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Author Showcase

Fall 2005 Featured Author Reg Down

RT: A biography about your work notes that the inspiration for The Tales of Tiptoes Lightly came from your work with kindergarteners and elementary-aged students. Can you tell us what you learned from the students that brought Tiptoes to life?

Reg: Free imagination! Young children live in artistic pictures that freely unfold. What I learned from them was to move within mobile pictures without intellectual preconceptions. When I achieved this then our lessons were fresh, immediate — and unpredictable!

RT: Could you tell us a little about eurythmy and how it is used in an educational setting?

Reg: This question is frequently asked and is very difficult to put succinctly (and understandably) in print. Eurythmy is one of those things which is easier to grasp when actually done — then the penny drops! In a nutshell, eurythmy uses the inherent movements, gestures, images, structures, and rhythms of speech or music and makes them visible. This allows two of the noblest aspects of human culture, language and music, to be deeply absorbed by children. In a school setting eurythmy is taught from preschool through grade twelve.

RT: Have you used Tiptoes Lightly in dance and movement classes or events? Is there a particular type of music that you hear when reading the story or creating activities from it?

Reg: Eurythmists only use live music as music is only real in the moment of creation. (A recording is just that — a record of what was created in the past.) In my case, I have been blessed with musicians who could play piano, recorder, pentatonic flute, lyre, and a host of folk instruments to create the music for our lessons. In kindergarten and grade 1 the children come into my eurythmy room and the whole lesson is a story which weaves between movement, the spoken word, and live music. As a rule the music is pentatonic as this corresponds with the young child’s developmental stage with respect to their consciousness (i.e., free floating and not yet grounded in a ‘prime’ or ‘tonic’). Sometimes the musician and I compose pieces with specific rhythms, phrasing or melodic line. My most recent musician is also a great improviser and this freed me up to improvise within the story line and to take it in quite unexpected directions depending on the mood of the children.

RT: In visiting with children to share the book, what insight have they given you about Jeremy Mouse, Tiptoes, and the Gnome brothers that you didn’t realize was there?

Reg: So far I have not read the book to children. The book is a record, in literary form, of the stories we did in the lessons, or, in the case of kindergarten, of the whole lesson itself. What delighted me the most was hearing from parents how their children would continue to include the Tiptoes’ characters when they were playing at home or with classmates. When this happens then you know that you have succeeded in engaging their inner life.

RT: The Festival of Stones: Autumn and Winter Tales of Tiptoes Lightly (2005), the next book in the series, has just been released. Can you give us a hint about the adventures ahead for Tiptoes, Jeremy Mouse, and their friends? Do we meet any new characters?

Reg: The Festival of Stones follows Tiptoes and friends though the autumn festivals of Michaelmas, Halloween, Martinmas, Advent, and Christmas — with various adventures that happen along the way. We meet Pins and Needles the house fairies; the Borodat that lives in the barn (he never goes outside because he says it is too windy!); and Mr. Owl the Vegetarian who saves Jeremy Mouse from drowning. This book is a little more structured and ‘older’ than The Tales of Tiptoes Lightly and contains a number of stories that I either did in grades 1 though 3, or told freely at the end my lessons.

RT: Tiptoes is a great read-aloud book that also lends itself to creating mini-plays. Could you offer some ideas for parents about ways to bring the stories to life?

Reg: The Tales of Tiptoes Lightly was created out of the spoken word and I tried hard to retain this aspect. I must have been successful as a number of parents, teachers, and children have commented that they like reading it aloud. I strongly feel that children are so naturally alive that they do not need us as adults to "bring stories to life." What we can do is support our children in bringing their inner life to expression by giving them the raw materials with which to create out of their own imagination. By “raw” I mean, for instance, painting paper and real watercolors to paint with (and the willingness to help clean up the mess); colored beeswax to model and sculpt with (mud also works!); colored fabric to create houses, play spaces and costumes; and so forth. All of these activities presupposes an adult that is involved in their child’s life and is willing to put the time in, of course. One of our biggest challenges, in my opinion, is to withhold our intellectuality and to enter into their world of childhood. This allows for a full childhood to blossom and helps us avoid the danger of bypassing a critical phase of development and unwittingly create pseudo adults.

RT: Do you envision more tales for Tiptoes?

Reg: Yes! The third book in the series is called Big-Stamp Two-Toes the Barefoot Giant. I am halfway through illustrating and hope to publish it in spring 2006. For the moment this is as far as I am going with the Tiptoes’ tales. But the life of an artist is never predictable — even for the artist! — and if I feel inspired then I’ll write some more. I’ve been working on a lengthy book on color and gesture for five years now and, as a first priority, I want to get it finished and out of the way. When the decks are cleared then I will be able to see what I want to do next.


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