Drawn Out

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Seeing “theater” as an addition to our activity schedule here at my senior home, I was certainly intrigued; and more so when I learned that teen-agers would be a part of our experience with this new class Hope Stone, Inc. was creating.

We learned and practiced many techniques; projecting our voices, making eye contact with our fellow actors, using our bodies to express what we wished to convey, impromptu skits, and much more. DSC_8597 We all got to know and appreciate our teachers and each other and had fun. The young people were amusing and full of life. We were all “drawn out,” the shy and the extroverts, as well as we became absorbed by the program.

I would recommend this experience to others, and look forward to more sessions.

Margaret J. Morris
Brookdale Senior Living Solutions Resident
INTERACT participant

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I preach it…

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But is it true?

What a lovely and bountiful spring it is.
So much new, so much renewal, complete with showers and flowers. I am watching and smelling my jasmine take over my front yard on the lovely, quiet and now rare days Ollie and I get to stay home and work.

The new year has been a lot more moving, driving, teaching and outreach for me, and sometimes these “home office days” are slim pickings. It has been a wonderful and fun gift to myself to crawl back into the trenches and leave the desk and computer behind for an hour or so several times a week to teach and be with the students. Nothing reminds me more of why Hope Stone strives for what it does as much as teaching our children, our most important natural resource. It is a treat!

I am joyfully teaching every Monday afternoon at The Branch Enrichment Program as well as Wednesdays at noon at Smartie Pants Academy. At both of these classes, Kelly Myernick Kubin (and often times Kelly’s one-year-old daughter Edie Rose) joins me to assist in the class. We have great discussions driving to and from class. Both these classes have such a special place in my heart. The Branch serves 30 Hispanic children in their after school program, and to watch these children participate in the dance and art world has been so satisfying. At Smartie Pants we teach 35 disabled children, and I love watching Kelly carry Brianna each class, freeing her from her wheelchair, and let her twirl and fly in her arms. Brianna’s head is back in pure joy and her smile across her face reveals the fun she is having!
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But my other fun experience this spring has been not just organizing and administrating, but actually being a student in our newest class, our Vet Drumming Workshops. Every Monday night I head over to class, help set up, and then actually drum with the class. In the 15 plus years that both Terrance Karn and Chris Howard have taught drumming at Hope Stone, I have never had the lovely experience of taking their class. And it is a joy to be reminded that all that I preach about arts in our lives is true…the empowerment I feel as I make music in a community, the release and meditation of the day, the exercise of the brain with a new and challenging task (I leave and my brain feels on fire!), and the absolute giddiness post class. Yep I preach it, and yep it sure rings true. What a present to myself, and in my quest for Art for All, I wish this gift on everyone!
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note: Our Veteran drumming workshop was a a trial class this spring with 8 Free classes offered to our service men & women. We are over the moon that we have received funding to make it a year-long activity for our upcoming 2015-16 season. A small way to thank these brave folks that gifted our country with their service.

