Intro to Contact Staff with Eric Tondreau

We’re really psyched to introduce Eric Glickman-Tondreau, who will be teaching our Intro to Contact Staff class. If you’re looking to “step outside your comfort zone” and stretch your limits, Eric will give you that opportunity—and then some!

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What is contact staff, and how did you first become interested in learning it? How long have you been practicing?

Contact Staff is a form of object manipulation: playing and moving with a prop in a beautiful and skillful way. It’s a fusion of dance, performance, and circus, among other things, and centers around the philosophy of spinning a staff around without holding it in your hands. By experimenting with various properties of the staff like its momentum, axial rotation, the speed of its revolutions, orientation in space, and its position along the body, contact staffers have come up with a repertoire of beautiful and technically impressive movements that can be executed without ever grasping the staff, leading to a beautiful and often improvised flowing dance between the manipulator and the object.

I found contact staff completely by accident. As a freshman at Tufts in the fall of 2011, I went on a pre-orientation wilderness hike as a way of getting to know people before the year started. One of my team-members was a juggler, and we became friends over the next five days. Later, during actual Orientation, he went to some event to find the juggling club, and I tagged along because there was food. The club happened to have a staff lying around, and because I have experience in martial arts I asked if I could play with it. Kevin Gao, the club president, watched me spin for a while, and then said “You should totally come to the open fire practice on Thursday!” (to which I responded, “thewaitwhatnow? you do what!?”)

Naturally I went, and was introduced to an amazing community of crazy hippies, dancers, acrobats, and everything in between, all playing with these awesome toys and lighting them on fire, right on the Tufts campus. I met a guy named Cookie (because he makes amazing spicy cookies) who coached me through my first burn session, and from there I was hooked. The roar of the fire and the heat and the adrenaline rush captivated me, and I’ve been in love with spinning ever since. I’ve been practicing now for about two and a half years, and now I’ve come to love the discipline of contact staff for its own sake, even without the fire, and I regularly perform with an unlit staff because it allows for much more exploration of the staff’s potential.

You just returned from a semester in Spain! Tell us about the fire performance community you found there. Do you have any fun stories to share from your time abroad?

Although Spain was amazing, I never found any fire community! I kept hearing about people in Barcelona, but I was living in Madrid, and the most I ever found was a guy juggling on the side of the road outside of the Atocha train station. He told me about a circus school in the big natural park called Casa de Campo, on the west side of Madrid, but I could never find it. I also didn’t bring my staves with me to Spain, so I made up for the lack of practice by taking a physical theater class that taught me all about bringing emotion and imagery into my body movements, which will be incredibly helpful for future fire performances. I’m actually really happy to be back Stateside now, because I can finally get back to spinning again!

There’s actually a pretty great story from that class: our mid-semester performance was a Zombie March on Halloween, in Alcalá de Henares, the city where Cervantes lived and wrote Don Quijote! We taught a whole crowd of people the movements, and then we all got made up like zombies and paraded down the Calle Mayor, scaring people and dancing to the traditional University band, or tuna, which got zombified and played music for us! That was an awesome time.

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What can Skillshare participants expect to take away from your class? Is there a recommended fitness level?

Participants should expect to leave the class knowing some of the basic moves of contact staff, and (hopefully) the basics to an intermediate move. The class requires no prerequisites, and is open to pretty much all ages. Height is the key factor, because a shorter person or child will feel more comfortable with a shorter staff. However, we will be working with spinning sticks made out of metal and wood, and mistakes can happen, resulting in the bumps and bruises that come with swinging hard things around. That said, this is not an intensive sports or martial arts class, so risk is present, but minimal. Students should be aware and focused while learning and practicing, and that will avoid 99% of accidents. In addition, there is a vast repertoire of beginner moves, so if a student doesn’t feel comfortable with what I’m teaching the rest of the class, I can show them something that is better suited for them. Don’t let the physicality of the art scare you off, it’s actually a fantastic way to get moving and get to know your body.

