26: Control

January 26, 2021 1:10 pm

Dancing with complete control. Dancing without control.

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20: Exhaust

January 20, 2021 5:05 pm

Feeling energized by today while fighting a migraine that just won’t quit.  Enjoying moving in a new space.

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19: Twenty

January 19, 2021 1:14 pm

20 seconds from a one minute improv to the Beastie Boys.

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15: Recreate

January 15, 2021 4:21 pm

Recording with phone on sternum.

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14: Accumulate

January 14, 2021 9:41 pm

Enjoyed getting back to my daily practice today!  

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11: Switch

January 11, 2021 10:18 am

A peeling myself off of the floor while feeling bad dance.

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10: Light

January 11, 2021 10:17 am

Didn’t press record of a 10 minute improv.  Did record myself texting.

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8: Flame

January 9, 2021 3:02 pm

The light never stops moving.  Personified the flame.  Sweet bedtime dance.

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7: Body

January 7, 2021 1:15 pm


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6: Repetition

January 6, 2021 12:46 pm

Playing with movement from yesterday.  Created a phrase that repeats and could be danced anywhere.

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5: Distance

January 5, 2021 12:47 pm

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4: Dancemaker

January 4, 2021 12:23 pm

ankle/indirect/moving under
sudden/for an audience/sinking
symmetrical/in a carefree way/medium tempo/everywhere at once

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3: Interaction

January 3, 2021 1:35 pm

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2: Opposite

January 2, 2021 6:08 pm

Frontal, sagittal, sharp, passionate, bouncy, punchy

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1: Introduction

January 1, 2021 11:06 pm

NACHMO 2021!
Entering year 4 of participating in this “kick in the pants.”
To motivate me, I’ll be posting here.
Let the daily practice of dancemaking begin…
More about NACHMO and how to join here

I am Ilana Silverstein.
Specifically.  Intentionally.  Widely.  

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Our Stories

August 8, 2017 10:59 am

Hi Jeffrey!  I just finished your book and felt so compelled to write and now I am on my couch, paralyzed, my fingernails hovering over the keyboard.  This resistance to write feels as strong as my desire to blow my heart wide open and spill words onto this screen.  I appreciate how you included these episodes in your book.  Very real.  Very present at this stage of my life.  Two moments will stay with me from the last few chapters.  They are affirming moments.  Connecting to something bigger, rising above the noise,  expressing our true selves and helping others do the same.  

APRIL 21, 2016: We were all dancing.  “Jill said, ‘Can someone in Sound put on some Prince?’ The music came on and everyone started dancing”  (Tambor, p261).  Against all odds, despite all of the work we had to do, Leah and I too blasted Prince in Kelly King’s studio.  I am reacquainting with the joyful part of dance – the most important part!  I felt it at the end of our performance Friday night and then Sunday at Ecstatic Dance.  I love the nonverbal cosmic connection of dancing in a big group of people (even if that big group of people is miles away dancing at the very same moment – like Tia Nina and the cast of Transparent!  Or, like the global underscore.  

“One by one, each student got up onstage and told their story. … Acting and comedy were about saving lives.  My dad use to say, ‘Be useful.’ This was useful” (Tambor, 268).  This statement gives so much weight to the creative act.  Whether we are acting or dancing, we are not offering extra.  This work is essential.  This work offers many many physical benefits (SO IMPORTANT) while also nudging out potential as human beings (EQUALLY AS IMPORTANT).  My 94 year old grandfather is so stressed with managing daily life – bills, house, appointments, work (!!), etc.  I asked him when he could turn on some music and dance for a few minutes and he laughed it off.  What could be more important than play?  Connecting to your body?  Dropping into rhythms that shake you out of habits and bring you somewhere new?  Being somewhere new?  Asking questions about that place?  Learning more at age 94!  

I love collecting people’s daily rituals and loved learning yours.   Shout out to Nancy Morgan.  I heard your voice in my head and that pushed my fingers onto the keys.


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Body and Earth Chapter

June 30, 2017 11:07 am

Andrea Olsen, I finished your book!  After holding on to it for 15 years, starting and stopping a million times, I got to day 31.  As a way to get to know my knew home, I am gong to do the place visits in my yard, my new yard.  Excited to continue on with the book.

