Tag Archives: lyndell higgins

Behind-the-Scenes: Bells & Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies

Lyndell took a break from choreographing, filming, editing, and dancing, and a million and one other things to fill me in on the inspiration behind the two pieces Stretch is releasing in December.  Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making these videos!

What was the inspiration to do both Bells and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies?  Did you have a strong vision for both, or did one inspire the other? 


Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies came first.  Pentatonix came out with a Sugar Plum Fairy version that was on the darker side.  It gave me a vision of little mischievous fairies as opposed to the pretty ones we’re so used to seeing. I thought, “That would be really interesting.”

At the same time, I had to think about “How do I make this accessible to everyone?”  Because with copy written material, YouTube won’t allow people to watch it phones and iPads.  I hate thinking that way, but you have to think about how people can connect with your material. Matthew Bourne says something to effect of, “Half is business, half is art.”

In comparison, Bells, is less dark than a lot of the pieces we’ve seen from Stretch so far. 

It is less dark–we’re wearing white! But it’s still somber.  I had no idea which one I wanted to do, so I just listened to a lot of Christmas music. “Carol of the Bells” came on, and I had this image of the dancers embodying the vocalization and instrumentation of the song.  I thought that would be a nice juxtaposition to the Sugar Plum Fairy piece.


I noticed on your Instagram that you have a picture of you writing dance steps on the music.  How do you choreograph without words?  What techniques do you use? 

Actually, Bells is the first time that I wrote directly on the sheet music.  Usually, when I come up with the idea of choreography, the dancing just happens in my mind. Sometimes it’s a visualization, sometimes it’s a story–I stick with what inspired me.  For Bells, I was choreographing to the vocals that didn’t exist; the dancing stood in place of the vocals that were missing.  I wanted movement to match sometimes, so I had to find exactly when the vocals matched.  I was literally drawing little people under the notes.

(Fun fact: the dancers were split up into four different vocal parts: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. Each “vocal” part had a slightly different timing.  See if you can spot when we split into our sections! Hint: try watching at 0:16 & 1:10)

How was it working with the composer, Brian Barrale? Were you very specific about what you wanted, or did you let him run with it? 

I had worked with Brian on the promo for my husband’s Kickstarter, and I thought “Hmmm…there could be something here.”  And there was! After we established that he loved Christmas music, he asked me for things that he absolutely needed to know.  I gave him a time limit, a tempo, a tone that I was looking for, and a style, and I let him run for it. I like to give people as much artistic freedom as possible, because the end result is always better.

What kind of things were you looking for? How did the collaboration work between the two of you?   

For example, for Bells, I wanted it to be very classical, but free—I didn’t want it to sound like a metronome. I still wanted to use classical instruments, but have a tone like CoralineCoraline has very dark, yet naïve innocence to it.  Brian played out the skeleton of it, and then he would send it back to me, and the movement I created was inspired by it.

Ninety-four percent of what he sent the first go around was there for me—we were very in sync artistically.  Both of us like stuff that’s a little off. He sent me a version of the song, and wrote to tell me that he wasn’t sure if it would be too dark.  But when I listened to it, I thought “Yes! So good.”

Don’t forget to watch “Bells” and “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” on our YouTube Channel!    

If you loved the music and want to download it, The Dark Bell Carol and Viscous Plum Faeries are now available on iTunes.  

Stretching the FAQs: Questions from Our Preview Performances

First off, all of us at Stretch Dance Co. would like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who came to our preview show this past weekend!  It was an incredible experience for us to show you what we’ve been working on.  For those of you who missed it, don’t worry!  We’ll still be posting videos and updates on our Twitter, Facebook, and website, so…

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This weekend was a great opportunity for us at Stretch because it was the first time that we got to hear some audience feedback.  Some of the questions were expected, some took us by surprise.  Here are some of the top FAQs from our audience:

How do you deal with the emotional strain of a show about the Holocaust? (This was the most asked question by far!)

While I Have Lived a Thousand Years is a very inspirational account, the Holocaust will never be—and should never be—a light-hearted subject matter.  That being said, we’ve joked about getting a puppy to cheer us up after particularly rough rehearsals.

It helps to know that the Dr. Livia Bitton-Jackson is still well, and lives a very full life in spite of her traumatic experiences.  Lyndell linked us to a phenomenal interview with her, and it is amazing to see her composure and gentle spirit (you can check it out here if you want to see!  You can create a log in for free).  For me, it helps to know that by bringing her story to life through dance, we are hopefully preventing its recurrence.

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The puppy mascot would be available after performances to cheer up audience members, too!


Which orchestra played for the soundtracks? 

No orchestra, just one man!  Our composer, Robby Greengold digitally compiles all the music and different instruments to create the tracks.  We hope to raise enough funds to eventually hire an orchestra to record the tracks, but for now, we make do with Robby’s one-man band!


Do they still teach the Holocaust in public schools? 

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Stretch dancers come from different backgrounds, but have the same passion!

Most curriculums cover at least some portion of the Holocaust.  However, as budgets steadily grow tighter and resources are stretched thinner, students today may not get the same exposure to the material as past classes.  I remember visiting the Museum of Tolerance several times while I was in school, but some schools now cannot afford even the buses for field trips.

Furthermore, our production is a fresh perspective of the Holocaust.  Many people in the audience were surprised at certain facts from the memoir, particularly in what the prisoners were forced to eat and drink.  Our production can round out and fill in the holes in the current high school curriculum.


Is everyone in the cast Jewish? 

Nope!  Some of us are, but  others in the cast are not. Just as we come from many different dance disciplines, we all come from different backgrounds, but we all feel strongly about the subject of compassion and tolerance.


How can I get involved? 

Contact info@stretchdanceco.com to see how you can get involved!  And of course, don’t forget to follow us on our social media! Or you can…


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