From 3 to 13, a decade of Art

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Hi. My name is Zoey Weinstein. I started taking dance at Hope Stone when I was three years old. My mom wanted me to take a simple creative movement class, but it turned out to be so much more. I met some of my best friends at Hope Stone, but most of all I discovered myself. I think Hope Stone has given purpose to many kids throughout the years, and they continue to give back today.
After Hope Stone closed its studio doors in May 2014, I didn’t know what to do. Since then, I’ve realized that you don’t really know how much you’ve gotten out of something until it’s gone. Now, I see that Hope Stone has led me beyond the dance steps. It has taught me to work with an ensemble and helped me become who I am today. I am creative, confident and expressive 13 year old teenager.
This year, I have the amazing opportunity to intern with Hope Stone as an assistant teacher to my former theater teacher and mentor Gayla Miller. The school where we teach is called Generation One Academy. It is a school in Houston’s Third Ward that does not have a full-fledged arts program. The kids I teach are six years old and they are always so enthusiastic and walk into class with a smile. These kids come from tough backgrounds, but they all have positive attitudes and are extremely creative. Their answers to questions always surprise me in the most wonderful way! There was one moment that really stood out to me in a recent class. There is a little boy in the class named Kevin who has always been shy, but one day I realized he was playing the games and doing the exercises perfectly and confidently. The kids listened to a song and had to say what it sounded like to them. The song was mellow and kind of magical sounding. Kevin raised his hand and said, “It sounds like Tinker Bell sitting on the couch.” I could not believe what I had just heard! He described the song perfectly. I would have never thought of it that way. I hope I give these kids an amazing experience every week, because what they give me is priceless.
Aside from teaching at Generation One, I participate in a theater class at Brookdale, an assisted living facility for senior citizens. There are about 10 of my former Hope Stone classmates and 10-15 residents in the class. I love seeing seniors so happy to be learning theater with a bunch of teenagers. I can tell by how they act that they are so grateful to have Hope Stone in their lives, as am I. All of us have grown throughout this year. One resident named Linda stands out in particular. She began the class barely being able to speak. Attending a theater class with a group of teenagers was a brave decision on Linda’s part. Now, she speaks audibly and in full sentences. Fast forward to this spring; Linda is now speaking loud enough for everyone to hear her. She went from barely being able to participate to being fully invested in this class. All of these seniors have been so committed in coming to class every week and I respect them so much for that. Despite the age barrier, we all enjoy each other’s company and have fun together. I love hearing their amazing childhood stories and being able to relate to them even though we are from different generations.
I realize more and more that I am so privileged to have an amazing organization like Hope Stone in my life. I would love to thank all of the teachers and mentors who have guided me throughout the years and helped shape the person I am today. Art, at any age, in any form, is critical to the human spirit. Hope Stone is doing an incredible job of living their slogan. Art for All.

Note–I was Zoey’s teacher at the age of three, and have watched her grow as an amazing young artist and a compassionate human being. Hope Stone Proud.
~j. weiner

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HOPE, LIGHT, LOVE

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I have been a huge fan of Jane’s work since the first time she pulled me into one of her beautiful choreographic worlds, but I have never had the opportunity to work with her. So, as one could imagine, there were some nerves walking into The Barn for our first rehearsal. Jane sat us down to Check-In and passed a box of words around the circle for us each to draw blindly. In retrospect, I drew the single word that could best sum up this entire experience.

The process was a bit unexpected for me. I expected the challenge as a dancer, but never expected to be challenged on a deeper, more personal level. As we Checked-In and Checked-Out every day, I began to piece together all of these beautiful people who I was dancing with — each one a fully developed character full of complex emotions and strange quirks. Perfectly imperfect people who share the one most important core value of love.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with this performance… Being in a new space, with new people, and for me, performing for an entirely new audience. This was my first experience performing for children, and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit, I was more nervous than usual. It wasn’t until the house in Zilkha Hall went dark, and I heard the first round of raucous children’s laughter that it all kind of clicked in my head. Here in front of me was the most generous, honest, and loving audience I would ever have the pleasure of performing for, and for these next six performances, I was going to share my love through the medium I know best: dance.

We wrapped up our journey together at The Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston to a fabulously generous audience, in a beautiful space, surrounded by stunning art. As we said our goodbyes I think I finally really started to understand the healing properties of art. Every person touched my heart in a special way that has taught me what it means to be an artist and a human being. This experience filled my mind with HOPE, my soul with LIGHT, and my heart with the very thing scrawled on that tiny slip of white paper on our first day. LOVE.

Seth McPhail, post “jumping his cruise ship” last year, came and joined Hope Stone Dance for his first season. Lucky us.

Spring Break 2015

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Spring Break 2015
(A bit late in posting, but some musings, thoughts and contemplations I wrote during this year’s Spring Break…not one of travel, warm beaches or cool mountain ski slopes, but of “stay-cationing,” quiet time, reflection and GRATITUDE!)

