Thursday, August 19, 2010

Shapes + Dancers = Creative Fun

I stopped by the children's section of our local library a few days ago and found the picture book Shape Space, written and illustrated by Cathryn Falwell, prominently displayed there. I noticed what looked like a dancer on the cover and so picked up the book to probe further. To my delight, I found that the girl on the cover really was a dancer--and in fact was a choreographer as well.

The book begins with the young girl peeking under the lid of a large red box. Inside she finds a huge collection of rectangles, triangles, semicircles, circles, and squares in a variety of sizes and bright bold colors. The rest of the book is devoted to her creative process--thinking about what to do with the shapes and then using them to build sets, to make costumes, and to toss, hop, tilt, swing (plus a whole lot more) as she choreographs her own special dance. At times, I had trouble finding the rhythm of the book, as it seems to change from time to time and the text rhymes in some places but not in others. But then again, if you think about this book as a "dance" itself, what dance would be exciting if the music and choreography were the same the whole way through, right?

When I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area a few years ago, I once performed a playful modern dance piece called "Off Your Rocker" (photo to the right by Andy Mogg), as part of the Natasha Carlitz Dance Ensemble. With the vibrant colors of the costumes and props, and with choreography that was actually inspired by children, the piece immediately came to mind when I read Shape Space. Isn't it fun when you read a book and it reminds you so much of your own life experience? So I just had to share!


  1. I'm delighted to see your post about my book! Thank you! I've done a more recent book about shapes,too: SHAPE CAPERS was, indeed, choreographed by a local school of dance for a performance. There's a video of it posted here:
    Scroll down to watch.
    Cheers. Cathryn

  2. Hi, Cathryn. I'm so glad you found this post! I enjoyed your book, and my five-year-old really loved it. She needed a little help reading it (as she is just starting to read basic books), but there were lots of exclamation points and so she read the book with such enthusiasm. She especially liked the refrain with all the shapes in it. SHAPE CAPERS sounds great, and I would love to learn more about the local dance performance. In fact, it might be fun to write up a little story about it for another blog entry one day. Did your local paper ever cover it? I had trouble finding the video when I scrolled down the site you gave me, though. I will go now, because this message is getting really long, but hopefully we can catch up again! Thanks :)

  3. Hello again.
    Sorry you couldn't get the video. Tryi t here, directly on YouTube:
    There was an article in our local Gorham Times newspaper---I'll look for a copy.
    Here are some still photos from two other Shape Capers events, although not dance:

  4. Hi, Cathryn. I actually found the video on YouTube the other day, too. The dance is really neat, and the dancers are really good. I just need to find a copy of the book, and I think I'll understand it even better. Thanks for sending along the photos, too. There are a few that are related to movement (even if not directly to "dance"), so would it be ok if I copied them into my blog one day, when I write about Shape Capers? I'm so glad you let me know about this!

  5. This looks like it would be an awesome book for Creative Dance! :)

    1. Hey, I'm glad you found this post! I wrote it before we started our collaboration, but it would be a really fun one to use in class, I think. I found it at our local library, so maybe they would have a copy in yours, too :)


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