The Yard, the Island’s dance residency and performance facility, recently announced the lineup for its summer season. As always, it’s an impressive roster of contemporary dance groups and individuals who represent some of the most innovative and acclaimed choreographers in the dance world.
Although there is no real theme for this year’s program, David R. White, artistic director of the Yard, points out a common thread.
“This year we’re looking at the formalists,” he says. “People who are taking a hard look from the viewpoint of the inherited ideas and techniques, and scraping away all the detritus and assumptions and getting down to the building blocks of why they do what they do, landing them in different places relative to the field. This isn’t an aesthetic. It cuts across all kinds of genres in dance.”
Those genres will include hip-hop, ballet, African dance, traditional Indian dance, Cuban contemporary dance, and more. Some of the featured artists have previously been in residence at the Yard; other up-and-coming choreographers and dancers have in the past enjoyed stays as Schonberg Fellows, and are now returning to present work created there.
In the former category are four returnees who have enjoyed multiple residencies. Taylor 2, founded by modern dance pioneer Paul Taylor, who has been recognized for his work with an Emmy, the National Medal of Honor, a MacArthur “genius award,” and the French Legion of Honor, will be back in July.
Camille A. Brown and Dancers will return to the Yard for a third residency. The group is described on the Yard’s website as “embodying a strong sense of storytelling, the company uses theatricality and the aesthetics of modern, hip-hop, African, ballet, and tap to tell stories that connect history with contemporary culture.” Ms. Brown and company will be presenting a piece called “Black Girl: Linguistic Play,” which was created in part at the Yard. “Black Girl” is the second work in a trilogy. While in residence at the Yard, the group will be working on the third piece, “Ink,” which will have its world premiere at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in December.
The Cuban-based Malpaso Dance Company will be returning to the Yard for a third residency. This time around, they will be performing a new work called “Dreaming of Lions,” which takes inspiration from Hemingway’s novella “The Old Man and the Sea,” and will feature an original score composed and conducted by renowned jazz artist Arturo O’Farrill and performed by the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.
Ragamala Dance Company, in its second residency at the Yard, will be performing a work called “Nocturne.” According to the Ragamala Dance website, co-directing mother/daughter team Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy “have created their own specific subgenre that combines a contemporary Western aesthetic with an Indian ethos.” The New York Times has described their work as “soulful, imaginative, and rhythmically contagious.”
Two very different hip-hop-influenced artists will be in residency in August. One of the early street dance/breakdance innovators, Raphael Xavier will be working on and presenting a new piece called “Point of Interest.” As Mr. White describes Mr. Xavier’s work, “He is exploring as a veteran artist how he himself confronts an art form that he has been integral to.”
Following this performance, a young hip-hop artist, Sokeo Ros, will present “Freedom Project,” a work which explores mass incarceration and its effects on all aspects of society. Born in a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand, Mr. Ros has established himself as a choreographer and dancer through his work with the Providence-based company Everett, which has been in residency at the Yard in the past.
A highlight of the Yard’s season will be a performance by choreographer and dancer Ruth Childs. The niece of famed choreographer Lucinda Childs, the young British-American dancer will be performing three of her aunt’s solo works from the 1960s. Ruth Childs has her own company, Scarlett’s, which is devoted to developing her work using dance, performance, film, and music. Since 2015 she has also been working on a re-creation and revival project of the early works of her aunt.
The other artists who will make up the 2017 season represent a wide variety of contemporary dance genres. Mr. White refers to Adele Myers as a theatrical choreographer, and says, “I think of her as holding down that particular corner in dance.” Of three-time Bessie awardwinner Beth Gill, Mr. White says, “She’s really important in what’s happening in downtown dance.” Bonnie Duncan, who will be presenting a family-friendly matinee in July, combines puppetry, dance, and physical theater in her unique creations. Pam Tanowitz, who is known for her postmodern treatment of classical dance vocabulary, will be showcasing a new piece called “New Work for Goldberg Variations,” featuring Bach’s iconic score. Jon Kinzel is a choreographer, multimedia artist, and improviser.
Of the diversity of works to be presented by the Yard this season, Mr. White says, “We deal in curiosity. We ask people to sit down at the table with us to share their curiosity. Every year we introduce another dose of the unknown, as well as the familiar, to a Vineyard audience who have proven that they have the appetite for this. Audiences here are inquisitive.”
The 2017 season will also include the return of the “Pride Not Prejudice” event, honoring the LGBTQ community, a second visit from the H.O.W. Art and Literary Journal group, and at least four live-music public Dancehall events.