Meet James Ihde

James Ihde


23rd year performing in Shut Up & Dance

25th year attending Shut Up & Dance

Photograph © Vikki Sloviter


Funny Memory 

We did a piece, maybe six or seven years ago, that Brian Sanders choreographed and Tara Keating performed. She was in this big, plastic blow up ball, and I was on stage behind her holding the ball so it wouldn’t move. She was supposed to do a solo in it, cut her way out of it, and then dance again.

She was in there, and it came time to get out, and she couldn’t get out! She was cutting the ball spastically and fighting her way out… and at the last second made it!  After she got out she did her thing, and everything was okay. But I’d say that’s something that doesn’t happen everywhere!

Needless to say, they performed that idea that night and never did it again.”



“Motivation [for the dancers] comes from wanting to help out and contribute, as well as people who really want an opportunity to choreograph on their friends and dancers they really admire. Maybe they get the opportunity to do a solo or something they might not have done otherwise.

People do humorous pieces as well, things that are really far off the beaten path that they might not get a chance to do any other time!”



“Shut Up & Dance was very small the first couple years, not raising much money. A very small, homegrown event. Then, for years it was strictly dancers of the Pennsylvania Ballet, choreographing on each other, maybe bringing back old pieces. And then over the years it developed into bringing on other local dancers, other choreographers, special guests, and bands.

So that side of the crew has evolved and the sheer size of the show has quintupled.

After the show you see how much money you raised and what a great cause it is and how much that money actually helps real, every day people in such a practical way. It’s a great thing for us to be involved in.”

Volunteers Weigh in on MANNA’s Last Weeks at Ranstead Street

MANNA was founded in 1990 by seven volunteers from the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia who threw all of their energy into creating a system of meal delivery to individuals dying of HIV/AIDS. We are so fortunate to function to this day as an organization fueled by the passion and generosity of neighbors who want to give back. Some of MANNA’s volunteers have been helping in our kitchens regularly for many, many years. This week, some of our long returning volunteer crews reflected with us on their experiences at our Ranstead Street location as a way to mark the transition to our brand new facility on 420 North 20th Street.

The best part about volunteering regularly at MANNA is finding your ‘crew.’ With many folks volunteering regularly on the same day each week, weekly hangouts blossom into years of friendship. Sometimes the day of the week you land on is due to previous ties, but more often it’s happenstance. A serendipitous journey of community, friendship, and good work.



The Thursday Crew 

The Thursday crew has been coming for many years, some for longer than others. Many of them are tied in one way or another to Claire Toy, a force of nature at MANNA who has pulled so many together, into the kitchen, into a community, for more than two decades. 

Jan: “It’ll be sad to leave [the Ranstead location], because this is this spot, you know? But it’ll be good to go to a new spot.

Harriet: It’s so comforting to be here. It’s the sense of community between the volunteers and with the staff. And although we don’t always get to meet the clients, they’re sort of here, in the room, in a silent way. You really get the feeling that we’re all working together on something important.”

Stelle: “I’ve been coming to MANNA for thirteen years, and I’ve been telling Harriet – who’s new – volunteers are so appreciated here. And that’s something she’s already experienced in the short time she’s been coming.

In these past thirteen years, I’ve made real friends. Not just colleagues working here. There are some of us that see each other now outside of MANNA. We always discuss politics, movies, books, as we chop and cook. That’s been a real plus, too.”

Jan: What always impressed me with some of the volunteers who are students, or have full time jobs, is that they’ll come here on their days off. I never did that on my day off!! We know someone who came on her lunch break! I think it’s just a remarkable thing that people are so invested in volunteering.

Stelle: Jan and I started coming together when we retired from the school district – we worked together. Then we brought a friend or two, and the rest just sort of happened!

Lou came with his daughter at the same time, and now they volunteer every Thursday together as well.

Harriet: It’s like it’s hard wired at MANNA to be appreciative. You just feel it. Everyone is always so friendly. When you walk in in the morning there’s always staff saying hello, asking how you are, remembering your name.

Stelle: Another thing that makes it really interesting is that you volunteer here with people from all walks of life. One week you might be working next to a doctor, and the next week you might be working with someone who’s here on community service with the court system.

Henrietta: Stelle, my neighbor, brought me here a couple of years ago. She had helped me through a hard illness and brought me here because I wanted to give back, and had nowhere to go.

What I’ll remember about this place is probably all the same things I’ll take to the new place. Everyone is so kind, we laugh a lot, we get a lot of work done. It just makes you feel good. So if we can feel good in a new, shiny place… I’m all for it!

As long as they take the popcorn, I’m good, because that’s the only reason we come! Just kidding. We kid around and say that because the popcorn is so good.

