Artistic process: A tulip Unfolding Performance

A Tulip Unfolding, Modern Dance, Parkinson's Disease, Suzanne Ryanstrati
Square Dance, Grace Lewis, Nora Burkitt, Samantha Bennett, Virginia Smith, Hezekiah Lasater, Parkinson's, A Tulip Unfolding, Suzanne Ryan, Ryanstrati, Modern dance
Square dance, Parkinson's, Grace Lewis, Virginia Smith, Samantha Bennett, Nora Burkitt, A Tulip Unfolding, Suzanne Ryan, Ryanstrati

A Tulip Unfolding is a dance, theater and music performance that tells the stories of five people living with Parkinson's Disease. 

At the initial meeting, dancers met the persons whose stories they would tell through movement. They sat in a circle in the room. One by one the dancers and storytellers shared aspects of our lives while building choreography as a group. For example, Jan liked to "fly a kite and let it go" and then taught everyone in the circle arm movements to represent that activity. Other examples include: moving heavy machinery, skiing, playing the bass, losing keys, and eating cupcakes. All movements developed by the cast and storytellers on this day were incorporated into the choreography. 


First Row: Grace Lewis, Nora Burkitt, Jan Carolan, Virginia Smith, Katarina Fitzpatrick, Jerry Claussen

Back Row:  Branson Bice, Drew Dimmell, Jan Parkinson, Hezekiah Lazater, Samantha Bennett, Mary Beveridge, Dorothy Claussen & Suzanne Ryanstrati. John Currey and DaJuan Johnson not pictured.

Oral Histories and Choreography Development

Ryanstrati and documentary producer, Kathi Kamin,  traveled to the homes of people living with Parkinson's Disease involved in the initial meeting. Here the film crew loaded-in for two hours, and Suzanne interviewed the participant(s) for an hour. The interview was edited collaboration and integration of music, rehearsals and the performance. At the conclusion of all interviews, there were over 5 hours of interview footage which was later edited into shorter segments for the performance.


Dancers learned and rehearsed the choreography while the music composition, Liliales Suite, was composed by  John Currey. The dance included original choreography by Suzanne Ryanstrati, as well as those contributed in the meeting of the storytellers and the cast.


Dorothy and Jerry enjoy square dancing. Dorothy, in the photo  wearing a squaredance dress she made in her home,  taught the dancers how to square dance.  This movement was llater reconstructed in the rehearsal studio. Ryanstrati abstracted and refined the movement before the premiere.


Storytellers Jan and Mary attended rehearsals. Ryanstrati asked them "how" they did certain aspects of their stories in order to accurately portray them on stage. For exaple Jan reviewed scripts for the Hallmark Hall of Fame Movies for Television.  Mary, in the photo sitting in the chair wearing white pants,  attended a rehearsal where she and Ryanstrati worked with the dancers to create accurate movement to portay her story. Here, they are exploring ways to play the piano.


The professional film crew captured all aspects of the artistic process, from the interviews, to rehearsals and the premiere performance for use in a documentary.