A gift for the future of dance

Patricia N. Nanon
Patricia N. Nanon received an opening night bouquet last summer as well as a standing ovation. The two dancers were members of the dance residency program. Photo by Ralph Stewart

Posted December 14, 2006

Elaine Miller, president of the board of directors of The Yard, the dance colony in Chilmark, announced last week that the institution is to receive a gift valued at more than $2 million. This, said Ms. Miller, "ensures our future; Patricia N. Nanon, the esteemed choreographer who founded The Yard, will transfer ownership of the property to The Yard Inc., a non-profit entity. This transfer ensures that the 35-year history of this vital dance resource will continue long after its founder. It is a very happy day for us all."

In a press release issued by The Yard, Ms. Nanon, a long-time summer resident of Martha's Vineyard, said, "I'm enormously proud of the choreographers who have been in residence and the work that has been created here by artists like Ann Carlson, David Dorfman, Gus Solomons Jr., Doug Varone, Shapiro & Smith and Tony Kushner, to name only a few. The late Bessie Schonberg, our artistic advisor, was an influence on a decade of our resident artists. We believe that the special environment of The Yard, the opportunity for repose, of uninterrupted rehearsal on the Island have been of permanent value to choreographers and dancers. As The Yard enters into its 35th season my daughters and I wish to see this program continue and thrive. It is part of my legacy, a gift to the dance world and to my beloved Island."

Ms. Miller of Vineyard Haven, was key in finding new support making the institution self-sustaining and reassuring the founder that her gift would be properly cared for. Ms. Miller and her husband, attorney Howard Miller, are no strangers to Martha's Vineyard charities, having been important to The Yard but also in many other local intuitions including the Martha's Vineyard Boys & Girls Club.

Ms. Nanon continues to serve as Artistic Advisor. Further The Yard has chosen to designate its performance space in perpetuity as the "Patricia N. Nanon Theater." Most importantly, Ms. Nanon's gift comes with a provision assuring that The Yard will continue to be devoted to choreography and related performing arts.

The Yard is chartered as a colony for chorographers and performing artists and provides residences at its theater and housing facilities in Chilmark. The colony supports the creation of new work by providing chorographers and dancers with housing, stipends, rehearsal space, technical and administrative staff, an artistic advisor, and, most significantly, the time and place for concentrated work.

Patricia Neal, Oscar-winning actress and long-time board member, described the colony this way: "The Yard is more than a dance theater; it is dance drama. It is an uplifting, grand and beautiful experience. Above all it is an experience to be shared."

Founded in 1973 by Patricia N. Nanon, The Yard has served over 1,400 artists from the United States and abroad who have collaborated on more than 200 new works. The Yard accepts applications for residencies for professional choreographers, professional dance companies, professional dancers and internships in technical theater and administration. For details and more information, see www.danceTHEYARD.org