Funny Memories

Thursday Crew: We do a lot of baking. One time, we were doing brownies… and of course these things only happen when someone walks by who’s in charge, like Keith (Head Chef). So we’re unwrapping our twenty pounds of butter and putting it in the blender, and we turn it on – again, we’re new. We had not first checked that the bowl was sitting where it was supposed to… and the butter went flying and the bowl was all over the place, and we were trying to stop it and panicking at the same time! [Laughing] We’ll never forget that.



The Friday Crew 

Eve: I’ve been volunteering here for about 10 years. I remember when I first started, and coming into a kitchen full of people singing show tunes, thinking it was just a little too crazy for me. But I very quickly adapted and learned to love it. And it’s been a wonderful part of my life every Friday morning, coming to MANNA.

It’s really the Friday Morning Crew that keeps me coming back to MANNA. It’s just been wonderful. I’ve made great friends here, and it’s just been a wonderful thing.

George: I’ve gotten volunteer of the month, and last year I got the silver spoon award; it made me feel tremendous. It’s been great fun, meeting all the different people. It gives me something to do, instead of sitting at home and doing nothing! This way I can help people out. And that’s even better. I come three days a week, and I’ve been coming for almost seven years – I started after I retired. The people and the work keep me coming back!

Dominic: I started volunteering with MANNA the year after they started… I’ve been with MANNA for more than 25 years. When I first started we had nothing but volunteers. And something like 40 clients. And then when we got to one hundred clients it was a big thing. And look how far we are now!!

You get some wonderful people here. It changed my whole life. It gives me a purpose in life, to go out and do things. I’m not sitting home in a rocking chair. And working with young people! I love being around young people. I don’t want to just be around people my age!

I volunteer Mondays and Fridays. The best part is all of the friends I’ve met here over the years. We became friends, and stayed friends. In fact, a group of us, about ten years ago, we rented a villa outside of Florence for three weeks. And it was all the nice people I met here. I’ve known Eve for 25 years. I would never have met most of these people otherwise.

Ed Lyons: It’s different every day, and I’ve been doing it for 16 years!


Meet Alexandra Hughes

Last week, we learned about Producing Director Ian Hussey’s story and how he found his way to Shut Up & Dance. This week, we meet Assistant Producer Alexandra Hughes, coming up on her 7th year with the show!

Alexandra Hughes

Assistant Producer

7th Shut Up & Dance

Favorite memory?

“My favorite Shut Up & Dance moment was in 2013 when we did a Showgirls theme. We ended up doing a full opening and closing number, and a little intermediary fun piece, and I ended up being the girl called ‘MANNA.’ It was just the electricity from the audience. It made everything so fun.”

Funny memory?

“Last year I was injured during Shut Up & Dance, so with my fractured boot on, I stood on the speakers and mimed the ‘walk like an Egyptian’ song and pulled red ribbon out of Ian who had just been stabbed. That was pretty funny. That was a good moment.”


 Photograph by Vikki Sloviter

Ian Hussey’s Story

Ian Hussey, Shut Up & Dance Producing Director

The 25th anniversary of Shut Up & Dance will be Ian Hussey’s fourteenth year performing in it. Now in his sixth year as the producing director, Ian still thinks of Shut Up as “one of the most wonderful nights of [his] life, every single year.”

Shut Up & Dance has always held an element of wonder. Maybe that’s why it has continued to thrive, enchanting Philadelphians for two and a half decades, growing up alongside MANNA. What started as a small family and friends affair has evolved into a well-known, highly-attended performance at the Forrest Theatre, just as MANNA has grown from a grass-roots initiative in a church basement to a nutrition-based nonprofit establishing itself as a thought leader.

Ian recently took the time to tell us a little about his Shut Up & Dance story.


 Photograph by Vikki Sloviter


The Beginning

When Ian was growing up in Philadelphia, he would see posters around town for a dancer-curated performance called “Shut Up & Dance.” While the posters sparked his familiarity with the burgeoning show, he never had the opportunity to attend. Fortunately, he later ended up joining the Pennsylvania Ballet and was introduced to the reward of dancing for this annual tradition of collaboration with MANNA.

As a young dancer in the company, Shut Up was a great opportunity to get out there and take on more central roles. But quickly, it came to mean much more. MANNA’s community-centric model, rooted in compassion, resonated deeply with Ian. The opportunity to contribute to MANNA’s mission through his life’s art was an unparalleled experience. The fulfillment he found in this benefit performance, a show with a more raw and boundless format, was enough to ensure he stuck with it for years. 

