Monthly Archives: December 2015

New Year’s Eve Sponsor Spotlight-L3 Academy

Girl with abacus

Girl with abacus

We’re pleased to welcome Montclair’s L3 Academy as a sponsor for Family New Year’s Rock-n-Roll Ball at The Old Mogul Theatre tomorrow 12/31! This innovative learning center is offering free enrollment in a course as a giveaway by random drawing at our event.

L3 Academy is short for Lifelong Learning Academy, LLC. L3 is focused on providing fun, educational programs that go beyond the common enrichment or continuing education programs for ages 3 and up. While enrichment and continuing education programs offer exposure to a variety of subjects, we hope that our programs provide a more in-depth opportunity for our students to diligently learn, while having hands-on fun. Initial program offerings include language immersion for Mandarin and Spanish, Early Childhood Enrichment, Interdisciplinary Programs as well as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programs.

Learn more about L3 Academy in Montclair here.

Get your tickets to Family New Year’s Rock-n-Roll Ball here.


New Year’s Eve Spotlight: Sally from Artsy & Craftsy

Sally Goodgold from Artsy and Craftsy leading a crafts projectOne thing I miss about First Night Montclair was the well-rounded experience in the arts that kids would have hopping from one venue to the next. In one storefront would be a live musician. A dance or magic show would happen next door. Then you’d get to the venue with the crafts.

I wanted to bring that spirit to life for our Family New Year’s Rock-n-Roll Ball, so I looked no further than Holly’s arts & crafts teacher at her pre-school – Sally Goodgold from Artsy & Craftsy – to lead our special arts & crafts projects for our family New Year’s celebration.

Here’s my conversation with Sally so you can get to know what’s at the heart of her work to create crafts with kids:

Q: What are your favorite crafts to do with kids?

A: I love to work with children on crafts that focus on the process.  It could be beading, collage, sculpture, painting – I believe the journey or experience that gets them to their end result is what arts and crafts is all about.

Q: What are some things you’ve learned about kids by doing crafts with them?

A: I have learned that each and every child has the ability to create beautiful art within them.

Sally Goodgold from Artsy and Craftsy leading a crafts projectQ: What is the age range you teach arts and crafts to?

A:  Ages range from 18 months to 12 years old.

Q: How long have you been an artist? How long have you shared arts & crafts experiences with kids?

A: I loved art as a child.  I would always be creating something.  I attended a high school that had a huge focus on art.  I was exposed to so many mediums of art and learned art theory and history there.   In college, one of my majors was fine arts which further enhanced my art techniques.  I began teaching arts and crafts during college and never looked back.

Q: Describe your thoughts and feelings about bringing your arts and crafts experience to this first-ever Family New Year’s Rock-n-Roll Ball this year.

A: We are so excited to be part of the Family New Year’s Rock-n-Roll Ball.  We look forward to creating some fun new years crafts together and decorating collaboratively on our very own new years ball to drop during our countdown.  Stop by and say hello!

>>Save money on tickets to the Family New Year’s Rock-n-Roll Ball by pre-ordering today.

The Family New Year’s Rock-n-Roll Ball takes place on Thursday, December 31 at 4:00 PM at the Old Mogul Theatre in Montclair. Sally’s Artsy & Craftsy activity will be accompanied by Izabelle The Amazing on hula hoop, Painted Faces and Other Places to give the kids a truly transformative experience and a family-friendly rock-n-roll show by Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam.

How Star Wars has Marked my Coming of Age…at Every Age

Jason and Holly Didner from Jungle Gym Jam engage in a lightsaber duel on Star Wars Reads Day in October 2013.With the release of every Star Wars movie, there was a special way that each film spoke to me at those points in my development.

I was six years old the first time I was transported to that galaxy far, far away, to a movie that was then just known as Star Wars, but is now called Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. That movie fueled my sense of pretend play with my brother Matt. We would fly our toy X-wing fighters on all kinds of missions until one-by-one, their wings would break off.  We’d improvise all kinds of new scenes between our action figures. I distinctly remember wrapping myself with a blanket and brandishing a Wiffle bat as Obi-Wan and then collapsing under that cloak after making the ultimate sacrifice for the Rebellion.

At age 9, I’d take in “The Empire Strikes Back” for the first time. As a student who struggled to focus attention on the task at hand but had a vague understanding of my natural talents, I experienced my share of achievements and made my share of excuses for the setbacks. I connected with Luke’s struggles and failures in front of his wise mentor Yoda.

Jason Didner instructing Holly on battling a remote with her lightsaber at Star Wars Reads Day at Montclair Public Library October 2013While the question hung in the air over the next three years over whether Darth Vader’s shocking revelation was truthful or a lie, our family moved from East Brunswick to Morristown. I was approaching the age of my Bar Mitzvah. What I believe I took away from Return of the Jedi, the completion of the original trilogy, was Luke’s repeated refusal to fight his father to the death and his assertion of his identity as a Jedi, even at the risk of his life. Darth Vader’s final act of compassion and sacrifice spoke to me as well. As an essentially non-violent kid, I took this conclusion as an affirmation that non-violence can be tremendous strength, not weakness or cowardice. Today, my daughter gets a kick out of dueling with me using pool-noodle lilghtsabers with duct-tape hilts as I admonish “You are unwise to lower your DEFENSES,” at which point I strike from above and she dutifully parries my attack.