The first word that came to mind for your last activity was AGE.  Could age be explored in the context of Body and Earth?  

First thoughts:

  • No judgment 
  • Age of new home: 88 years old.  How was this house/land shaped by history?  Great grandparents generation built it.  Once, a Jewish neighborhood.  The house of a Holocaust survivor.
  • What did the land look like?  Feel like?  What was growing here?
  • Age of me: 36 years old.  How did my story lead me here?  Now, interconnecting with the land.  And not fragmenting it.  Listening.
  • Drink in wisdom from the land.  Offer each other refreshment.
  • Views of aging lands and aging bodies.  Soil becomes richer and body/mind becomes richer with time.
  • Strong relationships with the Earth over time = better health for both?
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Climbing out

June 15, 2017 10:40 am

Today is completely open. My plan is to spend an hour with Andrea Olsen’s Body and Earth and then sink into course planning for the day. Some time in my body before losing myself in my laptop. I am designing a career networks in dance course for the GWU Dance MFA program and have drafted the syllabus outline; so, picking up where I left up shouldn’t be that difficult. This plan seems very doable, but first, I need to mark this moment.

We have been in our house for 16 days. During this time, I have not felt well. I have choked, cut myself by accident, had an allergic reaction to a mattress, and have had head-splitting migraines. Now, recovered, I can take control again. May felt so different, so relaxed, so full of possibility. June is the unfamiliar. Today, I am reframing you, June. You are the explorer. You are the new best friend. You are the guide. You will be accepting of my querkiness. You will be a time in my life that I will hold dear always. A time of deep internal exploration and external expression. A time that embraces an easy going lifestyle. A time of creative and spiritual discovery.

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Mission Complete

May 24, 2017 4:16 pm

Hello from Kansas City! (my current favorite greeting).

We have been Kansans for 16 days. Life is easy going. Life is morning improvs, sorting through stuff, cooking delicious meals. “The river of life, the ocean of emotions, the stream of consciousness” – Andrea Olsen. Listening to the Master of None soundtrack and organizing life and thoughts:
Bring on the nesting.
Feels like a sacred time in my life.
Preparations for creativity.
Taking care of my body is a priority. If my body is asking for stretching, I stretch. If I am tired, I sleep.
My social self is satisfied, for now.
I want to be with my grandparents. I want to visit my sister. Do I stay or go?

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The Middle

May 8, 2017 12:42 pm

Steven and I are in Chicago. Have have traveled from Pittsburgh to Granville to this lovely third stop. After having a delicious breakfast with Matthew on Tuesday morning, we drove to see Denison University. We parked in the bustling downtown and had a taco at Taco Dan’s – a new establishment that wasn’t around when I was a student. Then, we drove to the Homestead parking lot and walked on in. No one was around. Some of the cabins were new – Cabin 2 and Cabin 3, I had never seen before. We sat in Cabin Bob for awhile. Steven told me that he totally understood why I wanted to take him there – it is awesome. I want to bring my children there for a reunion someday. We hiked out, drove through campus, and checked in to our airbnb – highly recommend this place – so convenient and relaxing! After a little rest, we drove back into town and walked over to the Dance building Every room was unlocked! Steven played piano and I danced. We didn’t see anyone. I love that studio the most. Then we visited other buildings – Barney, Slayter Hall, Knapp Hall. Didn’t see anyone, hardly anyone around since it was the reading day before finals. The stories didn’t come flooding back like I thought they would. It feels so long ago. We ate at “The Pub” which used to be “Brews.” Full and buzzed, we went back to the airbnb to watch “Good Night and Good Luck” and fell asleep. Then I woke up and couldn’t fall back asleep. I was obsessing over wanting to know what my KC life would be like.

