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Warm Winter's Impact on Disease Carrying Pests
SARATOGA SPRINGS – This past winter in Upstate New York was one for the record books. According to data from the National Weather Service, Albany was one of the fourteen cities in the United States that had its warmest winter to date. Upstate New York also broke its record for least amount of snow – just 10.3 inches, three feet below average.
While the unseasonably warm weather may have been great for getting outdoors, warm winters and early springs can have a serious impact on wildlife. What is concerning is that certain species that spread diseases to humans, such as ticks, flourish in these conditions.
The most recent New York ClimAID study, conducted by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to monitor the impacts of climate change, shows how rising temperatures are affecting ticks and other pests.
“Vector (disease-carrying) species, such as mosquitoes, ticks, midges (gnats), and other biting insects, respond dramatically to small changes in climate, which in turn alters the occurrence of diseases they carry,” read a quote from the NY ClimAID study. “For example, Lyme disease, erlichiosis, and other tick-borne diseases are spreading as temperatures increase, allowing ticks to move northward and increase in abundance.”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) details the geographic location of different species of ticks across the United States (CDC.gov/ticks). While many in the southeast and on the west coast have to worry about ticks spreading diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, New York’s main tick-borne illness is Lyme disease.
“We haven’t seen anyone yet come in with a tick, but it’s right around the corner, so we’ve been warning people,” said Raveen Saluja M.D., an internal medicine practitioner at Saratoga Family Physicians at Saratoga Hospital. “During peak season, ticks are an everyday conversation in our office. But we’re already out in our shorts some days, so it’s already time to be careful.”
Dr. Saluja urges people to check themselves immediately after spending any time outdoors.
“You have got to check your body. Get naked, get a mirror, and look for ticks,” said Dr. Saluja. “Then call the doctor immediately if you find one.”
It’s vital to contact your doctor as soon as possible because time-sensitive measures can be taken to prevent Lyme disease. Within 72 hours after being infected, patients can get a one-time dose of the antibiotic Doxycycline that acts as a prophylaxis again Lyme. After that 72 hour window, Lyme disease must be treated with a regular, full-course of antibiotics.
According to Dr. Saluja, the most common identifier for Lyme disease is a bull’s-eye rash, which occurs in most, but not all cases. While a bull’s-eye rash is a sure sign of Lyme, other symptoms can include fever, muscle aches, and other flu-like symptoms. Lyme disease can also have long-term consequences called Post-Treatment Lyme Syndrome, which can cause chronic symptoms – even more of a reason to prevent ticks in the first place (see sidebar for more prevention tips.)
Dr. Saluja recommends using a repellent with 20-30 percent DEET, and reapplying it regularly. She also noted that some prefer more natural methods of tick repellent. Oils that contain rosemary, geranium, lemongrass, cedar or lavender are an excellent way of repelling ticks, and many natural oil recipes are available online.
For more information about ticks, the diseases they spread, and how to prevent them, visit cdc.gov/ticks. To learn more about how climate change is impacting wildlife, including harmful pests like ticks, and to read the full New York ClimAID study, visit dec.ny.gov under “Energy and Climate.”
- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Use repellents that contain 20 to 30% DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on exposed skin.
- Use products that contain Permethrin on clothing
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
- Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.
- Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they spend time outdoors.
- If you find a tick on your dog, remove it right away.
- Ask your veterinarian to conduct a tick check at each exam
- There are certain products that can kill and repel ticks on dogs. Talk to your veterinarian first about these options.
Protecting your Yard
- Pesticides can be used to prevent ticks on your property. Identify rules and regulations related to pesticide application on residential properties in your area first (Environmental Protection Agency).
- Remove leaf litter and clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.
- Mow the lawn frequently.
- Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration into recreational areas, and always keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees.
How to Remove a Tick:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
- Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers
Information provided by the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/index.html)
Autism Expo and Art Exhibit: A Superb Resource for those on the Spectrum
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The fifth annual Autism Expo and Art Exhibit will take place at the Saratoga Springs City Center on Sunday, April 10. Presented by Saratoga Bridges, this free expo will feature fun family activities as well as over 70 vendors, ranging from recreational activities, camps, therapeutic programs, education opportunities and more.
“It started five years ago when several parents who have children on the autism spectrum had this dream of wanting to do an expo that gathers providers and programs in one place,” said Patty Paduano, Director of Family Support Services at Saratoga Bridges.
Saratoga Bridges then connected with Skidmore College to make that dream a reality. Rachel Mann Ph.D., a psychology professor at Skidmore College that teaches classes on developmental disabilities, helped to initiate the Autism Expo and now, has her students helping at the event.
While the first two expos took place at Skidmore College, the expo was eventually moved to the City Center because of space.
“That first year, we had no idea how many people would be there. Parking was crazy. We thought, ‘I think we’ve hit on something here,” said Paduano, who noted that last year nearly 700 people attended the event, with even more expected this year.