My teens and college years would include an occasional re-watching of these classics in no particular order, as they came on HBO or if a roommate was watching a VHS tape, it would spontaneously become movie night. I felt those were occasions to bond with new friends over a shared youth experience.

I was a man of 29 when the prequels, namely Episode I: The Phantom Menace’s hype caught me in its tractor beam. Much was written about this upcoming film and I devoured it as quickly as I could, fascinated with imagining the state that galaxy in the decades before that famous civil war broke out. It was a particular thrill to see a vibrant, young Obi-wan as a Jedi-in-training exhibiting dazzling lightsaber skills against countless droids. I was also intrigued with the deceptive machinations that a certain politician from Naboo was devising as he appeared to be living a double life. As a politically active young adult, I believe I appreciated the political maneuvering in the film that others found frustrating or un-Star Wars-like. I believe I simply accepted this controversial film as a marker of where the beloved stories from my childhood all began.  Little did I know how my life would soon change in a profound way. Less than a month after Episode 1 came out, I’d meet Amy. We were married by the time the next prequel was released.

I remember our wedding day so clearly-a joyous celebration in front of our extended family and friends – a moment to publicly share our feelings with everyone who we felt close to – and the stark contrast to the secret wedding of Anakin and Padme in Episode II: Attack of the Clones. For me,  Anakin’s unrequited longing that suddenly became a mutual passion after some shared traumatic moments struck me as an image of doomed romances I’ve seen (and experienced) in real life. Seeing the city bar scene lay the early groundwork for Obi-Wan’s quick reactions in the cantina to protect Luke later in life was a satisfying callback.

Revenge of the Sith, the movie meant to connect the prequel trilogy to the events of our childhood memories from A New Hope, give us a concrete depiction of the moment we always imagined – the duel between the newly converted Darth Vader and his former master Obi-Wan. It was a solemn moment of reckoning. It’s the image that remains on my mind when I contemplate whether I would let my heart to go to the darkest place in the universe to protect my loved ones.  And would that change me into someone my loved ones could no longer accept. For the record, it makes no sense to me that Padme would die of sorrow at a young age without suicide or a disease that’s worsened by stress and grief (like the way cancer quickly consumed the life of Dayna Reeve after Christopher died). Within the workings of that galaxy far, far away, I’m more likely to believe that newly-crowned Emperor Palpatine sucked the life force out of Padme, much like Vader was able to remotely choke Imperial officers who failed to carry out his orders. The Emperor needed Padme, a senator who stood for peace and democracy, out of the way for his new dictatorship to go full steam ahead. He also needed to squash entirely the soft side of his newly-minted apprentice Darth Vader. What better way to do that than to bring an end to the very same loved one Anakin gave himself to the dark side to protect?

My overall experience of the prequel trilogy through my late 20s/early 30s was that it was different than the back stories that were in my head, but I accepted them as the back stories that creator George Lucas had been carrying in his imagination long before any of us would ever know what a landspeeder was. I learned through the experience of these prequels that other people have different stories to tell than I do.  During the period between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, I created an album of heartfelt singer-songwriter meets rock-n-roll fare and I gave lots of live performances in support of that album. I had my own stories to tell and I felt motivated and compelled to tell them. I still do. Star Wars would remind me of the power of storytelling.

As I write this, I’m less than 24 hours away from witnessing The Force Awakens, a movie I’ve been aware of since the project was first announced about three years ago. My inner geek is going a bit berserk here, so bear with me. I’m eager for the new stories and the way they’ll be told – and the chance to catch up with the primary characters of those stories that informed my own childhood so much – played by the original actors. The most important new development in my life since the last prequel is that I’m a dad now and sharing this saga with a child who is now the same age as my brother was when we first witnessed the original film as a family. I’m interested in what this new generation of the saga will say to me as a parent and how its tale of a young woman coming into her power will serve my daughter as this trilogy unfolds over the next six years.

New Year’s Eve Spotlight – Face Painter Anne Malone

Anne from Painted Faces and Other PlacesI wanted our Family New Year’s Rock-n-Roll Ball to be a festive experience that parents can share with their kids with a variety of experiences – live music, a hula hoop performance, an interactive arts & crafts activity and a face painter. My network of friends led me to one Anne Malone, a very talented face painter who operates under the business name Painted Faces and Other Places ( I had the privilege of interviewing Anne to help give you, the families of Montclair, a sense of what the experience with her will be like.

Enjoy the interview below – and be sure to…

>> Pre-order your advance tickets to Family New Year’s Rock-n-Roll Ball at Old Mogul Theatre in Montclair today.

Anne from Painted Faces and Other Places doing her handiwork. Q: I understand you’re a teacher as well as a face painter. How does teaching influence the way you approach face painting?