Spring Break. What a glorious week stuck in the first quarter of the new year, that allows one to stop, reflect, clean, muse, ponder, percolate and catch-up…if one is so lucky!!?

This year it actually worked out that way for me, and I was blessed that it was the week post the seven show run of “i scream.” The week has allowed SERIOUS catch-up ~ e-mail review, storage unit organizing, and navel contemplation. Gratitude abounds as I mull over of the six lovely, young, vibrant audiences at the Hobby Center’s Zilkha Hall, filled with children and teens…some seeing live art for the very first time. The image of my dancers being brilliant, and HUMAN is so strong and engaging in my mind. Seeing them interact with the children, and vice versa is such a beautiful memory.

Post six back to back shows we had the golden opportunity to perform at the CAMH (Contemporary Arts Museum Houston) for one lovely performance in a museum almost empty of exhibits and filled with dance, people of all ages and balloons.
How fun to finish our season in such a magical space…and then head to the Chocolate Bar to celebrate, with ice cream, of course!

I have also had just a lot of quiet time in my office, Oliver Jones the wonder dog and myself, with our back door open to the garden as spring creeps in, reflecting on the year behind me and what steps are ahead? More teaching? New Work? Mindful Arts Education? It has been almost a year since the closing of the studio and this path I am on, with Hope 2.0 has been so full of lovely twists and turns. I wonder what is next…
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Empowerment vs Love

AD9P0377One of my favorite Hope Stone Dance traditions is the “word for the year.” Jane always brings a box full of words for us to pick. Last year I picked ‘Empowerment’. Our first rehearsal for 2015 was Thursday. Things seem different, yet the box was there with the words written in the same font and probably cut with the same scissors. My word this year is Love.

Coming into this version 2.0 of Hope Stone had me excited and curious. Excited to experience my Hope “Stoner” family once again, and curious about experiencing my 2.0 family.

10 months ago I believed this dream job, my family was gone for good, yet life once again proved me wrong. Our first circle happened last Thursday… Some old faces, some new faces… This doesn’t feel the same, I told myself and then I said… Well, I’m not the same.

Last year’s word, ‘Empowerment’, came bouncing out of everywhere. Change was a driving force, fast and furious at that. The rug was pulled from underneath my feet when I heard the news of the studio closing and Hope Stone Dance ceasing. That day however, when all seemed a big blur, one of the biggest growth periods in my life started to take form. Pain was present and the struggle seemed real, but I had a choice, I always have a choice. This time I chose to focus on opportunity instead of pain.

Empowered, I started to create myself all over again… Jane and Hope Stone… I’m forever grateful for allowing the space and time. For allowing the breath, the stillness, the exploration. I’m back 10 months later with a toolbox full of new tools, a different mind (a more quiet one), a broken heart that is now more open.

Sitting in circle this week and listening to everyone check in, I realized that we are all from the same tribe. No matter if this is your 1st or 20th circle, we all share the same heart. It is beautiful to see the growth in each person and their own exploration of their lives.

A hug, a check in, a circle, maybe a tear and a laugh…that’s how rehearsals always start.

It’s been 9 sweaty, sweaty hours of “i scream” time. The show 3000 kids will experience in less than a month at the Hobby Center.
I understand the impermanence of life a bit more now. I know time will fly fast… It always does when you are having fun. So I choose to be present in every moment. I won’t take this experience, these people for granted… I learned my lesson. I don’t know when the next time will be, but I know where my feet are today. They are doing pigeon toe, surfer chick, ‘pane coco?’ point, flex and biscuit… with my Hope Stoner family.