A unique aspect of the Autism Expo is the art exhibit portion of the event. Adults and children on the autism spectrum have created over 70 pieces of art that will be on display. The exhibit includes all mediums of artwork, from sculptures to paintings and drawings. “Our individuals do wonderful things out in the community, and art is one of the areas we really wanted to celebrate,” said Paduano.
January Slater, a local mom and artist, became involved in the Autism Expo through her own non-profit, Creative Kidz Café. This organization provides creative outlets for children both with and without autism through art, cooking, crafts, music, and movement, all in a safe, accepting environment.
“It’s all creative based, there is no true structure. It’s there for the children’s own self-expression and it gives them the space for that.” said Slater, who has partnered with Saratoga Bridges to host some of her Creative Kidz Café classes. “I love working with Saratoga Bridges because we have the same vision and mindset, and that is whatever is good for the families and the kids. For me, the art exhibit at the expo shows how the people that are involved in it really understand the importance of expression – it’s a way for them to communicate in a completely different way that is perhaps more natural for them.”
Slater knows from a first-hand perspective how important expression and creativity is for those with autism: her nine-year old son Jackson is also on the spectrum.
“I feel like there has been a lot of negative thoughts on the word ‘autism,’ said Slater. “People fear that word. For me, it’s about diminishing that fear and creating more of a loving and accepting world for these kids, because there are so many of them.”
Often, when parents find out their child has an autism spectrum disorder, they are confused, scared, and just want answers.
“Our community has to be able to embrace every family and we also want to provide families a place to turn to. That’s what is so great about the expo,” said Paduano. “Many parents feel lost, like they don’t know where to start after getting that diagnosis. The expo is a place where you can meet other parents, pick up brochures, and talk to professionals. It’s a place where families can come and get information without having to figure it out all on their own.”
While there will be a multitude of activities and vendors for children on the spectrum at the expo, the Autism Expo is an excellent source for adults with autism as well.
“There are a lot of adults on the spectrum, and once you’re getting adult services, it can be challenging,” added Paduano. This year, the expo has added two workshops aimed at adults living with autism: “Managing Stress” and “Getting and Keeping a Job.” There will also be colleges set up, including Adirondack Community College and Sage College, to provide information about their academic programs.
For children and their families, the Autism Expo will feature engaging activities from Spotted Zebra Learning Center, a bouncy house, and crafts, such as sand art, spin art and face painting, presented by Skidmore students. Vendors will be set up around the perimeter of the expo, with the family activities in the center, allowing parents to visit the vendors at their leisure while ensuring that their children are safe.
“As a parent, you strive for your child with autism to be part of a community that wants them there and makes them feel welcome,” concluded Slater. “To actually be in a community that has that understanding and has that compassion is something I am truly grateful for.”
The Autism Expo and Art Exhibit will take place from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 10 at the Saratoga Springs City Center, located at 522 Broadway. The expo is free and everyone is welcome to attend. For more information about the expo, or if you are interested in being a volunteer, visit saratogabridges.org.
Saratoga Bridges Delivers
SARATOGA SPRINGS –For over 55 years, Saratoga Bridges has been providing optimum services for people with disabilities, from their residential programs to their day services and beyond. As March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, it’s important to highlight how vital Saratoga Bridges has been in integrating those with disabilities into the community. Volunteering is a big part of these efforts, and individuals at Saratoga Bridges volunteer at dozens of non-profits across the county. One of these volunteer opportunities is with the Saratoga County Office for the Aging’s Home Delivered Meals program.
“Saratoga Bridges helps us to deliver hot, nutritious meals to seniors in Saratoga County,” said Billie Jo McConkey, County Nutrition Coordinator at Office for the Aging. “With the help of the Bridges groups we are able to exist on mainly volunteers to deliver to our 39 meal routes throughout Saratoga County.”
Currently, there are 9 groups of volunteers from Saratoga Bridges that help with Home Delivered Meals –roughly 100 volunteers total. They deliver meals every day, except for weekends, holidays and during extreme weather.
“Our site managers and clients enjoy seeing the Saratoga Bridges folks,” continued McConkey. “We have a symbiotic relationship that helps both of our organizations and we are thankful for their help.”
Dacia Saville, one of the volunteers from Saratoga Bridges, enjoys making the rounds to seniors’ homes and ensuring that they have healthy meals.
“It makes me feel good,” she said. “I love to help the people, they’re so nice.”
Another volunteer, Brian Burnett, is equally glad to be a part of something that helps so many people.
“Elderly people are sometimes unable to cook and do grocery shopping,” said Burnett. “So you’re given the chance to make someone’s day.”
For Catherine Holbrook, a recipient of the Home Delivered Meals, the volunteers that deliver to her home are a godsend. Holbrook had spinal surgery several years ago, which is when she first found out about Home Delivered Meals. Holbrook lives by herself in her apartment, and finds it hard to cook on her own because of her bad eyesight.
“It makes it very easy to have a complete nourishing meal without having to struggle over the stove,” said Holbrook. “If it wasn’t for the delivered meals, I’d probably have to go to a nursing home or rely on my family more for help.”
When it comes to the volunteers from Saratoga Bridges, Holbrook loves how friendly and helpful they are.
