A Tulip Unfolding and Say "Yes!" tell the stories of five people living with Parkinson's Disease through their spoken words, dance and music.
Suzanne Ryanstrati founded the dance program at the National Parkisnon's Foundation, Heartland based on the Internatioally recognized Dance for PD program. In addition to public performances, she has been a featured presenter on Parkinson's Disease to medical students in Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri.
Partnership with the community
Jerry, Jan, Drew, Mary and Janice live with Parkinson's Disease. They joined the dancers and director Suzanne Ryanstrati at the National Parkinson's Foundation, Heatrland office. Each person shared memories from different stages in their life, then developed and taught movement repsenting these activities.
Examples included: flying a kite and letting it go, moving heavy machinery, skiing, playing the bass, losing car keys, and eating cupcakes. All movements developed by the cast and storytellers on this day were incorporated into the final 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 history + music.
Ryanstrati interviewed Jerry and wife Dorothy, Jan and wife Jayne, Drew, Mary and Janice in their homes. Interviews were recorded by a professional film crew for use in a sound score.
John Curry, percussionist, composed, Liliales Suite, to accompany the interviews and dances.
Learning that Dorothy makes squaredance dresses and goes dancing with Jerry, she was invited to teach the dancers how to square dance, which was incorporated into the performance.
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.
Lee Hartman, KC Metropolis July 23, 2015
"Incorporating live music from percussionist/composer John Currey and recordings of sufferers of Parkinson’s disease, segments of M. Suzanne Ryan Strati’s 'A Tulip Unfolding' offered insight and sympathy for the trials of the disease for a powerful, emotional work." Libby Hanssen, Kansas City Star February 7, 2016
"Suzanne Ryan’s [Ryanstrati] A Tulip Unfolding had the potential to be one of those “IMPORTANT MESSAGE PIECES” in the Mia Michaels on So You Think You Can Dance vein that all too often I find uncomfortable to watch and a bit tacky. Thankfully, what Ryan created was a bold artistic statement about living with Parkinson’s Disease and was devoid of saccharine artifice and melodramatic histrionics. In its place was the strongest local dancing and most intelligent choreography I’ve seen outside of the Kansas City Ballet this year. Percussionist John Currey accompanied the dancers along with prerecorded spoken word from those with Parkinson’s and their caretakers. The octet of dancers (Samantha Bennett, Branson Bice, Nora Burkitt, Katarina Fitzpatrick, DaJuan Johnson, Hezekiah Lasater, Grace Lewis, and Virginia Smith) were all equal parts powerful, athletic, graceful, technical, and emotive in their opening and closing group numbers. Each hinted at the individual stories to come with certain characteristics like a hand tremor, paralyzed leg, sloppy handwriting, and forgetfulness showcasing Ryan’s impressive formal structure to the entire work with its foreshadowing and later echoes. The inner movements were smaller routines based on true life stories titled “Claussen Duet,” “Quimby Parkinson Duet,” “Mary Trio,” “Jan Solo,” “Drew Solo.” The stories told were as powerful as the choreography and dancing. My personal favorites were those danced by the captivating Fitzpatrick (“Jan Solo”) and the ebullient Johnson in “Drew Solo.” Those selections could easily be replaced by the others but those stuck with me most. When the subjects of the piece joined the dancers for the final bow there was a much deserved standing ovation." Lee Hartman, KC Metropolis July 23, 2015
Ashley Miller, KCMetropolis February 10, 2016
"M. Suzanne Ryan Strati’s work, “A Tulip Unfolding,” included personal testimonies of those suffering from and fighting Parkinson’s disease. John Currey’s soft, live musical accompaniment enhanced the recording. The dancers did remarkable and heartbreaking work representing the individual lives, struggles, and stories of people living with Parkinson’s. The stories were moving as they shed light on the effects of this terrible disease. As someone who has a loved one dealing with this illness, I was incredibly affected and found myself wiping tears away as the dancers took their bows alongside the volunteers who were kind enough to offer their stories from which the piece was created."