Tonight the drums will beat in Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs — calling all dancers and lovers of dance to the 17th annual Built on Stilts festival.

Built on Stilts is a celebration of dance in all its forms. It runs from August 8 to 11 and again from August 17 to 20, and every night is free.

The festival was started by Abby Bender and Anna Luckey in 1997 as a one-night concert and featured the work of seven dance choreographers. It now features the work of over 40 choreographers from the Vineyard and beyond. Each night is different and local dancers of all ages share the stage with seasoned professionals.

Local dancers and choreographers include Laura Sargent Hall, Carol Loud, Jesse Keller, Allison Manning, Roberta Kirn, Teo and Marta Azzollini, Caitlin Cooke and Claire Baione, Hartely Sierputowski and Bradley Carroll, the list goes on.

Visiting artists and their companies feature Peter Kyle Dance, Kelly Peters Dance Company, Reject Dance Theatre, Kinetic Synergy Dance Co. and many more. Abby Bender, the festival founder and organizer, will also

Union Chapel fills up quickly. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. each night but the line forms much earlier. A drum circle sets the mood and the beat (all acoustic musicians are invited to join in) and then at 8 p.m. the show begins.

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