“They’re just pleasant people, a happy group that enjoys helping me,” she said. “I’m very content with the services they give. It has helped me stay more independent and live in my apartment by myself. It’s a life-saver for me, that is for sure.”
Individuals from Saratoga Bridges not only help with the Home Delivered Meals program, they engage in volunteerism at many local charitable organizations. For example, Saville and Burnett both regularly volunteer at local animal shelters, firehouses, ambulance rescue squads, the Elks Club, and more.
“My favorite part is giving back to the community,” said Burnett. “People should volunteer because it makes you feel good about yourself.”
When they not volunteering, they like to create artwork for Saratoga Bridges’ own art gallery and studio, Creative Endeavors, as well as practice their Special Olympics events. Saville particularly likes swimming and track and field, while Burnett focuses on cross-country skiing, horseback riding, track and field, and bowling. With their wide range of hobbies, volunteer work, and activism, people at Saratoga Bridges are shattering stereotypes of people living with a disability.
“People with disabilities can do all kinds of things. There may be certain limitations, but it does not mean we’re dumb. We just have a different way of doing things,” remarked Burnett. “Disabled doesn’t mean unable.”
Volunteer opportunities also provide individuals at Saratoga Bridges the skills and training they need for employment. Saratoga Bridges has programs, such as Alpha Career Options, that help people with disabilities find jobs in the community. They can be found working at businesses such as Stewart’s, Walmart, Price Chopper and more – all places where they can be directly involved in the community, interacting and building those necessary skills.
“The individuals we support are blended into the fabric of the community. They have a variety of disabilities, and also a variety of abilities and talents,” said Pamela Polacsek, communications specialist at Saratoga Bridges. “They never fail to impress me with how profound they are and explicit in the way they express themselves. They value and appreciate what life is all about.”
Polacsek, as well as the other staff members at Saratoga Bridges, are passionate about the work they do and the individuals they serve daily.
“I work with a bunch of dedicated, compassionate staff members whose goal is to give people the opportunities to succeed,” continued Polacsek. “Giving support within our agency, as well as through these volunteer sites and businesses that employ our individuals, is encouraging, it’s enriching. I think it enhances the whole community when people are accepted for who they are.”
For more information about Saratoga Bridges, including their services and extensive charitable work, visit saratogabridges.org. For more information about Home Delivered Meals, or if interested in being a volunteer in the program, call the Office for the Aging at 518-363-4020.
Saratoga Springs Police Department Announces Officer of the Year
SARATOGA SPRINGS – On Tuesday, March 15, The Saratoga Springs Police Lieutenant’s Police Benevolent Association (PBA) named Sergeant Tyler McIntosh as the 2015 Officer of the Year. This award is given each year by the Saratoga Springs Police Lieutenants to an officer that displays excellence in policing and dedication to duty throughout the year.
The award ceremony, which took place in City Hall late Tuesday afternoon, was attended by fellow officers, as well as Police Chief Greg Veitch and Commissioner of Public Safety Chris Mathieson.
Lt. Sean Briscoe presented Sgt. McIntosh with his award and praised him for his accomplishments in the Department over the years, calling him a “proactive officer” and complimenting his “high standard of duty and professionalism.”
“It’s an honor to be selected, it means a lot to me,” said Sgt. McIntosh after the ceremony. “[This award] reinforces the hard work that I’ve done. It’s nice to be recognized for my positive influence and my role in the department.”
Sergeant McIntosh was hired as a patrol officer in July 2012, and graduated from the Zone 5 Regional Law Enforcement Academy on January 11, 2013. After graduating from Zone 5, Sgt. McIntosh attended the United States Army’s Officer Candidate School. Upon completion of his training there, he received his commission as a Second Lieutenant.
Before becoming a police officer, McIntosh joined the Army National Guard when he was 18, where he became First Lieutenant.
“Military and law enforcement have always intrigued me,” said McIntosh, who knew back in high school what he wanted his career to be.
McIntosh’s favorite part of the job is being out on the road, and doing what he is known for: DWI enforcement. Knowing the amount of innocent people injured and killed by drunk drivers fuels McIntosh’s dedication for enforcing this problem. In 2015, while assigned as patrol officer on the midnight shift, McIntosh made 40 arrests for Driving While Intoxicated. On several occasions, he was given praise from prosecuting attorneys.
Lt. Briscoe called his DWI arrests an “exceptional feat” and that it “frames his work ethic quite well.”
In September 2015, McIntosh accepted a promotion to the rank of Sergeant, an exceptional accomplishment for an officer with such a short tenure in the department. Currently, McIntosh is assigned as a first line patrol supervisor on the evening shift.
When asked what makes him proud in his line of work, Sgt. McIntosh replied, “Knowing that I give 100 percent effort in everything I do and seeing that impact through training and developing relationships with other officers. Putting in the time and effort to make the department the best it can be gives me pride.”
Not Just the Same Old Story: Storyteller Illuminates the Thrill of Telling Tales
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Sharing stories is a big part of the human experience. From our parents reading bedtime stories to us as children, to the movies, books and television shows we become immersed in as adults, stories are our main form of entertainment. They connect us to our past, to each other, and give us a better understanding of ourselves and the world we live in.
