The SBB/Stefanie Batten Bland dance company opens the Yard’s summer season with Embarqued, a dance-theatre work inspired in part by the Martha’s Vineyard African American Heritage Trail. The company has been in residence at the Chilmark studio since June 1, working on the piece and interacting with Islanders, summer residents and tourists alike.

“That’s something that we just naturally do with all our work,” Ms. Batten Bland said, during a rehearsal break at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum this week.

The opening night show, held on the museum grounds, is Thursday, June 17, with another performance tonight. Both shows begin at 8 p.m.

The work-in-progress is scheduled for its world premiere next year at Duke University.

Dance company has been in residency on the Vineyard since June 1. — Jeanna Shepard

The Island’s African American Heritage Trail is unlike other self-guided historical tours she’s seen, Ms. Batten Bland said, because its landmarks are woven into the community. The trail includes stops at Island houses, churches and schools.

“Bringing memory into everyday spaces that we walk by, and are engaging with, brings past into present tense, and I’m very touched by that,” Ms. Batten Bland said.

The company also connected with Chilmark fisherman Denny Jason, who helped the group obtain the spars that form a central element in Embarqued. From the spars fly swaths of fabric that transform from sails to flags to garments as the dancers move.

“We are always trying to find ways of linking performing arts into daily life,” Ms. Batten Bland said. “If Welcome [the company’s 2019 Yard residency work, performed at the regional high school] was about how do you welcome someone into a space that you’ve never met before, this one, Embarqued, will be about how we see ourselves and our own flags. If you had the opportunity to make your own personal flag and let that be embedded into the larger one of the country, what would it look like?”

Art exhibit inside the museum accompanies the show. — Jeanna Shepard

Fabric often plays a role in the company’s work, Ms. Batten Bland said.

“Our textiles are what tell our stories,” she said. “They can transform just as the human body does, so they become really wonderful and marvelous partners.”

In addition to hosting this week’s performances on the lawn, the museum has dedicated a small second-floor galley to Embarqued, with photographs, fabric, a video of excerpts and an early 19th-century blanket from the museum’s collection, attributed to an enslaved Islander named Nancy Michael who died in 1857.

“It is living proof of how memory is housed inside of objects,” Ms. Batten Bland said.

After the Company SBB/Stefanie Batten Bland residency ends next week, Yard alumna Lida Winfield returns with Christal Brown to develop a multi-media work called Same But Different that explores the similarities and differences between the two performers — one white and Northern, one black and Southern, with many other parallels as well. Their residency ends June 28. Citing the uncertainty of health orders this summer, the Yard has not yet announced dates and venues for their performances or those of the other four residencies on the summer schedule.

Jazz-friendly breaker Raphael Xavier, another Yard alum with a multi-disciplinary bent, will be in residence from June 29 to July 12 developing his work XAVIER’S: The Musician and The Mover, complete with a saxophonist, bassist, pianist, percussionist and dancers. 

From July 13 to July 26, the Yard hosts Danza Orgánica, a dance theatre company from Boston working with members of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe on a piece titled âs nupumukâunean (We Still Dance), based on traditional and contemporary tribal tales through dance, song, installation and storytelling.

Israeli-American choreographer Netta Yerushalmy checks into the Yard July 27 for a three-week residency to work on a new, evening-long piece titled Movement, with electronic music and an international company of dancers.

Performance dates, times and venues will be posted as they approach at