On to Chicago… we stopped at Fox and Snow at the recommendation of Matthew on Wednesday morning. It was a super hip cafe and bakery – perfect! Then, we drove through under-welming Indiana listening to Breakfast of Champions. We arrived around 3pm and had time to chill and walk around before Jason and David came home. They live by lots of shops and restaurants. We had wine and empanadas and then more wine at this cool little wine shop. After chatting up the wine store people we met Jason at his gorgeous house. This house has a large open kitchen, a whisky room, a sauna, and a flawless finished basement. Love it. We saw Ari, Beth, and the children that night. Thursday, we drove into Willamette to see Bubbie and Zadie. Both visits were very good. We had a long commute back to Ukrainian Village that afternoon and then time to chill before dinner. We did the same thing Friday. Thursday night, we met Diego for Northern Thai Food at a restaurant called Sticky Rice. Delicious! I was feeling feverish but the vegetable soup, green tea, and spicy stir fry made me feel right as rain. Steven and Diego had sticky rice with there meals that came in wrapped in plastic in a little basket. Steven ordered Kao Soy (sp?) again – I had never heard of this yellow curry before – so yum. After dinner, Diego took us to this awesome whisky bar and we drank a lot of scotch and continued to catch up about life.

Friday night and Saturday morning, we hung out with Ari and family. Everett put on a full spacesuit to watch the Apollo 13 rocket launch. He is so chatty and cute and very much into space. Quinn smiles all the time and likes to climb. So glad we got to see them and 2 (and 8 months) and 8 months.

On Saturday, we finished Breakfast of Champions on the drive to Baraboo and arrived in town around 3pm. Just in time for Prom Photos in front of the Courthouse. Jake’s prom! True small town america moment. We walked around downtown Baraboo a little bit and headed back to the house to have wine and cheese with Marcy and Buddy. There house is so relaxing. We surrendered immediately to the landscape falling in love with the birds and the fresh air. Then we took Cooper on a walk and discovered tics. Lots of tics! They have a tic jar full of rubbing alcohol that you can drop the tics into when you find them crawling around on your body. We grilled and had a beautiful dinner and more scotch with our cousins. We all sat by the fire talking. Zach and Eva came home and we all went to sleep. Jake came home later with a bunch of friends and had a bon fire.

We had a welcomed lazy Sunday. Zach made super light and fluffy pancakes and then we headed out to see the Leopold Center and the Cranes Institute. We are enjoying the countryside. Steven won 2 out of 3 soccer games against Zach and it was thrilling. Tomorrow, we will head for Kansas City! Steven and I feel rested and ready.

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Operation BBQ

May 1, 2017 11:06 pm

Day 1
Winding down at the ACE Hotel in Pittsburgh. We felt the stress melt off of our bodies when we walked into our room – no stuff everywhere, no trash to figure out what to do with. Our road-trip, Operation BBQ, began at 1:25pm today. Easy ride out except for the tornado warning part. The downpour slowed us down slightly but it was ok because we had the perfect soundtrack going, the Kid A album, Pyramid song, Supercollider. Other names for the trip include: Operation Billy (named after the last piece of furniture we got rid of) and Operation GTFO of DC. We landed on a name that looked forward.

Amazing night in Pittsburgh curated by Matt Ciccone. The best and magical Thai at Pusadee’s Garden and drinks back at the hotel. Great catching up with an old friend.

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The Morning After

October 5, 2015 3:43 pm

Like every morning after a performance, I feel empty.  All of that space that was filled with rehearsals, critical thought, planning, emailing, and relationship building is now available again.  I had a rehearsal for another project already this morning … but before I get to invoicing, cooking, and answering emails, I am giving myself permission to take time – to be still, and feel, and notice what comes up.

The performance was Erica Rebollar‘s Sacred/Profane.  Tia Nina performed a short song and danced in the opening and closing pieces.  The cast featured dance artists of various cultures and backgrounds.  During an early conversation with Erica she shared her intention, to ask each women led women/girls danced company to explore sacred and profane through a feminist lens.  The context of the work had to appropriate for all ages because children were in the show.  At first, this censoring felt stifling because of the nature of Tia Nina’s work.  Also, with that condition, how much risk taking in pushing the sacred and the profane would happen?  And, the “feminist lens” part of the intention seemed to be replaced with “women experience.”  The critical and political layers took a back seat in the name of accessibility and comfort.