Local storyteller Margaret French knows how powerful a story can be. French teaches storytelling workshops, produces and performs at storytelling open mics, and shares her passion and talent for the art of telling stories wherever she goes. On Wednesday, March 9 at 7 p.m. French will be at Caffé Lena as the featured storyteller for a storytelling open mic. Whether you attend the open mic to tell your own story (all are welcome to sign up and participate) or just to kick back and be entertained by French and other tellers, it is surefire to be a unique and captivating night.
Margaret French began telling stories when she moved to Saratoga Springs with her husband in early 2000’s. After attending a beginner’s storytelling workshop at the library, she became hooked.
“I’d always told stories. My younger sister and I shared a bedroom and a bed when we were young, and at night I’d make up stories for her,” explained French. “Later, I made up stories for my kids, their cousins, and their friends, and now, I make up stories for my grandkids.”
Before retiring, French taught college English, and worked at Union College in Schenectady for 15 years. She reflects on how her favorite part was being the director of the writing center.
“I think you tell stories when you’re teaching. You explain concepts by telling stories that illustrate them. So storytelling was always on my radar,” said French.
French also enjoys writing, teaching writing workshops as well as ones on storytelling. She notes however, that there is a big difference between sharing a story on paper and sharing it verbally in person.
“The audience has only one chance to get it. So in some ways, you simplify, and I think language changes. I think my language is less literary when I’m telling a story. It’s more conversational,” said French. “But the best part about storytelling is the audience. You have the audience interacting with you as you tell the story and that is huge and very thrilling. Audiences deepen and enrich the story so much.”
French loves hearing feedback from her audiences, and people will come to her after a storytelling event, explaining that they can identify or relate to her story, often sharing their own experiences with her as well.
“That’s the magic of it, because my stories elicit their stories,” French said.
Most of the stories French tells are personal stories from her life experiences with friends and family. She likes to be funny, using humor often and to lighten difficult stories. French also shared what storytelling means to her on a personal level.
“It’s not self-confession and it’s not therapy for me,” noted French. “It’s about something that interests me or touches me or that I think is funny or important. I can trust that people in the audience will react to it in a similar way because of our common humanity. You end up expressing your own values and point of view, even if you really don’t set out to do it in any conscious way. Based on the stories people tell you, you know the person that they are.”
When she is not telling personal stories, French likes fairytales and historical myths, but explains that they have to be truly unique for her to share them. When French goes to Wesley’s memory care ward and tells stories to those suffering from dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, she prefers to stick with stories that are completely made-up.
“I don’t tell them my personal stories usually because they think, ‘Why is this woman telling me this?’ I think it’s confusing, it’s hard. But if I say, ‘Once upon a time…’ they know right away what is coming,” French said with a smile.
When it comes to giving advice to those who may be interested in storytelling, French urges them to go to workshops and storytelling open mics, even if they don’t tell right away. She also recommends joining a storytelling group, such as the Story Circle of the Capital District, where French is a member. But she also points out that sometimes, you just have to jump in and do it, even if you feel like you might not be ready yet.
“I was a very shy kid, so I’m sort of surprised that I like to be on stage in front of an audience, but I do,” French said. “It’s okay to stand up and tell a story and have it not be perfect.”
Currently, French performs at senior centers, libraries, Proctors, Glen Sanders Mansion, at more locations across upstate New York. She produces 10 storytelling open mics each year, alternating each month between hosting them at Caffé Lena and Woodlawn Commons.
When asked if she feels she is keeping the art of storytelling alive, French responded, “We’re surrounded by stories. In a way, storytelling can’t die because we’re hardwired for stories. They connect us. They help tell us who people are, who we are.”
For the open mic event at Caffé Lena on Wednesday, March 9, those interested in telling stories can sign up at 6:45 p.m., with stories beginning at 7 p.m. After several people tell stories, French, as the featured teller, will share stories for 30 minutes, followed by intermission and more open mic tellers. Admission is $5 and refreshments are $1.
For more information about Margaret French and upcoming storytelling events, visit her website at margaretfrench.com.
Rare Diseases on a Rare Day
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The last day of February is Rare Disease Day, a worldwide campaign that raises awareness about rare diseases and how they impact patients’ lives. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a disease is considered rare in the United States if it has a prevalence of fewer than 200,000 affected individuals, and currently, there are 7,000 rare diseases that have been identified. On Monday, February 29, fittingly the rarest day on the calendar, a rare disease movie event and fundraiser took place at Bowtie Cinemas in Saratoga, which brought together community members, patients and their families for an inspiring night of awareness and advocacy.
The sold-out movie night featured five local families affected by rare diseases, and showed films about the families’ experiences. 100 percent of ticket sales and donations benefitted the National Organization for Rare Diseases’ (NORD) RareCare Undiagnosed Program, which helps patients with mysterious, undiagnosed illnesses pay for diagnostic testing.