If Skillshare attendees fall in love with this technique just as you did, are there classes or private lessons locally available?

Although I found contact staff and fire-spinning through Tufts students, the Greater Boston is full of amazing spinners of all types of props, and there are lots of weekly meetups where people can just show up and practice or ask questions. In the community, these are called “Spinjams” (because we get together to spin props and jam to music) and they generally have two rules:

  1. If you see something cool, ask about it!
  2. If someone asks you about something you’re doing, show them!

Because of this, it’s incredibly easy to start learning whatever you want, and we never ask for money unless it’s a pre-scheduled class by a professional spinner, or a spinning convention retreat. Like the Somerville Skillshare, the spinner community believes in free access to our knowledge, and we work hard to strike a balance between supporting the professionals in our ranks and keeping the community open.

Here are the two active Spinjams I know of in the greater Boston area. I am regularly at the Medford Spinjam, and I try to get out to the Boston Spinjam as often as I can.

Medford Spinjam: Thursdays from 6:30pm-10:00pm at Tufts University. This is the Boston’s only legal open fire practice (weather permitting)

Boston Spinjam: Mondays from 6:00pm-8:00pm. Generally a larger crowd than Medford, but no fire.

In addition, I’m helping to organize a large two-day workshop in conjunction with the Medford Spinjam. It’s called WOMBAT (Winter Object Manipulation Bootcamp at Tufts) and it’s not in winter. There will be classes for all levels, and some amazing performances, and I would encourage everyone who takes my class and enjoys it to come!

Eric offers this commentary on the video above:

In the spring of 2013, the alternative percussion group BEATS (Banging Everything At Tufts) approached my club (the Jumbo Jugglers and Medford Spinjam) about filming us for the multi-media portion of their spring show “4/20” show on April 20th. Because of the serendipitous nature of their performance date, they wanted something really weird, and we were happy to oblige. The footage came out great, and as a thank you the BEATS cinematographer Jack LeMay cut together this promo for us. The people in the horse and unicorn masks are BEATS members who were dancing with us during the filming. And no, the actual video didn’t make much more sense.

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If you have any questions about Eric’s class, feel free to contact him by email at eric DOT tondreau AT tufts DOT edu. You can also follow him on Twitter at @EIG_T.

Imaginary Mapmaking with Emily Garfield

Perhaps our most unique Skillshare class is Emily Garfield’s Imaginary Mapmaking. Emily is an incredibly talented Somerville-based artist with a long-standing interest in cartography, architecture, city planning, and other fields we might not typically think of as “artistic.” We’re very excited to tell you more about this class and all the “outside-the-box” ideas and inspiration that Emily has to offer you on March 2nd!

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Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be an artist? How did you arrive at imaginary mapmaking as your artistic specialty?

I always drew and made things as a kid, but artist was never on my list (I wanted to be a florist or a landscape designer, after I got over wanting to be a ballerina). I don’t think anyone who knew me growing up is surprised by my current medium, though. I liked drawing mazes and building houses in the woods. When I got to college I majored in art, though my course of study was also focused on aesthetics (in poetry, philosophy, and a lot from cognitive science). I drew maps for my senior show as an extension of my interest in cities and fictional architectural environments, and it fit in with what I had learned about the aesthetic draw of fractal patterns.

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Where do you find your inspiration?

The maps are more about speculative cities than existing fictional places. I’m actually mostly interested in the process of drawing something fractal like a map, and how that process is similar to the way cities grow and also how we perceive them. I read a lot about emergence, city planning, perception, memory, architectural theory. I’m very interested in how people create mental maps to navigate the spaces around them, and I see some of my maps as those kind of personal vignettes of place.

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You grew up in New York City, so we’re interested to hear about the path that led you to Somerville. How does the local arts community support you in your work?

