The Yard opens its doors to a world of performing arts

By Karla Araujo - July 6, 2006

Nestled in a bucolic 2.5-acre wooded setting on Middle Road in Chilmark, The Yard has quietly helped launch the careers of many world-class choreographers and dancers over its 34-year history. This season, according to managing director Wendy Taucher, The Yard will continue its tradition of bringing innovative contemporary dance to the Island while expanding its offerings to include theater, poetry, storytelling, music, monologues, comedy, dance lessons, and film. Many of the events, Ms. Taucher said, are designed for family enjoyment.

The Yard's campus consists of an office, a 100-seat professional theater, and two houses providing living space for 18 artists. Founded in 1973 by choreographer Patricia N. Nanon, the core of The Yard's activities has been to support the work of choreographers, allowing them to live, create, and perform on site in four- and six-week residencies. While The Yard will still foster the art of choreography worldwide, this season marks a new and expanded commitment to the larger scope of performing arts.

"We are not cutting back on our commitment to dance at all," Ms. Taucher insists. "But we are definitely opening our doors to all performing arts. We have a fantastic little theater here and we want to more fully utilize it."

The Yard's performing season runs from mid-May through mid-September. Highlights of this season, according to Ms. Taucher, include "Yard Arts," a brand new three-week festival of dance, theater, music, and film from July 24 to August 12. The festival comprises a 10th birthday celebration performance by Island choreography favorites Built on Stilts; an appearance by soloists from the world-famous Limon Company; a one-man interpretation of "Moby Dick" in theatre, puppetry, and dance; Broadway Def Jam Poetry artist Staceyann Chin; HBO performance artist Reno; and a documentary film, "Bessie - A Portrait of Bessie Schonberg," the legendary choreographic mentor who spent her final 10 years as The Yard's artistic director. The festival also features seven post-performance cast parties under a tent on the Chilmark campus.

From July 24 to 29, The Yard and the Martha's Vineyard Museum (formerly the Martha's Vineyard Historical Society) are co-hosting "Wow! It's a Whale of a Week!" This week-long exploration of the history of whales features tours, crafts, family dance workshops, music, theater, and educational events Island-wide.

Dance enthusiasts will want to mark their calendars for "Diversity in Dance," the July 6 performances of Urban Bush Women and The Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company, two distinctive dance troupes in a one-night-only event at the Martha's Vineyard Performing Arts Center. Then, on July 20 to 22, new works by The Yard residence dance companies, DELiRiOUS Dance Company of New York and Prometheus Dance Company of Boston, will perform modern dance pieces developed this summer at The Yard.

This season The Yard is also introducing discounted tickets for both seniors and patrons under 30. "We'd love to see younger people make their way to The Yard," Ms. Taucher explains. "Once they discover us, we think they'll love what they find."

The Yard also plays a vital role in educating Island children in the arts. Annual programs bring world-class dance companies to Vineyard schools to work in collaboration with choreographers, teachers, and students.

For a complete schedule of upcoming events at The Yard, visit or call (508) 645-9662.

Karla Araujo is a tennis instructor and freelance writer who lives in the Florida Keys and on Martha's Vineyard.