The DeFabio family, who lives in Ballston Spa, was one of the families involved in the movie night and shared with the audience a documentary about their seven-year-old son Lucas DeFabio, who suffers from Menkes Disease. Daniel DeFabio, Lucas’s father, created the film, titled, “Menkes Disease: Finding Help and Hope.”
“One of the things, when facing a rare disease, is that awareness can lead to more research and even a cure, so you want to shout that out all the time. It can never be said enough,” said Daniel DeFabio. “Rare Disease Day is promoted all around the world, and not only helps the cause, but it gives [families] more of a push, too. It validates our efforts.”
Lucas was diagnosed with Menkes Disease when he was one-year-old. Menkes Disease is a recessive disorder that affects levels of copper in the body, causing the brain, muscles and hair to not develop properly. If treatment is given within the first ten days of life, the prognosis for Menkes is good, but early treatment is difficult, as rare diseases such as Menkes are hard to diagnose. Lucas may not be able to eat, talk or walk on his own, but he brings pure joy to his family with his sunny personality and positive outlook.
“He’s just a happy guy right now,” said DeFabio. “Lucas is smiling and laughing all the time. It helps me to focus on the positive when he is so positive. He’s got a wicked sense of humor that keeps us in check. If we’re overexerting ourselves, he’ll crack up, and you just look at him laughing. Despite his limited abilities, he changes the rest of us. He changes our attitudes.”
DeFabio became involved with the movie night after going to a rare disease conference in Huntington Beach, California. Coincidently, that was where he met Dan Bobear, the president and founder of The Patient Experience Project (PEP) in Saratoga Springs. PEP, which hosted the rare disease movie night, is a communications firm that works directly with patients to make sure they have a prominent voice in the healthcare, pharmaceutical, and biotech industries.
“We did [the movie night] because a lot of our work is with rare disease patients and their families, and we wanted to give back through a community-based event,” said Bobear. “It also filled up our tank emotionally at PEP. Our staff cares about people, and spending time with the people we do this for make us feel rejuvenated.”
Bobear explained how raising awareness for rare diseases is vital to improving medical care for patients, for a variety of reasons.
“If you look at healthcare, a lot of these conditions are ones you never see and often, you don’t know it when you do see it. Doctors work by routines and patterns, and if they don’t see these people, they fall between the cracks. Getting a care team is really hard, and misdiagnoses are common.”
Bobear also noted how since the market for drugs that help rare disease patients is so small, it’s difficult to justify the expense of bringing these drugs to market. Furthermore, when medications are available, they can be incredibly expensive. The more awareness there is of rare diseases, however, the more scientific research can go into helping these patients with new therapies and treatment.
“1 in 10 Americans have a rare disease, which means that rare isn’t so rare when you look at the big picture,” Bobear said.
As for DeFabio and his son, they are taking life day-by-day, and making each moment count.
“You have to reset your expectations,” said DeFabio. “Longer term plans aren’t as important. Getting the chance to play with Lucas today and hug him today is the greatest thing, so who knows what tomorrow will be.”
For more information about Rare Disease Day and rare diseases in general, visit the National Organization for Rare Diseases’ website at rarediseases.org. For more information about The Patient Experience Project, visit the-pep.com.
“Nacre in Concert:” a Collaboration of Creativity
SARATOGA SPRINGS – On Saturday, March 5, Nacre Dance Company is opening their 2015-2016 season with the premiere performance of “Nacre in Concert.” This show will combine several artistic mediums, including live music, dance, and poetry, and will contain brand new dances from featured choreographers, as well as a new piece by Nacre Artistic Director, Beth Fecteau, in collaboration with musicians Ria Curley and Chuck Lamb.
Beth Fectau’s piece, “Seasons,” was inspired by various props, all related to a specific season. Fecteau first discovered KnockerBalls, which resemble clear hamster balls that the dancers wear and perform in, and realized they looked like snow globes. This sparked the idea to create a modern dance piece that incorporated these seasonal props, and would take audiences on a journey through the seasons. Fecteau then reached out to celebrated R&B/pop singer and songwriter Ria Curley and jazz pianist and composer Chuck Lamb to create original music for “Seasons.”
“I really want audiences to feel a connection between the dancers, and also with our collaboration,” said Fecteau. “I also want them to see [Curley and Lamb’s] music through our bodies, and how we’re taking our bodies and interpreting their music.”
What makes “Seasons” so unique is that Curley and Lamb will be performing their music live as the dancers perform to it. According to Fecteau, the live music component is new for some of the dancers. “Live music is very different than dancing to taped music, so for them, it’s a learning experience.”
“A really neat part of this for me is to be able to see the music realized in form,” said Lamb, who specializes in the ability to improvise musically. “It becomes a visual medium, and that relationship is beautiful. This is the most choreographed work I’ve done the music for, and to have that music transform into this visual piece, is amazing.”
Fecteau gave Curley and Lamb a lot of creative freedom with “Seasons,” and according to Curley, the music and choreography came together quite seamlessly, with very few edits along the way.