As Ian said, “I think being a dancer and being able to put on a show like this, one that not only brings so much joy to the MANNA family but also the dance community, is amazing. MANNA does such important, good work for our community and contributing to that is an opportunity most of us [dancers] don’t ever really get a chance to do. And we get to do it every year! It’s incredibly rewarding.”


The Preparation & Excitement

Because Shut Up is a voluntary project for the dancers, preparation time for the performance is found in-between practice for other shows with the Pennsylvania ballet. Dancers squeeze rehearsal time into treasured morsels of spare minutes and whenever a studio is open – lunch hours, after hours, breaks. When the week of the show arrives, the final bursts of adrenaline really kick in.

While it can be stressful, this is an aspect of the show that makes it so unique for the dancers. Ian explained the consensus among his colleagues is that performing for Shut Up is ‘a roller-coaster of emotions,’ a babbling stream of nervous electricity and delightful anticipation.

For Ian, one of his favorite parts of the show is “the journey of the whole thing culminating backstage. Everyone is back there, watching each other and supporting one another and all of the nerves and excitement and energy of the show is something you can really feel when you’re on stage, off stage, and the audience is making noise. All of the memories are pretty amazing.” 

The space for creativity within the show is what makes it unique for the dancers and audience alike. Ian explained, “People love Shut Up and Dance because they have no idea what the heck they got themselves into, no idea what’s about to happen. You walk in, and the theatre is a little stripped down, and the dancers are warming up on stage, and there’s this energy of, ‘this is about to happen.’”  


The Embarrassing/Funny Moments

Ian remembers one show in particular, before he was the director, when he was playing a secret service agent. He had on pants with buttons so he could rip them off and run across the stage in little green booty shorts. The plan was that once he ripped off the pants, all the dancers would come on stage and fly away in a sort of jazz run.

Except, after Ian ripped off the pants, things quickly went awry. As he remembers, “I don’t know what happened, but I had a total spazz moment. I ended up doing the jazz runs but with the same arm and leg, flying down… and then my glasses were falling off! So I’m the central person doing all of these moves and I’m an utter disaster. It was a disgrace to dance everywhere.”

The jazz runs may have descended into chaos, but it didn’t matter. Because Ian wasn’t performing to refine his reputation, but to contribute to MANNA and the community. If the audience was laughing and enjoying themselves, it was a success.


The Evolution

When recalling the epic odyssey of Shut Up, Ian said, “I’ve seen Shut Up & Dance grow up and mature a lot. It will and should always be the grassroots of the dancers of the PA ballet choreographing the night. But now we’re bringing in other companies from the Philadelphia area and having that be part of the show. Beyond ballet dancers we have had exciting acts – acrobatic acts, tap dancers, cabaret.”

“And now we are taking it in a totally new direction with Martha Graham Cracker. I think with her, moving forward the show will hopefully grow bigger and bigger. Every year we have to do crazier things. Where do you go from crazy? You just go crazier.”


Ask a Dietitian: Granola

Question: I really like this granola recipe but I keep reading about how granola is bad for you due to too much added sugar. Can you comment and suggest how I might revise a recipe to be healthier?

MANNA RD: Granola is one of those food items that looks healthy on the outside but is deceivingly filled with lots of sugar and sometimes unhealthy fats.  Commercial varieties are often loaded with enough sugar containing more of the sweetener than protein by weight, the dietary guidelines have labeled it as a “grain-based dessert” and has placed it in the sweets category.

On average, one cup of granola or one granola bar has anywhere from 20-24 grams of sugar which is as much as what you would find in a slice of cake or even a bowl of ice cream.

With most Americans becoming more aware of and concerned with their daily sugar intake, more products are being developed that have cut this sugar content in half, these brands include KIND Healthy Grains Granola Clusters and Bear Naked Granola. 

There is also the option to make your own granola which allows you to control how much sugar is added and choosing healthier sweetener options such as fruit juice, honey, and natural sugars.

The key is to making sure that you pack plenty of whole grains, healthy fat and protein sources such as nuts and seeds, and limit your portion sizes to ½ cup.  Here is a great granola recipe that you can find on as well as other healthy granola recipes:


    • 8 cups rolled oats
    • 1 cup wheat bran
    • ½ cup chopped almonds
    • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • ½ cup apple juice
    • ⅓ cup orange juice
    • ⅓ cup lemon juice
    • ¼ cup canola oil
    • ¼ cup honey
    • 1½ tablespoons freshly grated orange zest, (about 1 orange)
    • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest, (about 1 lemon)
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 1 cup raisins or dates, (optional)


  • 1 Preheat oven to 300°F. Combine oats, bran, almonds, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger in a large bowl. Set aside.
  • 2 Heat apple juice, orange juice, lemon juice, oil, honey and orange and lemon zests in a small saucepan over medium heat until warm. Stir in vanilla. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  • 3 Spread mixture on two 11-by-16-inch baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Let cool and stir in raisins (or dates, if using).