A: As a teacher I’ve had the opportunity to work with 3rd – 12th graders, which has given me the insight on how to talk to and get along with all age groups.  This is a big help in getting the children to be comfortable and enjoy the experience.

Q: What first got you into face painting?

A:Knowing that I was a painter and an art educator, a friend of mine asked if I would help her with a face painting party.  She lent me her kits and I set to work on my children practicing.  I fell in love with it right away.  It was a win win.  I was able to paint and the children were thrilled with their new looks.

Q: What are your favorite images you’ve painted on kids’ faces or arms?

A: For girls I love doing the “Frozen” look, they always feel transformed when they see themselves in the mirror.  As for the boys I really like the superhero masks especially wolverine, he’s my favorite!

Q: What was the greatest example of you surprising yourself to deliver on a child’s request for an image painted on him/her?

A: This past Halloween I transformed a little girl into the gruesome witch she wanted to be.  She loved the added touch of a spider in a web across her forehead.

IMG_1647Q: Describe your thoughts and feelings about the upcoming first-ever Family New Year’s Rock-n-Roll Ball.

A:First of all I am honored that I was asked to participate and I am so “EXCITED” about doing it!  The Family New Year’s Rock-n-Roll Ball is going to be chock full of events and fun for all.  What an amazing opportunity for the children to experience an age appropriate New Year’s celebration event.  My little ones are already asking me when we are going.

Thanks for taking the time to read this interview; I think your kids are really going to love Anne’s face painting.

>> Order your tickets now for Family New Year’s Rock-n-Roll Ball at Old Mogul Theatre in Montclair and give your kids the ultimate creative experience on New Year’s Eve.  

New Year’s Eve Spotlight – Izabelle the Amazing!

Our Featured Performer Does Wonders with Hula Hoops!

On New Year’s Eve, we have a special treat for kids and families of Montclair and the surrounding area. Before the Jungle Gym Jam takes the stage to play a spirited set of kid-friendly rock-n-roll, prepare to be dazzled by Izabelle the Amazing! Here’s a video of the stunning illusions she creates with hula hoops and dance, followed by an interview to learn more about this one-of-a-kind performer.

>> Get your tickets to “Family New Year’s Rock-n-Roll Ball” at the Old Mogul Theatre here!

Below is my interview with Izabelle about her remarkable show.

izabelle 02

Q: What first got you interested in combining hula hoop artistry with dance?

A: Seeing and meeting other performers with many different techniques inspired me to begin performing and create my very own style of hula hoop artistry and dance. For me the combination of the hoop art and dance just blended . To me it is not one or the other it has been hula hoop Dance from the beginning.
Q: How long have you been dancing? How long with the hula hoops? 
A: I have no dance background ! I have been hula hooping and dancing for 4 years now . I have learned from fellow performers and experience !
Izabelle the amazing - hula hoop artist to perform at Family New Year's Rock-n-Roll Ball at the Old Mogul Theatre in Montclair
Q: How does the name ‘Izabelle the Amazing’ work with the name ‘Pixie Tails?’ Are these two separate projects? Is there an overlap between them?
A: The business that I own is called pixie tails ! I sell hula hoops and other ” flow/dance props “, up cycled leggings and jewelry as well as my performing services . I started performing as an employee in a fire performance troupe under the name pixie , I took the name pixie and created my own business in respects to my past , pixie tails ! I perform alone now as ” Izabelle the amazing “
Q: My daughter loves your YouTube videos of your hula hoop performances. Your show appears to be for all ages, but have you noticed a special difference in how kids respond to your act?
A: I get wonderful responses from all ages ! I have actually noticed that because I change up my music , costume and performance style to fit events and age groups that I receive incredible responses from my audiences . But I will admit there is this extra magical look in the little ones eyes when they see my show !
Q: Joann recommended you when I asked her for a magician. When I saw your video I understood the element of illusion in what you do. How important is the art of illusion to your presentation?
A: illusion is one of the most important parts of hula hoop art . The illusions I create with the hoop keep my audience watching , staying entranced in the movements of my body and the movements of the hula hoop(s)
Q: I’ve seen in your videos how you create different characters through costume, song selection and movement choices. What inspires these characters and what are your favorite characters to portray onstage?
A: In many cases my customers  will have a set theme or a suggestion for a costume or character . Then I put my own twist on the character and try to become it as much as possible , with music and some acting .
One of my favorites is my ring leader costume , because of the circus style and that my hula hoops are also rings ! 
Q: Tell us all a little about your thoughts and feelings about performing at the first Family New Year’s Rock-n-Roll Ball in Montclair.
A: I am excited and eager to be a part of this event ! I love this town, it is an absolute pleasure to perform in these wonderful venues . I get a little more excited to perform at openings or “first” annual events because I feel I help make the events that much better ! I believe this will be a great evening for all !
We’re very excited to have Izabelle the Amazing grace the stage with us on New Year’s Eve and we just know your kids will be astounded!
Tell us in the comments if you’re coming to the ball and what you’re loooking forward to experiencing there.