A quest for missing laughter
Cyndal Ellis as Super Bee.

A quest for missing laughter

Super Bee will come to the Brattleboro Town Common in a quest to help heal children and families still reeling from pandemic isolation

BRATTLEBORO — Cyndal Ellis will bring Adventures with Super Bee: Project Laugh Leaves & Tickle Grass to life, creating what the manager of and dance instructor at SoBo Studio describes as an emotionally interactive experience for all ages.

The dance theater performance - built around the theme of laughter gone missing - features Ellis's character Super Bee, who has graced the stage in performances at KidsPLAYce and the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center.

This time, Super Bee will alight on the Town Common in a free picnic-style gathering.

Ellis said that, along with Covid, her inspiration came from a children's book, The Jester Has Lost His Jingle.

During the pandemic, when public gatherings were prohibited, she continued her after-school dance programs online.

“I also worked with other kids remotely,” she said. “You definitely connected with other kids who are struggling in similar ways”

Also, “I was home with our son most of the time, and it was hard on him,” she said. “So I saw directly some the effects of social isolation on him.”

All this isolation inspired a show that would speak to the effects of the pandemic, with a theme that would focus on some of the emotions that many children have been feeling lately.

“I wondered how young children must make sense of it all,” Ellis said. “It has felt in many ways that laughter just went missing.”

Setting the stage

Some of the performers and choreographers - Toni Nagy, Katie Hayes, and Karen Long - have been dancing with her for years. And her 7-year-old son, Asa Ellis-Bigelow, will also be performing.

“I wanted at least one child to perform in the show - kids love seeing other kids perform. [It is] inspiring to them.”

Hayes, SoBo kids' dance instructor prior to the pandemic, will bring “a lovely soft, sweet energy” to the role of the fairy queen, Ellis said.

“Toni Nagy and Karen Long will be playing trickster fairies [...] they have a very playful nature with their choreography, and they're actually choreographing this together,” she added.

The show's characters were developed in this particular show with specific performers in mind.

“The characters fit their personal characters very well, so it was really easy to kind of fit them into the storyline,” Ellis said.

Bringing laughter live

Ellis has received a $1,000 Brattleboro Town Arts Fund grant to stage the performance.

This piece is a part a personal project, part an offshoot of the independent dance performance and teaching she does. She does receive support from SoBo Studios in the form of rehearsal space, advertising, and underwriting.

Dancing is just one of the ways children and families are able to interact with this show.

As part of the performance, Ellis has created a private Facebook group for local families to post jokes, games, or funny videos - “anything that makes them laugh.”

She plans to choose a few of the contributions and challenge people to perform them at the show.

The actors also plan to ask the children and their families questions designed to encourage them to express their emotions through hand and body movements and other gestures.

All of this is in the service of creating a production to bring healing laughter to children, while including them in the process.

The show, Ellis said, is designed to let them know that “it's OK that they've been feeling sad, feeling lonely, feeling all the feelings, feeling grief.”

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