Jessica Weinstein learned to walk and dance on stilts in Ghana in 2000, with an initiation ritual in which she was placed in a circle of lit gunpowder while seven notches were cut into each of her big toes, and a special fortifying powder was rubbed into the wounds, entering her blood stream, and enabling her to channel powerful forces in precarious situations...such as a life in the arts. She has since incorporated stilts into much of her work as a theater artist and performer.
2000: Jessica travels to Ghana, where she learns stilt dancing from Anchor's Masquerade Society in Cape Coast. She is initiated as a stilt performer with a protection ritual, and is inaugurated into the group in a parade through town.
2002: Jessica begins performing as Hilda, the ten foot tall faux-German powerhouse, with Anonymous Ensemble's underground rock theater outfit The Best, which performs all over NYC, as well as Berlin and Australia through 2007.
2004: Jessica begins to perform on stilts in a range of nightclubs in NYC, and
appears on stilts in a few music videos and short films.
2004: Jessica performs a marriage in the air on stilts in Mabou Mines Red Beads, at MassMoca and the Skirball Center, NYC
2005: On a whim, Jessica travels to Mexico with her self-made red wooden stilts, happens to find the stilters of Zachilla Mexico, and joins them for their yearly festival of San Sebastian, where the all male group dress half as men and half as women. Her stilts are exactly the same height as theirs. They are slightly confused about a woman at eye level, but all goes well.
2005: Jessica begins performing on stilts and as an actress in Mabou Mines' Dollhouse, which tours to Israel, Hong Kong, Australia, Edinburgh, Madrid, Singapore, Italy, Greece, Korea, Columbia, the U.S. and Moskow through 2011
2007: While on a jaunt to a Botanical Garden in mainland China, Jessica comes across a stilt performance. The stilters let her join them for a little while, and before long there is a local television crew making news of it.
2008: Jessica and Anonymous Ensemble create Wanderlust, a one-woman stilt tour-de-force, which performs at the Edinburgh Fringe festival. It is nominated for a Total Theatre award in Experiment and Innovation.
2009: The success of Wanderlust in the Edinburgh Fringe leads to a U.K. tour which also includes the Hilda and Gretel Cabaret, at Latitude Festival, Jackson's Lane, Madame JoJo's, Stratford Circus.
2011: Jessica performs on stilts in a collaboration with the National Opera of Greece, in Anonymous Ensemble's Turing Opera. She plays MIRA, a superhuman computer chatbot who orchestrates an opera.
2014: Jessica collaborates for the first time with long time friend Aki Sasamoto in her Sunny in the Furnace at the Kitchen, NYC. It feels good to look at the stilts as a structural tool within Aki's landscape. Jessica channels the secret singer songwriter in the ex girlfriend wig. Photo: Julieta Cervantes
St Ann's Warehouse, Skirball Center, LaMama's, P.S.122, Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Museum of the City of New York,Webster Hall, The Pyramid Club, The Belt, The Chocolate Factory, The Ohio Theater, Chashama, The Makor, Marqee, Arena, The Box, The Park, Element, The Annex, Carnival,The Delancey, Parkside Lounge, Galapagos, Sin-E, Parkside Lounge, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade