in-progress showing, are Light in the Dark and Red.

Light in the Dark was created last fall, and we first shared it in December of 2016 at the Temescal Art Center. It is a direct response to the sudden, traumatic death of my little sister last October. We use nursery rhymes, snippets from Emily Dickinson and the Child Ballads, and my own lyrics to explore loss, loneliness, connection, and transcendence. We are creating our world for this section with lanterns, black umbrellas, a metal bucket of “cootie catchers,” and fairy lights.

Red has been in rehearsal all spring, and this will be our first time sharing it with an audience. In this section, we are experimenting with images of birth and death, with women as trees, with fabric as blood, with adolescent transformation, and with the format of a fairytale as a container for dark metaphors. We are creating our world for this section with red lights, red fabric, wolf masks, and broken umbrellas that have been repurposed to create surreal sculptural elements.

We look forward to sharing this raw, personal work with you, and we will have brief post-performance discussions after both performances so that we can hear your feedback and answer your questions. Thank you for joining us!

Cracking Open: Red

We’re working now on the next section of Cracking Open. This piece was inspired by my experience of transformation as sometimes shocking, sometimes banal, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes mundane, sometimes terrifying, sometimes simple, but always always always slippery and surprising.

Along the way, I realized I want to create different worlds. Different moods. I want to play with lighting from within, and immersing my audience in an experience that “cracks open” to reveal another, very different layer. I remembered one of my favorite children’s books, an illustrated version of Delmore Schwartz‘s poem, “I am Cherry Alive,” and Cracking Open suddenly gained a new structure. The version of “Cherry Alive” that I loved as a child ends with page after page of gorgeous illustrations that are all infused with COLOR: “I am red.” Turn the page. “I am green.” Turn the page. “I am gold.” Turn the page. “I am blue.” Turn the page. “I will always be me, I will always be new.” This is now my skeleton for Cracking Open. What was our rough draft is now our first section. Light in the Dark. And it will be followed by Red, then Gold, then Green, then Blue.

At this point, Red is being brought to life by Amy LaFaille, Belgica Rodriguez, Chris Gallegos, Kati Pienimäki Schenker, Mia Holtan, and Savanna McGrew. Eric Kupers is providing us with music–Red is being choreographed entirely to his “Song for Della.”

In rehearsal, we are working with red lights, red fabric, wolf masks, and broken umbrellas that have been repurposed to create surreal sculptural elements. We are experimenting with images of birth and death, with women as trees, with fabric as blood, and with the format of a fairytale as a container for dark metaphors.

Cracking Open, the rough draft

After a thirteen year hiatus, I started choreographing again in the fall of 2016. I went into the studio in September with an amazing, generous group of dancers: Chris Gallegos, Mia Holtan, Kati Pienimäki Schenker, Belgica Rodriguez and Brandi Szabo. I worked with Eric Kupers, using his music as the bulk of our soundtrack.  “Dawn’s Song” and “Rosh Hashanah 5775” provided our sonic landscape, and we added nursery rhymes .

My goal was to create a piece about experiences that crack us open. I wanted to look closely at those moments when who we *are* is forever changed. The death of a loved one. The birth of a child. A move across the country. A word used to describe us that transforms us as soon as we hear it. Huge, tiny, happy, sad. I wanted to look at how we are changed. When we recognize that we were wearing a shell, and it has cracked open, and we are forced to emerge, all soft and naked. When we have to figure out who we really are, all over again. This was my intent.

On October 6th, 2016, my little sister died. Suddenly, and traumatically. She fell-jumped-flew from a cliff, and her skull cracked open on the rocks below. I was cracked open by loss. This piece became her piece. I added a song of my own to our soundscape, and we worked feverishly to put this work together in just a couple of short months.

In December, 2016 I shared the rough draft of Cracking Open with a kind, empathetic audience at the Temescal Art Center in Oakland. People came out on a rainy Thursday night to witness our performance of this raw, rough draft because I trusted them, and they trusted us. Our audience was both honest and kind as we shared this very vulnerable experiment. And…BANDELION joined us, sharing their healing music ritual between the two performances of our rough draft of Cracking Open. It was a magical night, and it was just the beginning.