Edgartown's The Space, a happening place
Photo by Lynn Christoffers
Bone-chilling days, dark storefronts, empty streets and a slumbering Island. Where to go; what to do?
Three professional Island women — Sandy Stone, a Zumba teacher (Latin-inspired fitness dancing); Donna Swift, founder of the nonprofit IMP Improv for Kids; and Katryn Yerdon Gilbert, a personal fitness and strength trainer — have formed a partnership to provide the destination and the activities.
The Space, as they've named it, will be officially launched January 2, Grand Opening Week, when the first visit to the classes is free.
It is Island ingenuity at its business and community best — establishing a home for their programs and for the one-time or ongoing activities of others: meetings, yoga, musical or art classes, literary groups, clubs, and the like.
The Space was formerly part of Brad Hill's Vineyard Fitness Center in Post Office Square, and has wooden flooring, a music system, a mirrored wall, theater lights, and other amenities. By splitting the expenses, the women can offer the open 1,000 square-foot room to others at affordable rents to others — around $40 an hour, less for longer bookings. Each organization is scheduled separately and gets the run of the place to be as noisy or as quiet as suits its purposes.
"Something for everyone," says Ms. Gilbert, a certified personal trainer for the past seven years.
The partners sit around a table in the empty room explaining how the idea came to fruition. They met through the activity each provides: Ms. Stone and Ms. Swift became acquainted because their daughters participated in each other's activities, and Ms. Swift met Ms. Gilbert when she signed up for Fit with Katryn.
Their exchanges are punctuated with laughter, and the conversation sounds more typical of a group of friends than of business cohorts. Ms. Gilbert is teased for being so consistently "chipper," and Ms. Swift is tagged "The Lightbulb Lady," for taking up Ms. Stone's concern about finding a place for her Zumba classes after the fitness center closed and coming up with the idea for the partnership.
Conversation stops as yoga instructor Amber Bevilacqua comes in, and after the women pause to admire her new engagement ring, she finalizes her plans for her Thursday evening Vinyasa Flow Yoga classes. "I think Edgartown was missing a space for yoga, and this is perfect," she says happily.
In addition to conducting Zumba classes, Ms. Stone, formerly with Paul Taylor dance company and Martha Graham Ensemble, will team with her husband, musician Mike Benjamin, in creating MV Glee, a six-week song and dance workshop for students ages 11 to 18, patterned after the popular television series "Glee." Sign up for MV Glee is Friday, Jan. 7. Mr. Benjamin will teach the songs; she'll do the choreographing. The results will be performed at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven on February 13.
"If everyone loves it, we'll do it again," Ms. Stone says.
Ms. Gilbert says, "This was great for me because I can do what I do for more people, and make it more affordable to them than the cost of a private session. This lets me open it up to six or eight people in a class. I work with people with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, patients who exercise alongside people 10 years younger and who have no restrictions. I can customize their programs so they can work in the group."
"In cities like Boston and Chicago, store front theaters are very commonplace," Ms. Swift says, adding, "IMP had been rehearsing the troupe in basements, schools, and every place you can perform on the Island."
She has scheduled weekend workshops, and a camp day where the troupe does everything they do at IMP camp in a four-hour day. They also perform Story Theater, improvising classic fairy tales with audience participation.
"The kids were really excited to see this," she says. "I said, 'All right guys, what do you want to do?' and they decided to do a holiday show," Ms. Swift says. "In three weeks the Impers, the teen professional troupe, put together and performed a show here that would not have been possible without The Space."
The Space Grand Opening Week begins Sunday, January 2. People can participate in their first class without charge. Contact 508-939-9368, or visit thespacemv.com for the schedule.