Interview with Ann Elliott: “Totoro”


Ann Elliott: Totoro
Dancer/Choreographer: Ann Elliott

Q: How did your young students react to the story of My Neighbor Totoro when you first read it to them?  Were your students already familiar with it, or Anime?

A:  Grow peas please! I was beginning to plant my garden during quarantine when the information from Lamont Gallery came out about creating a movement piece about Being & Feeling (Alone, Together). My first thought was [let’s make] a piece funny, absurd and childlike. Thinking of the children I work with makes me smile in these Covid-19 times. In the Fall of 2019, I read a picture book to the children in my care of My Neighbor Totoro, by Hayao Miyazaki. This was my inspiration.


Q:  Does the action of planting, hoeing, and the ebullient Grow! arm-wave come from anime or from you?  Do your young students act out the story physically while you read it out loud to them? 

A:  The action of planting, hoeing, and the ebullient Grow! arm-wave in Totoro come from the book and anime. My young charges act out the story physically on the playground. Totoro gives the children, in the pictures, acorns to grow and later in the story whistles into the acorns. I had wonderful fun teaching the children I work with how to whistle into acorn caps outside earlier this school year.

Elliott-3View Ann’s dance on Vimeo

Q:  How did you come to love the story of Totoro and Anime in general?  What about Hayao Miyazaki and his stories connected to Being & Feeling (Alone, Together) for you?

A:  My brother first introduced me to Totoro when he got a VHS tape at a yard sale in Allston, MA probably in 1987 or 1988. The recording was in Japanese and had Grave of the Fireflies on the copy too. Wow! Grave of the Fireflies makes me think about the theme here also Being & Feeling (Alone, Together). I instantly came to love the story of Totoro and Anime in general. Now that I think about it, Hayao Miyazaki and his stories connect to Being & Feeling (Alone, Together) quite a lot. If you have the chance, please watch some other titles like Spirited Away or Whisper of the Heart.


Q:  Did you already have a Totoro costume?

A:  I already had my Totoro costume. I made it for The Slambovian Circus of Dreams costume ball in 2018. My husband made a “No Face” costume.


Q: Do you hope your dance helps people remember the many things they still can engage in during Covid 19 ?

A: I hope my Totoro Dance Video reminds us all that we can still enjoy things like gardening and dancing outside – as well as reading and watching anime inside.


Q:  Do you have previous dance training, movement or acting, other?

A:  For quite a few years now I have sang and occasionally danced with the community chorus called Vocalocity in Stratham, NH.  My previous dance training is from Carole Seretto’s Dance Studio in Fitchburg, MA from 1970-1985.  I danced with The Springfield College Exhibition Dancers at Springfield College in Springfield MA 1985-1989.  I took classes in dance and choreography at Chelsea School of Human Movement in Eastbourne England in 1987.  I sang and danced as part of Up With People’s Cast F 1991 and my claim to fame the year I traveled the world was as a dancing trash bag to the song called Non-Disposable Rap!!:). I wish I had a picture of that to share with you.

Ann Elliott is a teacher at the Harris Family Children’s Center at Phillips Exeter Academy.

Interviewed Conducted by Jennifer Benn:
Jennifer Benn has been a Lamont Gallery attendant since 2015. She is also a professional painter with a studio at the Button Factory in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She earned her MFA in painting from Syracuse University and has led programs for students to study art and culture in Ireland at the Burren College of Art. Jennifer teaches abstract painting at Maine College of art and offers private lessons at her studio.

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