There’s always something new at Pathways at the Chilmark Tavern. The arts incubator and performance space hosts a range of artistic endeavors, including a weekly poetry and prose series and regular music and video nights. Now joining their lineup is a monthly evening dedicated to dance. “We Dance” at Pathways features short performances and/or lessons, followed by public dancing.
Pathways’ late founder Marianne Goldberg loved dance. “Her specialty was choreography,” Pathways co-director Keren Tonnesen told The Times. “Dance has always been a big part of Pathways.”
As well as giving local choreographers a chance to spotlight new work, the evening is equally dedicated to providing a dance hall space. “This is our attempt at getting everyone dancing,” Ms. Tonnesen said. “There aren’t any regular venues for dancing on the Island.”
Last Friday, Pathways hosted the second event in the monthly series. Participants included Danielle Doell, Leah Crosby, and Christina Montoya. Ms. Doell and Ms. Crosby presented a work in progress: a modern dance piece performed wearing large dog recovery collars (those see-through plastic cones that are the cause of great humiliation to injured dogs).
The dance started out with the two women sitting cone-to-cone in chairs and evolved into a sort of battle between the two dancers — first standing, then scuttling around in chairs.
Next up, dance and yoga instructor Christina Montoya gave a short history of salsa followed by a participatory dance lesson. Among her many other dance-related accomplishments, Ms. Montoya has danced at the Escuela Nacional de Arte in Cuba.
She dedicated her talk to explaining the difference between Cuban and Puerto Rican versions of salsa. She talked about how son music (the music made popular by the film “The Buena Vista Social Club”) formed the basis of Cuban salsa dancing, originally called “casino,” in the ’30s and ’40s. “It was the first real integration of Spanish canción singing and the deep, complex African rhythms,” Ms. Montoya explained.
She went on to describe how the dance came to this country in the ’50s, but was supplanted by a Puerto Rican version during the Cuban revolution.
“Puerto Rican salsa is a flashier style,” Ms. Montoya said. “It’s done in a box form. Cuban is done in more of a circular motion. In the Cuban style, the African roots are much more obvious. The modern Cuban sound of music is called timba, and has a lot of hip-hop and reggae influence.”
Ms. Montoya then instructed the audience in some basic moves and got the crowd dancing along to some lively Cuban music.
After the short lesson, the floor was opened up to free dancing, with tunes supplied by DJ Wayne Elliot. His mix of jazz, world music, NYC house, new and classic dance tunes, and some ’80s disco, was enthusiastically received by the crowd. He also honored the late musicians George Michael, David Bowie, and Prince with songs. “I try to be very thoughtful to people who have passed,” said Mr. Elliot, who cut his teeth as a DJ dancing to music at the legendary Loft parties in New York City helmed by famed DJ David Mancuso. Mr. Elliot, who still regularly attends NYC dance parties and DJs all over the country, would like to see something similar happening on the Vineyard in the off-season.
“It’s nice to go into an environment that’s not a bar scene,” he said. “I’d love to be a part of that as a person who dances or as someone who loves to play the amazing music that I have collected over the years. I’d love to see us doing a music and dancing night here once a month. I think it’s really important for the community to have that outlet.”
Despite the threatening weather, a relatively large crowd showed up on Friday night, including all ages and a fairly equal gender mix.
“It was a good crowd,” Pathways co-director Tanya Augustinos said. “Word’s getting out that we’re having this event.” People stayed enjoying the music and the chance to dance off the cold until around 10:30 pm.
The next “We Dance” event will take place sometime in February. Dancers looking to try out new work on an audience are encouraged to contact Pathways.
Upcoming scheduled events include a music night with Nate D’Angelo and Alex Karalekas on Saturday, Jan. 14, and an “Arts and Scripts” night on Jan. 20, which will feature works in progress across many disciplines. The weekly “Wool for Water” benefit knitting project meets every Monday from 1:15 to 3 pm; the Writing and Poetry series, every Tuesday from 7 to 9, is open to all readers; and the Third Thursday Digital Series continues on Jan. 19. For more information or to participate, visit pathwaysmv.org.