I lived in New York until I left for college in Providence, and after that all my friends were moving to the Boston area so it seemed like a good next step. I’ve actually found the Somerville arts community to be a better environment for me, too. I know a lot of people here who are making their art just for the sake of the art, and it’s very inspiring. I’ve been learning a lot right now because I’m coordinating Somerville Open Studios this year, so I’m thinking actively about the connections between artists and also meeting a lot of fascinating creative people.

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What can Skillshare participants expect to learn in your class? Do they need any prior experience in drawing or mapmaking?

Though the medium is mapmaking, the takeaway will also be a lot about thinking creatively and cultivating visual inspiration. I’ll show some of the techniques that I use, but maps mean so many things to people that the medium is ultimately personal. No experience necessary; I’m looking forward to seeing what kinds of maps people make!

 

Read more about Emily’s Imaginative Mapmaking class over on the classes section of our website. You can find her on the web at EmilyGarfield.com, on Twitter at @emilygarfield, and on Etsy as well!

Creative Writing with Camille DeAngelis

IMG_4064_2Camille DeAngelis will be teaching our Intro to Creative Writing class. Camille is the author of the novels Mary Modern (Crown, 2007), Petty Magic: Being the Memoirs and Confessions of Miss Evelyn Harbinger, Temptress and Troublemaker (Crown, 2010), and the forthcoming Bones & All (St. Martin’s Press, 2015). She’s also written a first-edition guidebook, Moon Ireland (Avalon, 2007). She received her B.A. from New York University in 2002 and her M.A. in Writing from the National University of Ireland, Galway in 2005. She blogs about books, writing, travel, crafting, and veganism at Cometparty.com. (She’s also one of the Skillshare organizers!)

Give us the lowdown on who you are and what you do. Why do you write?

Thanks to my book-loving mother and grandmother, I’ve always been an enthusiastic reader. When I was nine I remember surveying my bookshelf one night looking for something I hadn’t already read, and it occurred to me that there was a real person behind each of the novels on my shelf, that I could write a book of my own someday. I made my first attempt when I was in college—I call it my “practice novel”—and because of that experience I was able to write a second novel that was “publishable.”

I write stories I myself would want to read. Of course, I can’t have the experience of tucking myself in for a delicious new novel, but I don’t mind. As its author, I get to experience the story in the richest sense: as I’m writing I still get to wonder what’s going to happen next, and as weird as it may sound, the affection I feel for my favorite characters runs almost as deep as what I feel for real-life loved ones.

As much as I love to write, though, I consider it a relatively small part of who I am. I try to live creatively in general, which for me means a daily yoga practice, art and craft (knitting, sewing, drawing), and vegan cooking and baking. I strongly believe that cutting all animal products out of my diet has sparked huge breakthroughs in my creative and spiritual life, and last year I became a certified vegan lifestyle coach to help others enjoy heightened creativity through compassionate eating. (This is something you can read more about on my website, if you’re so inclined.)


5.1875 x 8 (.75 spine)You’re from New Jersey originally. What brought you to Boston? What’s been your experience of the writing community here?

I moved to Chestnut Hill last April to take a part-time job at an ESL school called Kings College. I needed a fresh start and already had several good friends in the area (one of whom actually sent me the job posting), so the move fell into place too easily not to be fated! I spend quite a bit of time in Somerville, and I may very well move there once I’ve wrapped up my time at Kings.

As for community, over the spring and summer I would attend a poetry reading here and there (the U35 series, for instance, is always worth attending), but it wasn’t until the Boston Book Festival in October that I found out about the Writers’ Room. I’m a member there now, and though we go there to work there’s always the potential for a stimulating conversation over break-time coffee. I’m also a Grub Street member, and I’m looking forward to taking my first workshop there in 2014. Most of my writing friends are in New York, and I do hop on Megabus to go down for readings and parties sometimes, but I certainly don’t feel that New York is the best place for writers to live and work. Boston is my home now, and I’m looking forward to making more writer friends here in the coming months.

No-Stress Storytelling with Yours Truly

No-pressure story prompts.

Your published novels, Mary Modern and Petty Magic, might be described as literary fantasy. How did you come to write in that genre?