Love is this year’s word… My heart was broken open 10 months ago so I could love more today…

Catalina Alexandra amongst many other wonderful attributes about her, has been a dancer with Hope Stone Dance,since 2008

“Dancing Aggies”

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ohhhh, I had fun last week. The amazing “dancing aggies,” or should I say the dance department of Texas A&M, under the strong and watchful eye of department chair Christine Bergeron, invited me as their guest artist this January 25-30. This marks my third residency with Texas A&M, and what a joy to walk into their brand new 18 month old facility. I had the honor of teaching modern dance technique, pedagogy, dance composition and dance production during my week there, as well as set a new work on both faculty and students entitled “Flower 2.” The students were lovely, open, so ready to learn. One student even blogged about my class and feel so honored to have her write these lovely words:

“With awareness of Jane’s words of encouragement, she peeled away the layers of criticism, fear, and timidity that once clutched my usually rigid, classically trained muscles like chains of weight suffocating the freedom of expression that is dancing. From her quirky instructions of us to hug each dancer for exactly 6 seconds during warm-up, to her articulation of explanation in the expression of choreography, Jane’s whole being enveloped the room with the essence of expression and beauty of interpretation in unique identity.” ~Madison L. Codney

I enjoyed every moment — classes, rehearsals, getting a chance to visit with now dear friends Christine and Carissa (devoted teachers with this program), meeting the new faculty, talking with the students, and even bringing wonder dog Oliver Jones along for the week!! The week flew by and the next thing I knew I was back in the car heading home, filled with more love and passion for my art form.

One side note: The dancers and faculty became aware of my situation of assisting a homeless mother and her four young boys. The last day of class I turned around to 3 large baskets of dry goods, a food card and several other amazing gifts. Yes, compassion lies deep within the soul of the arts and it was so apparent with the amazing giving spirit of these “dancing aggies!”
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Art is Curricular

It’s my first year teaching with Hope Stone Kids, and while I have had many years’ experience teaching creative movement in traditional studios; I find that Hope Stone’s creative movement classes, which are taught to children in their schools, are a different animal. In the dance studio setting, the focus is on preparing the children for future ballet/tap classes, with an emphasis (in many cases) on performing in a year-end recital. In Hope Stone’s classes, the driving force is bringing art into the children’s whole lives– in dance class, the students learn compassion, community, and creativity in addition to movement skills. It’s not so much about creating dancers, but about creating compassionate, artistic, well-rounded citizens. These last four months of teaching for Hope Stone’s satellite program at Small Steps Nurturing Center has challenged me; not only in the way I teach, but in the way I interact with students and the way I look at dance education.

Some of the differences are minor– I only have 25 minutes a week with each pre-school class, as opposed to the 45 minutes I’m used to. Early on in the school year, my classes felt like a whirlwind as I tried to cram what I felt like was a good lesson plan into a short amount of time. Since then I’ve shortened my lesson plan drastically, choosing instead to give the students more time with each activity– and me more time to focus on their individual needs.
Which brings me to my next minor difference– class size and dynamics! I have 12-17 students in each class, and they’re (roughly) 50% boys. Having taught mostly little girls for eleven years, I’ve gotten used to using flowery, girly, “princessy” imagery to describe movements (e.g. “Flap your butterfly wings! Stand tall like a princess! Walk on your toes, like you’re wearing Mommy’s high heels!”). Now I’m a little more conscious of what language I use, and if it’s accessible to both girls and boys.

One of the bigger differences– and bigger challenges for me– was getting used to using “Hope Stone language” and their method of behavior redirection. I’ve become pretty “set in my ways” in how I handle classroom discipline, and adapting to Hope’s way has been good for me. Instead of simply saying “That’s not allowed,” I find a gentle, positive way to redirect the student (“Instead of running, can you show me how high you can jump?”). Instead of giving a misbehaving student a “time out” to collect themselves, I now ask myself why the student is misbehaving– are they tired? In a bad mood? What is that child’s need, right now, and what can I do to meet it? Using these methods has made me a better and more compassionate teacher, both at Hope and in regular studios.

One of the things I love most about teaching for Hope Stone is their belief that art is curricular– it is as important a part of education as math or reading. This is a value I have always held dearly; it frustrates me to no end when I hear people refer to dance or theater as “extra- curricular” or “secondary”. That’s like saying learning to read should be an after-school activity! It makes me so happy to be working with an organization that shares my values, that we’re bringing art to children in their schools. No education is complete without it!