The piece came together beautifully and received raved reviews from the audience.  However, thematically, it felt safe.  As a cast, we were just starting to understand where we all were coming from and what risk-taking looked like to all of us… as if we needed to make this work to make the juicier work.  I appreciated everyone’s openness and commitment to the work.  I was hungry for more conversations and deeper analysis of what we were all doing together.

The fact is that we are all super busy and when we take on projects, we usually can’t make time for them – we just add the rehearsals on top of everything else – and we show up, dance, and move on to the next thing.  During very intensive process, our group time focused on figuring out the technical elements of the show, – out of necessity.

After the show, Tia Nina grabbed a drink and we reflected on everything – the show, the process, our politics, and what we want to do next.  Here’s what I want to hold on to – I want to get better at talking to children, especially girls, about we are doing and why.  We are celebrating our bodies, we are feeling good in our bodies,  we are being ourselves and no one else, we are taking up space, we inviting the audience in and inviting them to be a part of it and clap along with us.  And, to the vibrant and fierce older women our work is as much for you as it is for little girls – for all the same reasons.  It is not about labeling or categorizing selves.  There is still so much work to do to help everyone feel good in their bodies.  It is a goal that I constantly strive toward in working with staff/nurses/caregivers at the hospital.  Loving ourselves is key to gender equality.  Sacred/Profane was a valuable step – images of only women/girls on stage are so powerful and needed.  I look forward to watching a video of the piece and reflecting more.  Gratitude.


Photo by David Dowling


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Artist Planet

August 12, 2015 6:23 pm

I just got home from teaching Tai Chi at The VA.  Before class, I do my rounds and personally invite the residents.  As I was checking in on one of my regulars (Mr. X), his roommate started to give me his two-cents about Mr. X.  I politely interjected and explained how it is not important for me to know about all of this (e.g. what the nurses think about Mr. X).  In fact, his description of Mr. X was completely different from what I knew of him in class – the relationship I DO deeply care about.  The roommate and I continued to have a very nourishing conversation about what artists bring to the table vs. therapists and clinicians.  He totally got it.  It seemed to blow his mind – he said it was as if artists were from another planet – that our approach to healing was literally out of this world.  He fully appreciates the work that we do, understands the expertise we bring, and sees the need for it.

There are two of us who teach this class as part of a NCCA program and we have had the freedom to design the class in a way that draws on our dance background.  The core of the class is the 18 Shibashi movements.  Some of the residents have been practicing Tai Chi for years and take the class religiously.  Others join in here and there or use the class as part of their rehab.

The residents are so used to being identified/addressed in a certain way.  As artists, we get to engage with the residents without any knowledge of their diagnosis, history, or behavior.  We are the only staff people (aside from the incredible volunteers) who knock on their door without trying to fix them.  We connect simply as human beings and breathe, listen to soothing music, and move together.  I didn’t realize until today, that this fact is invisible.

I feel energized from class today and grateful for the time I have right now to sit and write about it.  My goal for myself as the year plunges forward is to take care of myself.  The summer was tremendously full and I have not been able to take time for reflection and connecting the dots in my work.   I know September always swoops in with gusto so I want to be ready.  I want to be in a satisfying rhythm of exertion and recuperation.  I want to connect the dots and stop rushing everywhere.  Self-care just makes sense – Cheers to happiness, health, and doing my best work!

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June 15, 2015 8:59 am

My grandfather “Zadie” turns 92 this month.  He lives in Chicago but we are very close and talk almost every day about all aspects of life.  He, along with my grandmother “Bubbie,” is curious about my life – always asking me good questions, giving advice and trying his best to understand what I do.  A few visits ago, I lead my grandparents through guided imagery and they found it very relaxing.  Zadie asked me to record my voice onto a CD to help him manage stress and practice relaxation on his own, so I did.  I was happy to do this little easy gesture for him.  He listened to it and liked it and shared lots of feedback.

1.  Copyright and sell the track.  He thought that I should do this right away.  I agree.  Great idea.  People at the hospital have asked me about this before.  Although this is flattering, it just hasn’t felt like a priority for me.  Plus, I love what I do because of the face-to-face human connection.  My friend and colleague at Georgetown Hospital, Tamara Wellons, might collaborate on this.  We might record 1 track of guided imagery and 1 track of her singing.

