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 Shaking and Shocking

A peek into the Artistic Process of creating Shaking & Shocking

Shaking & Shocking is a collection of dances inspired by the strength, tenacity and wisdom I find in people with Parkinson’s Disease. Here are some personal thoughts about how each section was created.

shaking and shocking

Photo credit: Rob Thomas

22 Pills
This piece was inspired by my friend, Herb Heinz. I have been conducting interviews with him for the last 5 years about his experience having PD. I was particularly struck by the fact that he was taking 22 pills a day. His life sounded as if it was regulated by beeps. The notion about when one takes meds in relationship to consuming food– particularly protein – requires major adjustments to daily living.
Herb Heinz performed 22 pills and described his dilemma of eating. Projected in the background are the words of Rose Firestone describing her strategy of eating protein in the evening when the body needs less dopamine.


Photo credit: Giacobazzi Yañez

Elephantine Spider
I imagine having Parkinson’s Disease is like moving like an elephant and a spider. Slowing down and feeling heavy, not being able to move like you want to and the whole drag of it all being one side. The other side reflecting the spider quality, which shows a wonky precariousness with traveling through space with PD. The metamorphosis of those two dissimilar ideas and movements into one manifests for me as a Butoh concept. This piece was a way to examine what living with PD could be like.



Photo credit: Matt Haber


Work on this piece started in the fall of 2012 and was originally danced to an interview with Rose Firestone three days before she was going in for Deep Brain Stimulation surgery. This subject was particularly interesting to me because my friend, Herb Heinz, was considering having this procedure as well.
The piece was first called “Shockingly Rosy” because Rose was so optimistic. At the same time, Herb postponed three times due to fear regarding the procedure.
This led me to interview Ray Ponce, Dave Alport and Luanne Wilson about their experiences having the surgery and regulating the amount of electrical impulse.
This is a particularly hard piece for me to create. I wanted to give a balanced view on the subject, but it was a very complex subject. I’m striving to put information out and not necessarily encourage nor discourage anyone from undergoing the procedure. In essence it is an inquiry of people’s experience with DBS.



Photo credit: Matt Haber


This is a group dance in a more traditional Modern Dance sense. The movement was created around the time I was interviewing neurologists Dr. Ananth Acharya and neurosurgeon Dr. Phillip Starr. Joel Davel, the composer, wanted to explore the idea of how movement has to slow down due to Parkinson’s Disease. The intention is to examine through movement the notion of slowing down and speeding up along with the firing and sluggish firing of synapses.


Authentic Chicken
This dance is an exploration about being a chickenosaurus. I saw a TED talk by Jack Horner, a paleontologist, who is working with a scientist who is looking for a gene that reabsorbs the tail of the chicken.Horner is trying to create a dinosaur from a chicken.
I appreciate how science can manipulate or play with evolution and also help raise the quality of life. It also appeals to me as the Butoh concept of two metamorphosing into one. We have worked on this blending of creatures in class. The absurdity of embodying the energy of the chicken/dinosaur is challenging. Can we take ourselves seriously and embody a dancing chickenosaurus?

The PEACE Project; Shaking & Shocking

2013 World Premiere

Laney College Theater


Photo credit: Matt Haber

Brooklyn’s PEACE
In fall 2011 I started interviewing people with Parkinson’s Disease who live in Brooklyn. I began working with members of the Brooklyn Parkinson Group (Manny Torrijos, Joy Esterberg, Cynthia Gilbertson and Pamela Quinn) and members of the Mark Morris Dance Group, Youth Company II – (Cailey Surface, Willa Goldman and Aminata Conteh). I also had the privilege of working with New York based dancer Janelle Barry and dNaga dancers Erin Landers, Lucie Jerome, Julia Yoshino and Clara Castronovo.
While in Brooklyn I had the opportunity to meet and interview BPG members and was warmly received by their community. Conducting the interviews and creating this dance has taught me more about my own identity and process of learning how to accept one’s self. In the process of creating the dance the cast got a chance to examine how the dancers with PD gracefully had compassion for themselves.

Photo credit: Matt Haber

The creation of this project was a bi-coastal effort, developing movement vocabulary in Oakland and teaching it in New York and vice versa.

In this inception of the work, Brooklyn’s movement vocabulary was inspiration for PD Active members and dancers, Patricia Needle, Herb Heinz, Rose Firestone and Scott Holloway.
Amazingly, the premiere at the Mark Morris Dance Center in November 2012 was filmed for a documentary by Dave Iverson called “Capturing Grace”, which focuses on the Mark Morris Dance Group and their wonderful Dance for PD.
I’d like to thank Cyndy Gilbertson and Leonore Gordon for their generosity and support. A huge thank you also to David Leventhal for all his support towards making Brooklyn’s PEACE possible.