Nutrition information

  • Per serving: 242 calories; 7 g fat(1 g sat); 7 g fiber; 39 g carbohydrates; 7 g protein; 6 mcg folate; 0 mg cholesterol; 5 g sugars; 13 IU vitamin A; 5 mg vitamin C; 44 mg calcium; 2 mg iron; 3 mg sodium; 240 mg potassium
  • Carbohydrate Servings: 2½
  • Exchanges: 2 starch, ½ fat

Ask a Dietitian: Artificial Sugars

Q: Why are artificial or added sugars worse for your health than sugars naturally found in fruits and vegetables?

MANNA RD: This is an ongoing health topic that has been given much debate over most recent years. My own perspective on the subject is that if the term “artificial” is being used to describe a food item, proceed with caution as anything not in its natural form may have consequences.

Not to say you can never drink a Diet Coke again, but if your diet consists of consuming a lot of beverages and food products with artificial sweeteners you may want to consider cutting back on your intake.

Currently there are six artificial sweeteners approved by the FDA: acesulfame potassium, (Sweet One) aspartame (Nutrasweet or Equal), saccharin (Sweet N’ Low), sucralose (Splenda), neotame, and advantame.

All of these offer a sweet flavor to food or beverage while not adding any calories or any grams of sugar. In that sense it seems obvious to choose a diet beverage compared to a regular 12 oz can of soda at 140 calories and 39g of sugar.

However, there is still much to be said on how the brain responds to artificial sweeteners. According to a 2012 article by Harvard Health, when comparing natural sugars found in fruits, artificial sweeteners by taste are much sweeter. Therefore, people who consume high amounts of artificial sweeteners may find naturally sweetened foods not as desirable causing for more consumption of artificially sweetened products.

Even though less calories and sugar are being consumed from these products, there is also less consumption nutrition such as fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

While there is still no definitive answer on the effects of artificial sweeteners, everything in moderation is key. So if you are the individual that consumes a Diet Pepsi with every meal and enjoys sugar free frozen yogurt as a night-time dessert, you may want to start grabbing a water and piece of fruit more often.


Recipes of the Month: Chicken Noodle & Oatmeal Cookie

March 13th is National Chicken Noodle Soup! Warm up with this quick and easy homemade recipe:


  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 4 (14.5 oz.) cans chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can vegetable broth
  • ½ pound chopped cooked chicken breast
  • 1 ½ cups egg noodles
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • ½ tsp. dried basil
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste


In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Cook onion and celery in butter until tender, about 5 minutes. Pour in chicken and vegetable broth and stir in chicken, noodles, carrots, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy!


March 19th is National Oatmeal Cookie Day! Try this healthy and delicious recipe:




  • ½ cup whole wheat flour and ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup raisins


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine flours and baking powder. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture and stir to combine; mix in oats and raisins. Roll cookies into balls (about 2 tbsp. of dough per cookie) and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15-17 minutes. Let cookies cool for about 5 minutes, and enjoy!

National Nutrition Month

The theme for National Nutrition Month ® 2017, presented by Health Partners Plans, is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.”  This serves as a reminder that each one of us holds the tool to make healthier food choices.

We all make New Year’s resolutions, whether it is to eat healthier, become more physically active, or simply live a more balanced and healthier lifestyle. By now, these New Year’s resolutions are starting to get dusty.

In the winter, it is easy to stay inside and indulge in our favorite high calorie comfort foods. With spring approaching, March is the perfect time to get back on track with healthy eating. Ingredient swaps, adding balance, and moderate portion sizes can help you maintain a healthy diet.

Making small daily, weekly, or monthly changes over time leads to big changes that will help improve your overall health.

Here are a few simple and easy tips to March into National Nutrition Month:

  • Eat more plants
    • When you include more fruits and vegetables into your diet, it is likely that you will crowd out unhealthier foods.
  • Get enough sleep
    • Lack of sleep, even just 30 minutes less one or two nights a week, can lead to weight gain and changes in insulin levels.
  • Read labels
    • Make sure to read the nutrition label on food items – this way you can get a better idea of calories and nutrients in a specific serving size. The less ingredients, the better!
  • Eat a protein-packed, fiber rich breakfast
    • Breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day. A breakfast filled with protein and fiber will provide you with the energy to start you day and keep you full.
  • Try new foods and recipes
    • This helps to ensure you are adding a variety of foods in your diet.