Dance

In "Elephant Dreams," the principal dancer learns to fly. Photo by Ben Scott
In "Elephant Dreams," the principal dancer learns to fly. Photo by Ben Scott

Born here

By Anna Marie D'Addarie - July 27, 2006

Perhaps you have noticed that the Yard is popping up everywhere this summer. The Chilmark colony for performing artists began its 34th season with a thrilling trio of dances on June 22; packed the house for "Diversity In Dance" on July 6 at the Performing Arts Center; and last Monday began an exciting week-long program in partnership with the Martha's Vineyard Museum, "WOW! A Whale of a Week." Last Friday, the Yard's true mission came vibrantly to life when the two resident dance companies brought new works to the stage.

Delirious Dance

Company and Prometheus Dance were chosen as this summer's companies in residence from among hundreds of applicants, worldwide. The two companies were then given the precious gift of time to create new works. For three decades the Yard has provided the birthplace for hundreds of dances such as those performed last weekend by Delirious and Prometheus.

Prometheus Dance co-artistic directors Diane Arvanites-Noya and Tommy Neblett at the Yard in Chilmark. Photo by Nick Taucher
Prometheus Dance co-artistic directors Diane Arvanites-Noya and Tommy Neblett at the Yard in Chilmark. Photo by Nick Taucher

Beauty on the inside

Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, was the inspiration for the Delirious Dance's "Elephant Dreams." The work in progress was choreographed by Edisa Weeks and the dancers. The principal dancer, Benjamin Kamino, was asked to act in this combination theater and dance work. As an elephant-obsessed man, Mr. Kamino was understandably more comfortable dancing than acting, but he conveyed the passions of someone misunderstood and lonely in a very powerful way.

Mr. Merrick was a person whose beauty could only be seen by getting to know him and looking past his hideous exterior. Mr. Kamino's character, although a pleasure to look at, wanted so much more than his surroundings provided.

In the final scene, the music "Requiem: Dies" carried the audience as three dancers flew around the central figure like the Furies. The three had something to teach and the principal dancer had a burning desire to learn. When the lesson was over Mr. Kamino's character lay dead on the floor. Icarus flew too close to the sun. But for a fleeting moment the audience saw the beauty inside.

Bound and gagged

The bestselling book "Reading Lolita in Tehran," by Azar Nafisi, provided much fertile ground for "Devil's Wedding," choreographed by Diane Arvanites-Noya and Tommy Neblett of Prometheus Dance.

The audience jumped in their seats as the sound of gunshots rang out at the opening of the powerful work. The dancers dressed in black, head to toe, tried to escape from the gunfire that sometimes sounded like metal doors slamming shut.

Even in the quieter moments, the characters never seemed relaxed. Their lives, at any moment, could change. Short bursts of movement such as one dancer leaving the group, perhaps climbing to escape, punctuated the slower almost in-unison movements. But each dancer maintained their individuality. Rather than blending into each other, their spirit came through. The contrast was riveting.

When the dancers used burkas (large scarves) to cover and almost strangle themselves, the music became frantic. The burkas blinded and bound the women and yet their spirit would not be suppressed.

Powerful and beautiful, "Devil's Wedding" inspired the audience. At the same time, the dance is a cautionary tale, a look behind the veil at a frightening world.

The Yard provides housing, rehearsal space, and performances for the companies in residence. Dancers and choreographers come together in the beautiful Chilmark setting and dances are born. The audience, also a vital part of the creative process, is very fortunate to witness the birth.

For information on the Yard, visit www.dancethe-yard.org.