Dnaga Dancers:

Shosi Black, Clara Castronovo, Tanya Chianese, Elias Coerver, Catalina Jackson Urueña, Livvy Keller, Khalil Lamnaouar, Erin Landers, Yvette Lehman, Julia Milani, Nataly Morales, Claudine Naganuma, Mady Tompkins and Chelsea Ware

Dancers with Parkinson’s

Scott Holloway is an artist working in Oakland. The challenge of Parkinson’s has given him new inspiration in the studio. Learning the language of dance with Parkinson’s has been a total surprise, and a collaborative joy. He is grateful for the PD Active community and the chance for this further expression of life. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s nine years ago.

Warren Brunetti retired from the Internal Revenue Service in 2003. This concluded a varied career that included marketing research, independent retailer, property development and high school math teacher. Currently Warren does volunteer notary services for the Mastick Senior Center in Alameda, takes Osher Lifelong Learning Institute courses at UC Berkeley and participates in dance class from PD Active. During his younger years, Warren took dance lessons in tap and ballet from Pearl Kay in Berkeley. Warren was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in December 2008.

Herb Heinz is an artistic explorer. He loves to dance, sing, play instruments, bang on things, tell stories, and make stuff up, especially in challenging or mysterious situations. Herb believes that his background in the arts helped prepare him to navigate the unpredictable twists and turns of Parkinson’s which he has been living with since January of 2000. He attended his first dance class in 2007—a Dance for PD class taught by dancers from the Mark Morris Dance Group at Danspace in Oakland—and has been dancing ever since. The class also inspired Herb and several other folks with Parkinson’s to form PD Active, a unique non-profit organization that sponsors weekly dance and yoga classes and many other activities for people with Parkinson’s in the Oakland/Berkeley area.

Patricia Needle worked as a Registered Nurse for 33 years, both in the Boston area and San Francisco. She enjoyed working in medicine, but saw it as a stepping-stone to her work in the field of psychiatric illness. She worked in inpatient psychiatry at San Francisco General Hospital. For the last eight years of her career, she worked in community programs providing direct care to Tenderloin residents. Since she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in September 2008, family, friends, and the wonderful people who comprise and collaborate with PD Active and the San Francisco Parkinson’s Disease group have buoyed her up.

Rose Firestone, AKA Rose Firestone Schuerman worked for 25 years as an adult education teacher and program manager in community-based Parenting and ESL classes. She was instrumental in creating and operating the Hayward Technology Center, providing free computer use for the community. In 1997, when Rose was in her 40’s, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She retired from teaching in 2010, and her first step to better health was to enroll in PD Active’s Dance for PD classes. Rose had Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery in February 2012, which “improved almost everything—even balance.” She joined the Board of Directors for PD Active in 2012.

Ray Ponce’s love of dancing began when he attended college at San Francisco State University and met his wife Sandy. They are always the first on the dance floor whenever music is available. He was in the jewelry business for 28 years. When diagnosed with Parkinson’s, he decided to remain active. Ray realized that dancing was one occupation that gave him joy in spite of Parkinson’s. Dancing and daily exercise has helped him to maintain his strength for 23 years.

Yvette Lehman was born in Brooklyn, New York, the oldest of four very active children. As an adult she had an interest in children and family life, accounting for a 40 year career in nursery school teaching followed by teaching child development classes at the college level. Learning that Dance for PD was in Brooklyn, she is very excited at the thought of possibly going back to New York to dance.

Dr. Anath Acharya, Dave Alport, , Carol Crasnow, Joy Esterberg, Rose Firestone, Cynthia Gilbertson, Herb Heinz, Richard Malanga, Ray Ponce, Dr. Phillip Starr, Manny Torrijos and Luanne Wilson
Claudine Naganuma, Artistic Director and Choreographer
Joel Davel on Marimba Lumina and Lightning, Composer and Live Musician
Dale MacDonald, Lighting and Projection Designer
Lisa Gervolstad, Costume Designer
Scott Holloway, Painter

Support for development and production of Shaking & Shocking has gratefully been received from East Bay Fund for Artists at the East Bay Community Foundation, the Puffin Foundation Ltd., Clorox Foundation, Shake ‘Em Up, Inc., OakCare Medical Group, and individual donors.

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