Art for all,
Cassandra
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INTERACT-A Cross Generational Theater Class of Seniors & Teens

NOTE: About ten years ago I read the amazing book “Reviving Ophelia” by Mary Pipher.  Her talk of mixing cross generational communities  with one another placed a seed in my brain that I have been carrying about this past decade.  With some of the new changes and energies of Hope 2.0, I felt it was time to give this idea a chance and thus INTERACT was born: a theater class for Seniors and Teens.  Thankfully Amy Buchanan, one of my theater teachers for HSK (Hope Stone Kids) agreed to try this idea out with me, and so this fall we embarked on a semester worth of classes, and the results have been beyond my wildest dreams.  I decided to ask Rebekah (writer) and Teagan (photographer) sisters & teen students in the class, to write and capture their thoughts on the class for Hope Stone, Inc. through pen and lens. Their beautiful work is below.   INTERACT is part of our newest program THE HOPE PROJECT, in which we are working with other populations, aside from our children & youth focus, such as the elderly, homeless, and returning veterans.  It has been a joy to behold.

Jane Weiner, President & CEO, Hope Stone, Inc.

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This past April my mom forwarded an email to me from Hope Stone, like she has done so many times before. Thinking it was perhaps information about our upcoming show or a reminder of Tech Week dates, I casually began to read the announcement of Hope Stone’s imminent closing. When I got to the end of the email, I rapidly texted my mom and sister, demanding to know if I had really understood it correctly, and unfortunately, I had. The idea that my four year journey with them would be coming to an end was devastating, and that effect was no doubt felt by every other member of Hope Stone, if not stronger. The next few classes and especially the day of our performance were tear-filled and haunted by the fear that the community, the family that we had all come to find in Hope Stone had ended forever.

But over the summer, another forwarded email showed up in my inbox. It was an invitation from Jane Weiner for me to participate in a senior and teenager theater class led by our lovely teacher, Amy Buchanan. At first I was hesitant. I had fixed my mind on the idea that Hope Stone was no longer a relevant part of my life and had not incorporated it into my idea of what the next school year would look like, so when my mom signed me up for the class, I was both nervous and frustrated. I was going into what I had heard was one of the hardest years of high school, and I had decided to start going to a martial arts class for the first time. But one of the biggest intimidating factors was that we would be taking the class with senior citizens, a demographic I think most people my age aren’t commonly exposed to.

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However, when I arrived in class the first day, familiar friends from the Teen theater class and others I recognized from previous years greeted me. We got to the room we have our classes in and everyone was seated in a circle, so we dispersed ourselves so that everyone sat next to someone new. We introduced ourselves to the group with an exercise and all recited lines from Shakespeare, and we interacted with each other in ways both familiar to me from my previous Hope Stone classes and unique to our new community. Amy dubbed one of the seniors, Annie, Queen for the day, and for the entirety of the class we addressed her as Queen Annie. When it was time to leave, I was hugged by at least two seniors that I hadn’t talked to yet and they genuinely thanked me for coming. I was surprised by the forwardness of their appreciation and lack of bashfulness during class, traits you don’t see very commonly in teenagers, and when I got in the car to go home, I was smiling and ready to come back the next week.

During the first few weeks of our class, Amy and Rebecca led us through exercises exploring the use of our bodies and voices for storytelling and what that looks like when used effectively. Some of the exercises I recognized, like passing an object like a cup around the circle and naming a drink before passing it on, and others were new to me, like forming an imaginary ball and then throwing it to another person who changes the size, shape, and weight of the ball. Even with the exercises I know, the dynamics of them are changed by both the size of our group and the age. For example, passing around the cup took longer than it did with our previously smaller teens class, but some seniors threw in more mature answers than any of the teenagers would have dared to give, making it all that more fun and exciting.

