14th annual Built on Stilts starts Thursday


The Built on Stilts Community Dance Festival began in 1997 as a one-night occasion that featured the work of seven dance choreographers who wanted to put together their own show. The event was such a success it attracted more participants the following year. Thirteen years later, Built on Stilts has flourished into a weeklong festival that includes more than 40 groups.

The Vineyard’s homegrown dance festival celebrates its 14th year beginning this Thursday, August 12. For six nights at the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs, choreographers and dancers of all ages and skill-levels gather to display pieces that range in genre from ballet and modern to jazz and hip-hop.

The festival’s hospitable, all-inclusive philosophy helps to fashion a family-friendly event that is just as exciting for its participants as it is for audience-members. Dancers are encouraged to perform anything they want and to experiment in the joy of making dances. Guests are free to come and go as they please. Programs are short but sweet and begin with a drum circle at 7:30 pm (when doors open), at which point the public is encouraged to bring instruments and join in while watching dancers warm up. The dance programs begin nightly at 8 pm and typically last around an hour to an hour and a half.

“The event has really proven to be remarkable in terms of its community vibe,” Abby Bender says, the director of Built on Stilts and one of its original participants.

Ms. Bender can be contacted for further information at 508-717-2887, or visit the event’s website at builtonstilts.org. The program differs every night. Shows are free to the public (donations are strongly encouraged).