How to Fold a Pleated Skirt: An Educational Guide (2014)

A mixture of dancing and speaking bodies introduces “how-to” instructional guides on a new level!


Susie Thiel in collaboration with the dancers


Andrew Hungerford


Susie Thiel and Marilyn Szczygielski


Theresa Bautista, Les Gibbs, Megan Jellison, Susie Thiel, and Mary Szczygielski

How to Fold a Pleated Skirt: An Educational Guide, is a 50-minute dance theatre work on “how-to” instructional guides to create a work that encompasses a mixture of vignettes of dancing, moving, speaking and singing bodies. Presented at the 2014 Cincinnati Fringe Festival, the wool skirted and sweater-vest dressed cast presents a societal commentary touching on many aspects of what people tend to Google, look up or ask questions about, from the mundane of how to make pasta or the best way to make a bed, to directions and how to work-out. More critical, difficult and crucial “how-tos” are also addressed from how to succeed and find one’s life path, to how to become a mother in association with learning to crawl, walk and live. A dialogue about how to get over a broken heart from both perspectives of a heterosexual and homosexual relationship is presented, only to discover that there is no right or wrong way to get over a past relationship, just the passing of time. This is followed by a movement sequence based on accumulation, time and backtracking. I find the “unknown” challenging and exciting as the cast includes the audience members during two sections of the performance, how to learn to dance and how to be creative. During how to learn to dance, the performers choose one or two brave souls to teach the cast their dance moves. How to be creative is based on audience members’ prompts that the performers will improvise to. How to pick up a date, quit smoking, be creative, live through a divorce as well as analysis of the definition of a how-to is also discussed verbally and through movement during How to Fold a Pleated Skirt: An Educational Guide. The work culminates with a quirky jazz piece set to Mambo styled music while the dancers discuss how to fold a pleated skirt. This is a comment on how society investigates a wide range of topics when finding how to do something. Despite the serious nature of some of the topics, the work is interwoven with humor, quirky and light-hearted overtones that truly take the audience on an emotional journey.

The dance theatre work was created in collaboration with the dancers and premiered at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival in 2014 with Susie Thiel Collaborative.