While our senior and teen class may not have the same structure as our all-teenage class did, it’s just as rewarding and special. Now when I walk into class, I am immediately greeted by smiles, a refreshing sight after a long day of school. Being able to watch the seniors brighten when it’s their turn to respond to a prompt is something I’m grateful to be able to witness. It’s strange to think that earlier this year I was planning ahead without Hope Stone in the picture, and now it’s come back as a central part of my life like it never left. Thank you for providing so many people with so much, Hope Stone, and may it be a long time before you stop.

~Rebekah Ashworth

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all photos by Teagan Asworth

A New Hope ~ An Adventure in Optimism

Welcome to the new season for Hope Stone, a sort of Hope Stone 2.0. I, along with the Board of Directors, am very excited to present what I see as the first steps towards Hope Stone’s future. While the closing of the studio seemed overwhelming at the time, it gave me the opportunity to do a great deal of soul searching about what I valued and treasured in the work of Hope Stone. As one door closed, many windows opened and Hope Stone 2.0 has evolved into a new organization.

Our mission remains: Hope Stone, Inc. unlocks the innate creativity of young people and adults through our arts out reach programs with a vision of art for all.

It is the vision of ART FOR ALL that drives our mission, and we aim to reach our communities with that vision through Hope Stone Kids, THE HOPE PROJECT, and Hope Stone Dance.

HOPE STONE KIDS (HSK)

simplify-hopestone-2At the core of Hope Stone is Hope Stone Kids. This year HSK celebrates 12 years of work and will be stationed in five schools teaching deeply rich, beautiful, mind changing arts education. This program is the most impactful of our programs, and we are moving strongly into the satellite model. The schools chosen all service low-income families/children, and support a range of children: pre-school, disabled, elementary, middle and high school. Our goal is to ultimately stay in these schools for three years, expanding the classes we reach each year while deepening the arts experience for the children, and ultimately becoming their arts education outsource.

Parallel to this work is our Teacher Training Methodology – “The Art of Teaching.” We will continue to strengthen the methodology and the teaching of it so as to grow the “Army of Artists” necessary to transform the role of the arts in our education system.

THE HOPE PROJECT         

The second program is a new one, and a direct offshoot of HSK. THE HOPE PROJECT takes the idea of “Art for All” beyond the K-12 classroom and into adult populations. Last year, our work with the homeless at The Art Project Houston was a great success, so we want to continue to reach adult populations in need. This fall we are implementing a 10-week theater class with senior citizens and teenagers called INTERACT with theater teacher Amy Buchanan. We will also work with Wounded Warriors starting in January with an 8-week drumming class for returning veterans, taught by master drummer Chris Howard.

Our goal is to reach adult populations in need such as the elderly, veterans, homeless, and cancer survivors, and demonstrate and verify the effectiveness of Art for All in any adult population.

HOPE STONE DANCE (HSD)

I also realized over the summer that I did not want to put the dance company fully to rest. Instead, I am very interested in doing project-based work as well as growing our arts education performance part of Hope Stone Dance. Last year’s Discovery Series performances at the Hobby seen by over 3,000 children and teenagers were a great success. When we were asked to return to the Hobby’s Discovery Series next March, it helped us make the decision to move forward with this version of the dance company. Hope Stone was also chosen for the second year in a row to be funded by the Texas Commission for the Arts (TCA). In conversations with the TCA, I recognized the huge need for the arts education performance part of Hope Stone in rural Texas. With two strong and highly developed pieces that are excellent choices for a younger audience, complete with study guides, our goal for the next 3-5 years is to expand our mission/vision through touring in rural Texas, especially post our very successful tours in the past two years to Abilene and Brownsville/South Padre.

So, upon invitation, HSD is pleased to be performing last year’s premiere “i scream” at both the Hobby’s DISCOVERY SERIES, and the CAMH’s Family Series. Bill Arning describes it as “Pina Bausch for children!”

Stay tuned for dates and times and join us!


As Hope Stone hits its “refresh” button, I hope you will return often to our website and blog to see the work we are doing and how you can join us towards our vision of Art for All. Thank you always for your support.

Jane Weiner

President & CEO