The Story of Silver Thread
In 2002 I presented a new piece of choreography called Silver Thread to Austin audiences. Its message was one of global humanity and the similarities in all humans. The production included a dancer from School for the Blind, several at-risk youths (without previous stage experience,) and professional performing artists including pop singer Donna Hightower. The message addresses our “sameness” in feelings, sensitivities, and desires along with our human dignity.
Silver Thread was funded with a grant from the City of Austin. Due to budget constraints publicity was limited and the allocation for costuming was very small. We dressed the cast members in unitards covering the entire body in colors signifying the different races in humanity. The enthusiasm of the performers and audiences more than compensated for the budget limitations, however.
The at-risk youths were exposed to a side of life usually reserved for students of a higher economic level. They were bussed after school from Metz Elementary, in far East Austin, to studio rehearsals in South Austin as part of an extra-curricular program. These young students understood that they had been specially selected by their teachers to participate in this program. They experienced the thrill of performing onstage with professionals and having an appreciative audience applaud them. They participated in a parade as cast members in costume, playing hand-made percussive instruments. The parade was held after dress rehearsal; the route was from Scottish Rite Temple to the Texas Education Agency. There, they joined the Bailey Middle School Steel Drum Band and performed together in front of the TEA building. Imagine the positive effect the experience had on these at-risk kids and their future.
After its debut, new productions of Silver Thread were commissioned by Texas Association of School Boards and by Zilker Parks’ Bamboo Festival. A later production I mounted while teaching students at a private studio was performed at Disneyland and at Disney World. Because of how the program is designed, the project can be brought into any school using its own students. Each school’s cast participates in costuming and set-building and in one week are able to present their own Silver Thread.
Recently the project has gained international status with a production I directed at Universidad de Nacional in Heredia, Costa Rica, and so the concert is now known as Silver Thread International. Next it captured the interest of an international organization known as NanoKnowledge™, based in Perth, Australia. Through Skype conversations and emails, NanoKnowledge director David Tham told me he would be interested in developing the project to conform with international standards and in introducing it to organizations in Perth and possibly Singapore, where NanoKnowledge has a strong presence. I told Mr. Tham that I needed to graduate before we could discuss the transition. However, since completing my masters’ degree in May 2014, I have decided to first seek a comparable program in my own country willing to help further develop the project. This would give Silver Thread International an even more secure footing and professional stature.
Silver Thread International is positive and up-lifting and the kind of message that should be a part of every curriculum in the world. This unique multi-media concert not only entertains the audience, it simultaneously drives home the universal message of unity and healing of human souls. The cast members also gain a wealth of understanding through working together on a project with people who are usually separated in society.