The short answer is that I write fantasy because I get enough real life in real life. Someone once said to me, “I wouldn’t know how to identify with a scientist who clones her grandmother,” to which I replied, “Did you love your grandmother? Have you ever wondered what you were supposed to do with your life? Have you ever felt completely alone in the world?” It doesn’t matter where the story is set, or if the characters are even human. There is a collective range of experience and emotion that applies to all sentient beings, and you draw on that well of feeling every time you sit down to lose yourself in a good story.

hi res PM for websiteWhat can Skillshare attendees expect to gain from Intro to Creative Writing?

We’re in a tender place when starting out on any creative endeavor, and I believe that my role as a writing teacher—facilitator, really—is to encourage you to honor any and all creative impulses, to use your intuition throughout that process, and to give you the space to recognize that you absolutely do have a unique contribution to make. Not everyone will publish a novel or see their poem in a literary journal, but everyone can experience joy through storytelling. After all, every one of us has been telling stories since we were old enough to speak!


Can folks take your class even if they aren’t interested in writing fantasy?

Absolutely! You can apply the techniques and exercises I’ll cover in the Skillshare class to any form or genre. Even if you simply want to develop a daily journaling practice (which I highly recommend to anyone and everyone), I’ll offer plenty of inspiration to get you started—or, to be more accurate, I’ll show you how to inspire yourself. I’m a big believer in that mystical notion of the greatest teacher being the one you find within.

 Find Camille on Twitter, Facebook, and at Cometparty.com. You may also want to check out her writing workshop video series on Youtube.

Printmaking with Liz Corkery

We’re very excited to introduce Liz Corkery, owner of The Print Club, who will be teaching our Basic Silkscreen Printing class at the first-ever Somerville Skillshare at the Armory on Sunday, March 2nd, 2014! Liz has studied art in London and Australia, and she recently received her MFA from Cornell University. She lives and works in Somerville.

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Tell us about the artistic path you took, from childhood into adulthood. Did you dream of making art from a young age?

I loved drawing and painting as a child, when I was about five I coined the term “hard blocking” for my favorite, heavy-handed crayon technique. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I became committed to the path of making art my career. It was always what I wanted to do but the pragmatist in me probably always assumed I would ultimately just be bringing my creative skills to some related field rather than directly focusing on a full-time art practice. Both my parents are in the design field (landscape architects) and so when I decided to go to art school at 18 it wasn’t contentious at all. After graduating I moved to New York – perhaps an artist rite of passage and after working there for a couple of years began my MFA at Cornell which I finished this past May.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I’m inspired by incredibly varied things that I usually stumble across during my endless trawling through blogs and art books. I love to travel and find myself in unfamiliar environments. I also really enjoy visiting exhibitions of contemporary artists and looking at the specific choices they make about the display of their work and the gallery space as an installation; their placement, framing or control of audience movement.

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A hand-pulled screenprint in The Grid, The Trellis series.

What can people expect to learn in your Skillshare class?

The class is going to cover all the equipment required for screenprinting, what type of paints to use, what kind of screen mesh is appropriate for different projects and we’ll look at how stencils are made. Because of the time constraints we’ll be coming with pre-prepared screens that class participants can choose colors and learn to screenprint themselves. I’ve been working on a really cool Somerville-themed design that I think our class members will enjoy printing on posters or bags (or both!)

Why did you decide to base your business in Somerville?

When my partner (a printmaker too!) and I were moving to Boston we were both extremely unfamiliar with the city and its different neighborhoods. Somerville kept being mentioned by friends and colleagues as a great area for supporting the arts and was home to a lot of creative people and groups. We’ve really felt that since living and working here and the Somerville Arts Council in particular is such a uniquely committed and supportive organization, we’re excited to grow as a Somerville-based creative business.

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A hand-pulled screenprint in The Grid, The Trellis series.

Check out Liz’s screenprinting and installation work on her website. There are lovely limited-edition silkscreen prints available in the Print Club online store.