2.  Speakers and Microphones.  This piece of feedback was difficult to decipher at first but I think I got it.  He wants me to deliver the guided imagery to a group.  Since my voice is intentionally soft, he said to either use a microphone or play the recording and have good quality speakers.

3.  Redo.  The last piece of feedback was about the script and my voice.  He said I should start by inviting the listener to get comfortable and prepare his/herself to relax.  Then, he urged me to blend my voice,  My voice sounded choppy to him, like I finish describing one part of the body and immediately jump to the next.  He suggested that I round it out and make it like a circle versus a square.  He said that I should be completely relaxed myself as if I was going to fall asleep.  I explained that I can achieve this quality more easily when I have an actual person with me.  He asked me to grab a volunteer to receive some relaxation while I re-record the track for him.

What I love most about all of this is that we have yet another topic to talk about.  Not only does he discuss it, but our conversations are intellectually stimulating.  Listening to his feedback was like listening to an artist trained in Fieldwork.  No judgment, clear language, and expressive.

Focus:  Understanding.

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Sitting at the Table

June 4, 2015 3:06 am

Part of being an artist is showing up at the table.  In D.C., there are many tables, endless networking to be done, and new groups of folks to introduce your work to.  It is a blend of self marketing and advocating for the arts.  This part of the job is persistent and necessary.  Tonight, The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities hosted a community dialogue on Healing Through Art and I was curious, so I went.  I consider myself an active player in this field and want to know who else is out there and what amazing work is being done.  The event took place at The Smith Center for Healing and the Arts on U Street.  The new Interim Executive Director of DCCAH Lisa Richards Toney welcomed us.  So excited to meet her and hear her speak!  P.S. she’s a dancer!  This is good D.C.!  She mentioned in her remarks that DCCAH is charged with doing more than grantmaking – again, good for us!  What do we want to see happen?  How can we partner with DCCAH?   The event had a rock star panel – I was inspired by each of them and hope to cross paths with them again.

Jeff Majors introduced himself by saying in his soothing and strong voice, “I want to see healing in my city.  I want to see healing in my neighborhoods.”  He is a harpist and introduced us to the idea of a “musical diet” – what are you listening to for breakfast? Before you go to sleep?  Nourish yourself.  I could tell how invested and influential he is in his work with youth offenders, just from witnessing his presence.

Captain Moira G. McGuire, Chief of Integrative Health & Wellness at Walter Reed, made the world of the military so approachable in her comments.  It was inspiring to hear someone at that level speak so highly of the arts and the impact artists make.  She made the point that artists reintroduce people to their creative side.  I will take that with me into my dance classes.

Shanti Norris was inspiring to listen to.  I deeply understood everything she had to say and had observed in her programs.  She made the point that healing comes from within.  Cures come from the external.  Anyone can heal and at any time.

Lastly, Dr. Gay Hanna, Executive Director of the National Center for Creative Aging made so many great connections that are helpful to hear as I go out into the field.  One, artists are models for aging well.  Two, the arts can help those who feel they have lost their identity and/or hope.  Three, artists inspire her.  Four, ageism.

After the panel, I thought that we had stripped age out of the conversation.  Frankly, it is not connected to whether the arts can help heal or not.  I prefer when age doesn’t enter the conversation – what is the point?  And then, in a conversation with one of the panelists, she responded to me sharing what I do with, “keep going, you’re young” … or, something like that.  Is she speaking out of her own insecurity?  If yes, there is no reason to – she is clearly kicking ass at staying healthy and creative.  If not, in a context where we just tossed age off of the table, why make a comment?  It made me feel grateful for the few colleagues in my life that never mention age and engage me in a mutually supportive relationship.

During the q&a, I asked worldwide, who are their inspirations? People? Organizations? Programs?  All of their answers were local and personal.  No judgment.  Beautiful to hear.  But still, is there an interest in partnering nationally/internationally?  Who, on the global scale, is at this table?  I know there are tons.  Let the research and questioning continue!

Thank you to the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities for hosting these events!


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