As spring cracks open our winter stillness, the natural world appears to speak one unified, coherent command: Dance!
This summer season on the Vineyard, dance will break off the stage, with performances in the field at the Farm Institute, at Polly Hill Arboretum, and even on Main street, Vineyard Haven. The season will feature fusions of dance with video projections, puppetry and elements of circus in an exploration of dance’s natural affiliation with other fields of visual arts.
As usual, the season will set the works of young and emerging choreographers alongside acknowledged masterpieces, and members from the New York scene alongside locally grown artists.
One of the highlights of The Yard’s summer season will be a performance of Lucinda Child’s 1979 piece, Dance, opening at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center on July 26.
Ms. Child is considered by dance critics and historians to be one of the founders of what is now called postmodern dance, and this particular work was the result of collaboration among her, Philip Glass and Sol LeWitt.
The piece is made up of three dances performed together without intermission, to a soundtrack by Philip Glass, which Yard artistic director Wendy Taucher describes as an “ongoing unfolding of epic rhythm.” Sol LeWitt’s black and white film is projected on a scrim in front of the dancers, depicting dancers performing the same dance as the one done in real time on stage.
When the piece was originally performed in 1979, the dancers in the film were the same as those on the stage. For obvious reasons, this could not be accomplished in the modern reconstruction, which meant selecting dancers for the reconstruction whose movement style matched well with those of the original dancers.
The piece requires “huge stamina,” said Ms. Taucher. At the auditions in New York, she said: “They kept people moving the whole time. She [Child] hardly talked at all.” At that level of audition, where the dancers already came from a highly selective pool, “performers were not going to be eliminated because of a lack of technical skill,” said Ms. Taucher.
In other summer works, The Yard will continue its two traditional choreographic residencies, which allow dance companies to come to the Island and enjoy lodgings and studio space while they rehearse new choreography or prepare site-specific movement pieces. And in addition to the two, The Yard this summer will provide six additional choreographic residencies.
Ms. Taucher attributes the bumper crop to a combination of new funding sources and her tendency to slip guests into the schedule whenever she knows there will be free space at the bucolic campus in the Chilmark woods off Middle Road.
The lineup includes companies such as Paul Taylor’s Taylor 2, performing established works, as well as companies that are debuting works in progress, such as the New England Choreographers Project’s presentation of Disappearing Woman, a new long-term project by four artists from the New England Regional Dance Development Initiative: Nell Breyer, Alissa Cardone, Lorraine Chapman and Bronwen MacArthur. The piece has an informal showing on Saturday, August 22.
YardArts! Opera, a collaboration between Ms. Taucher as director and choreographer and conductor Elizabeth Scott, will presents Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and a selection called Queens, Witches and Kings, opening on August 7.
Dancing across the Vineyard, Abby Bender, director of the Schmantze Theater in Brooklyn, N.Y., returns this summer to conduct her innovative annual dance festival Built on Stilts, to be held at the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs August 12 to 17.
Each night’s performance opens with a drum circle, in which all are welcome to take part; all performances are free. The show is built collaboratively by community participation, with registration ongoing until July 1.
Ms. Bender’s groundbreaking work in Brooklyn uses sound collage, complex temporal and dramatic structures and large casts to produce rich, emotive and dreamlike performances.
In the slightly more low-tech setting of the Union Chapel, her large-cast pieces are irreverent, charged with humor and buzzing energy. She uses casts of all ages and dance levels, offering relief from the strictures of professional dance and drawing attention to the broad diversity of human movement found in all shapes and sizes.
The rest of the performances have in years past featured a combination of hip-hop, ballet, jazz, modern, belly-dance, tap, theatre, improv, African, comedy, drumming, and poetry, and this year promises an equally eclectic mix.
Several dance events will be held this summer at nontraditional venues, taking advantage of the Island’s beauty and nature preservation efforts.
ArtFarm Enterprises will stage the inaugural production of Kim & Delia, an original full-length play by Islander and ArtFarm co-founder Brian Ditchfield. Stilt walkers and dancers will roam the fields of the Farm Institute at Katama in Edgartown, where the musical will be performed to the sound of live musicians.
At the summer solstice celebration at the Polly Hill Arboretum, a giant mother earth puppet, co-created by a group of women at the West Tisbury Congregational church this spring, will perform alongside dancers wielding Demeter, Aphrodite and Pan puppets.
This same troupe of dancing deities will traipse down Main street, Vineyard Haven on July 19 as part of the puppet parade, with Island children dancing alongside their butterfly puppets.
With its bold combination of seasoned celebrities and schoolchildren, let the festival of movement begin!