“In terms of the original composing, [Beth] would give us a feel for each season, like autumn for example, and would give us various adjectives to describe it, such as ‘swirling’ or ‘falling,’ and we would have that to start with. All of a sudden, it would come together musically based off that,” noted Curley. “I have a dance background, not modern dance, but I did jazz, tap, and some ballet. I studied it for many years, so it’s fun for me also from that perspective, and it helps with composing music that can be danced to.”
Lamb also agreed that the collaboration with Fecteau came together with ease.
“It was so natural. There was a flow between us; we were always on the same page. We both wanted to make sure the other was happy, and we played off each other’s ideas a lot. It was just a blast.”
“Seasons,” which begins with spring and ends with winter, takes audiences through each season of the year, with each season having its own mood and theme. Spring and summer are presented as romantic and flirtatious, with the music upbeat, while autumn and winter are more serious and pensive. Each season incorporates Fecteau’s inspirational props, including diving caps in summer, the snow globe KnockerBalls in winter, and vivid ponchos for spring that resemble dewy flowers.
Julia Kool, who is dancing in “Seasons,” has been a student of Fecteau’s since she was nine, and is very excited to be a part of this piece.
“If you have good direction, you have a good experience, and I always have a good experience, so I must have good direction. Beth’s choreography is also really fun to do. They’re easy on your body and they look really nice.” Kool adds with a smile, “She makes me look good.”
While Fecteau’s piece will be the grand finale of “Nacre in Concert,” the show commences with a poetry reading from local poet Marilyn McCabe, who will introduce each piece in the show. Following the reading will be outstanding dance performances and choreography from the participants of Nacre’s “So You Think You Can Choreograph” competition. The winner of the competition, Kailey McCrudden, along with finalists Brett Cox and Christian Serrano, will each be presenting unique choreographed pieces of their own. The theme for “Nacre in Concert” is “atmosphere,” which is pertains to each piece being performed, including “Seasons.”
For example, Brett Cox has created a dance performance titled, “Fellow Travelers,” which will incorporates the theme of “atmosphere” through the exploration of the universe and space, using inspiration from the late astronomer, Karl Sagan.
“After my experience with Nacre during the ‘So You Think You Can Choreograph’ competition, I have continued to create dance material and keep in touch with the phenomenal members of Nacre in the hopes of a future collaboration with this outstanding group,” said Cox. “I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the staff of Nacre Dance again and return to New York for this wonderful showcase.”
With a variety of artistic mediums and performers to enjoy and discover, “Nacre in Concert” is guaranteed to be a night to remember for anyone who attends.
“We hope it’s a gift,” said Curley. “People can take an hour of their day and just sit there and feel something, whether it’s joy or curiosity or sadness. I think in all of the arts, the goal is to have people feel something, whatever they’re going to feel, but to have the time and space to feel it.”
“Nacre in Concert” will be presented Saturday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m. and March 6 at 2:30 p.m. at the Spa Little Theater in Saratoga State Park. Tickets are $20, $15 for students and seniors. For tickets or more information, call 518-817-3833 or visit nacredance.com.
“Birds Can Fly, Why Can’t I?” Takes Flight: New Children’s Book is Work of Art
SARATOGA SPRINGS – “Birds Can Fly, Why Can’t I?” tells the story of an adorable panda bear, who has big dreams of one day being able to soar through the sky. A work of collaboration between artist David Hill and writer and publisher Vicki Addesso Dodd, “Birds Can Fly, Why Can’t I?” isn’t just a classic children’s tale, it’s a work of art all on its own. Hill and Addesso Dodd will be hosting a book release party for their book on Saturday, February 27 at David Hill Gallery. The party will feature book signings, clips of how the illustrations were created, and giveaways of Hill’s artwork.
David Hill describes his beginning work in illustrating children’s books as “a true hobby.” Born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, Hill’s main body of work throughout his life has been creating beautiful and intricate oil paintings of serene nature scenes, incorporating island life into most of his pieces. In 2003, he decided to make his first children’s book, and continued it as a pastime, creating one and moving on to another, but never really doing anything with them. After Hill moved to Saratoga in 2011, he developed the beginning stages of “Birds Can Fly, Why Can’t I?”, and he knew this was one he had to finish completely.
“I needed to take this book to completion,” said Hill. “My son was three when I started it. I wanted to have a book that was my own book, one that I could read to my son and say, ‘your dad made this for you.’”
In fact, the panda bear in “Birds Can Fly, Why Can’t I” is based off of Hill’s now seven-year-old son, Griffin.
“My son was fully the panda to me. There’s a page of the book where he’s counting money from his piggy bank. My son did that every day. That page is directly from him, with the coins all spread out around him,” explained Hill. “It was great to have these little vignettes of his life incorporated into the book. I could not have done it without him.”
Hill painted each of the book’s initial images in oil, using several layers and giving a sort of transparency to certain areas.
“There’s this soft glow in the paintings of the pandas. Like the world as seen through a jar of honey. I wanted this amber tone to it, that is until the dream sequence and the colors get cooler,” David said.
After finishing the book, Hill then partnered up with Vicki Addesso Dodd, a book consultant, children’s book author, and owner of Saratoga Springs Publishing. After taking a look at what Hill put together, she fell in love with the concept, and decided to help him finish the book. Though Hill had created a storyline already, Addesso Dodd built off from that and used the illustrations to write the finished product.
“This was such an interesting project for me to do because I took the illustrations and wrote directly from them. Normally, I’m only used to writing my own story,” said Addesso Dodd, who has three published children’s books of her own through her company. “To me, [this book] is the true meaning of a picture book. It’s published in a way that if the text was removed, you can still understand the story based on the illustrations. I had so much fun with it.”
“The scaffolding was there,” said Hill, “but she did a beautiful job of taking it to a new place.”
“I just love the book,” Addesso Dodd elaborated, “The illustrations are a different medium. They relate to children, but have a different artistic view. I love the emotion in the book, and I feel that it is inspirational. It shows that whatever children choose to do, if they look within themselves, they have the power to make anything possible.”
Hill is just as thrilled with how the book turned out, and mentioned how his son is excited about the book’s completion.
“People are coming into the gallery and buying images from the book, and it’s not even out yet,” Hill said. “I wanted to think of each page as its own painting, that if you took the page away from this book, it’s a painting. It’s ready to go as its own story. That was my goal for each page, to create something that can exist completely on its own, and I believe I achieved that.”
In the future, Hill will be continuing with his gallery paintings, which focus on beauty and repetition in the natural world, but he also plans on creating more children’s books, too.
“My goal now is to have a new book every Christmas, since I have so many books ready to go,” said Hill. “But I also have a daughter that is one-year-old. My son was such a great help and inspiration that I’m tempted to do something now that is more feminine. Now might be the time to base one on my daughter.”
The book release party on Saturday, February 27 will take place at David Hill Gallery, located at 454 Broadway, at the Saratoga Marketplace, from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. The party is free to attend and open to the public.
For more information about David Hill, visit davidhillgallery.com. For more information about Vicki Addesso Dodd and her work, visit saratogaspringspublishing.com.
A Childhood Love Letter to Ballet: Author Sari Wilson Visits Northshire
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Sari Wilson, author of “Girl Through Glass,” will be at Northshire Bookstore on Thursday, February 25 at 6 p.m. Wilson will discuss her debut novel, and her own experience as a childhood ballerina, with Darlene Myers, the founder and artistic director of Northeast Ballet.
“Girl Through Glass” follows the story of 11-year -old Mira as she climbs the ladder toward becoming one of New York City’s top ballet dancers in the late 1970’s, attending the prestigious School of American Ballet, and eventually becoming one of Balanchine’s most cherished dancers. Intertwined in Mira’s story is the present day life of Kate, a dance professor who is trying to reinvent herself despite the past she can’t seem to escape.
“My hope was to use the milieu of dance to examine broader themes, and to create a compelling human drama that would connect and relate to all sorts of people,” said Wilson. “A universal theme is how we connect to our past and how we redefine our past as we change and grow. I think people connect to it in the way that we all have a childhood fantasy or experience that as adults, we need to try to understand more or incorporate into our sense of identity.”
Wilson paints a picture of the ballet world that is vivid and meticulous, which comes from Wilson’s own experience as a childhood ballerina. As a child, Wilson studied ballet at Neubert Ballet Theater, a once-storied Carnegie Hall studio, at Harkness Ballet and as a scholarship student at Eliot Feld’s New Ballet School. After that, she studied and performed modern dance with Stephan Koplowitz and at Oberlin College. When an injury ended her dancing career after college, Wilson began writing. She worked in journalism before deciding to become a fiction writer.
“I was a passionate childhood dancer. I fell in love with it – the movement, the rituals, the people in that world,” said Wilson. “It was a deep childhood passion, but the ballet world has never left me, and I’m not unusual in that. So many girls take ballet at this pivotal point in their lives; it was a big part of my childhood and adolescent experience. As a writer, I became interested in that again. My North Star has been this novel. I had to merge these two worlds, one that is focused on the body and one that is cerebral. I was trying to give movement a language.”
There are many themes Wilson incorporates into the novel that many readers will find easy to relate to, such as ambition, childhood dreams, and a desire for excellence and perfection. Wilson also hopes her novel opens up a conversation about girlhood and the difficulties that come with it.
“I want people to come away with a sense of the power of girlhood and adolescence. This is such a powerful time in a girl’s life, and it’s filled with mystery and complexity that too often gets overlooked in broader culture.”
Wilson, who lives in Brooklyn, is looking forward to her book talk at Northshire, mentioning how Saratoga Springs has always been an important place for her. Wilson not only went to ballet camp in Saratoga at a kid, but five years ago, she received a Yaddo residency, where she was able to write the ending to “Girl Through Glass.”
“Working on a novel is an immersive experience. The world of the novel has to exist in the mind, so I needed to find these moments where I could completely immerse myself in the world I was creating. I spent an amazing two weeks [at Yaddo] just immersed,” Wilson explained. “Trying to have space in a modern life for demands of a novel that is character driven requires a type of world building. It’s its own imaginary universe. It requires a leaving. Yaddo gave me that. I remember almost crying with gratitude when I got there. That place is an absolute gift.”
Now that the novel is finished, Wilson has been hearing praise from average readers and dancers alike, who applaud her for her candid look at the ballet world, and also how she uses that world to explain bigger issues and ideas.
“One part of the process I didn’t understand was hearing from readers about how important a book can be in people’s lives. It feels very special to make those connections [with readers],” said Wilson. “One person even told me how they’re bringing my book to therapy. It can be a deep experience for some people. I feel like I’m always learning from my readers.”
Sari Wilson’s book signing and discussion on February 25 at Northshire Bookstore, located at 424 Broadway, is free and open to the public. For more information about Sari Wilson and “Girl Through Glass,” visit sariwilson.com.
Getting Weird with Let’s Be Leonard
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Funky, groovy and kind of weird is the best way to describe local band, Let’s Be Leonard. Made up of five casual dudes (and a merch guy named Nick), Let’s Be Leonard has created quite a following for themselves in their hometown, and now they’re branching out all over the state and Vermont, making waves in the music world wherever they go. On Saturday, February 20, Let’s Be Leonard will be performing at Putnam Den, along with their good friends Wild Adriatic, for a live recorded show.
Let’s Be Leonard came together in 2013 after several of the band members met at Schenectady County Community College. Through meeting at local gigs and open mics, they formed the rest of the band, which is currently made up of Matt Griffin on lead guitar, Karl Bertrand on rhythm guitar, Connor Dunn on saxophone, Chris Cronin on bass and Paul Gauy on drums. All the members take part in vocals.
When asked what kind of genre their music is, drummer Paul Gauy said, “It’s like a jazz jam fusion. We take the song form style of jazz, where there’s a lot of solos and instrumental parts, and do it with a rock n’ roll feel. It’s all very rock n’ roll.” Guitarist Matt Griffin added, “I always tell people it’s like Steely Dan and The Grateful Dead combined.”
Let’s Be Leonard is definitely reminiscent of the classic jam band, while making sure their sound is entirely their own. They’re inspired by the 70’s era of music, with additional influences as varied as Herbie Hancock and Phish.
“People look at us as a continuation of the jam tradition,” said bassist Chris Cronin, “We take this really seriously because what we do with our instruments is an expression of what we live.”
The members of Let’s Be Leonard, who are all best friends, currently live together on 500 acres in Greenwich, at Christ the King Spiritual Life Center. The guys are taking care of the property in the off-season, doing landscaping and getting in touch with their inner lumberjacks, that is, when they’re not practicing and rehearsing.
“We hang out so much, that when we’re on stage, it’s just a continuation of it. We’re hanging out, but with instruments in our hands,” said Gauy. “We’ve got this vibe thing going on; it’s what Leonard is. It’s not really giving a damn about fitting in and just being yourself – forgetting about everything and just being right in the moment, having a good time.”
That sense of spontaneity and living in the moment is how their debut album, “Cow,” got its name. After a day of recording, the guys had a bonfire, a few drinks and took an inside joke too far, resulting in the very random name “Cow” as the title for their first album. Even the band name came from a misunderstood text. When guitarist Karl Bertrand suggested “Leonard” as the band name, but texted “Let’s Be Leonard,” the name stuck. Always keeping a sense of humor with their work, much of their creative ideas start with the phrase, “Wouldn’t it be funny if…?”
“We’re doing serious things, but we can’t be serious about them at all,” said guitarist Karl Bertrand, and Gauy agreed, “If we get too serious, then we’re going to drive ourselves crazy and be unhappy.”
Let’s Be Leonard takes their positive energy and easy-going, happy-go-lucky attitude with them on stage, making their audiences feel comfortable, laid-back and oh-so groovy. All the members of the band take part in writing the music, with each member adding something different to the mix. Bertrand, who has written the most songs for the band, enjoys exploring topics such as childhood, innocence and freedom, while Chris Cronin tends to focus more on cosmic subjects and the universe in his writing. Matt Griffin admits that he writes a lot of “stupid love songs.”
“We have all these experiences, and then we express those experiences through music,” Cronin said. “Experimenting is the name of our game,” added Gauy.
Let’s Be Leonard’s album “Cow” was released several months ago, and for now, the band is focused on perfecting their live act. They can be heard doing the occasional cover song, like a Dead tune or a little Billy Joel, but focus more on their original material, of which there is a lot of. Let’s Be Leonard even has their own fan subscription, known as “Leonardland.” Fans can subscribe to “Leonardland” for $10 per year and get exclusive access to their back-catalog, live recorded shows, behind-the-scenes of the band’s life, discounted merchandise, and more fun surprises.
Tickets to the show on Saturday, February 20 can be purchased at putnamden.com. The show starts at 9:30 p.m., with the doors opening at 8:30 p.m.
For more information about Let’s Be Leonard, visit their website at letsbeleonard.com and their Facebook page, facebook.com/letsbeleonard.