Vineyard Dance
Supple performers bend and reach, creating and shifting shapes. Photos by Danielle Zerbonne

Vineyard Dance takes the stage

By Pat Waring - January 18, 2007

Vineyard Dance may be in its 37th year, but, to hear Bill Costanza's enthusiasm about this weekend's performance, it could be brand-new. Mr. Costanza, who co-founded Vineyard Dance with his wife, Kathy Joyce Costanza, retired from teaching in 2005 but is still closely involved. Along with consulting with teachers and overseeing the instruction program, he continues to direct this annual Choreographer's Workshop performance. The show this year is taking place at a private studio in Edgartown rather than at the Vineyard Playhouse, which was previously booked. It opened last night, adding an extra performance to accommodate audiences in the smaller-than-usual space.

Variety characterizes the program, from solos to compositions that fill the stage with dancers, from quiet, contemplative pieces to those that are spirited, dramatic, or just plain fun. Mr. Costanza shared his thoughts on this year's event early this week, as dancers were still completing technical rehearsals and fine-tuning their pieces after months of hard work. "At this point it's exciting," he declared.

A total of 10 original creations are packed into the short, hour-long program. They are performed by 12 veteran students of Vineyard Dance. "It's the family," Mr. Costanza said.

Sioux Eagle, Peggy Koski Schwier, and Clare Ives
Preparing for a turn are (from left) Sioux Eagle, Peggy Koski Schwier, and Clare Ives.

Some dancers have been there from the beginning; some took a few years off to raise families before returning to the studio. These long-standing relationships with Vineyard Dance make for a cohesive company, with performers who work smoothly together.

Opening as always with Bill Costanza's "The Dancers Prepare," a stylized demonstration by the entire company of modern/jazz technique, the program moves to a meditative mood with Kanta Lipsky's solo, "Invocation," which echoes her background in Indian dance. Sally Cohn's "Water Dance" is a lyrical study choreographed for six, featuring dancer and teacher Peggy Koski Schwier performing on-stage percussion, gong, chimes, and hand drums.

From Sandy Broyard's intriguing "Cling," set to music by Brahms for nine dancers, the mood shifts to upbeat. Cathy Weiss takes the stage for one of her familiar jaunty solos, "Opa!", as a young woman waiting overtime for her date in a Greek café.

"Instead of getting all upset, she just starts dancing," said Mr. Costanza with a chuckle.

Peggy Koski Schwier's "Happenstance" features a mix of random-seeming movements and quick dynamic changes; Mr. Costanza calls it, "right off the cuff." Many in the audience may have a nostalgic thrill when dancers appear in flowing, peasant-style costumes of white and red for Kathy Joyce Costanza's "Amazing Grace." Ms. Costanza, who continues to teach modern dance and ballet classes, originally choreographed the serene and symmetrical piece, accompanied by Judy Collins's singing of the traditional hymn, for her young dancers years ago. Performed on several occasions, the piece became a favorite for dancers and audiences alike.

Vineyard Dance
The stage is alive with color, light, and movement during this weekend's Vineyard Dance Choreographer's Workshop.

"A Low Simmer" is teacher Clare Ives's contribution, combining modern and jazz idioms in a form and variations structure. Sioux Eagle's "Me, Myself, and I" features a trio dancing to contemporary music, "three people who combine as one," explained Mr. Costanza. Ms. Eagle is one of the three new teachers. Closing the show is Nancy Hugger's introspective "Reflection." Choreographed for nine dancers, the piece, according to Mr. Costanza, "crates a sense of constancy, like water" but with motion beneath the surface - sometimes subtle, sometimes violent. "She's done this with the idea of man reflecting God," he said. "the dancers become both the water and the reflection."

Mr. Costanza said he has not observed any dramatic change in choreographing style since he stopped teaching. He said he is delighted with the current structure in which he consults with the teachers who have become very attuned to their students' development and who are bringing their own individuality into their classes, "without sacrificing the whole modern dance technique structure - that's the most important."

Mr. Costanza has high praise for the choreographers who do a solo one year and then create an intricate piece for several dancers the next, or who shift from an up-tempo number to something more thoughtful or lyrical in a subsequent performance. "What really pleases me is seeing that dancers are being sure each year that they open up to a new area. That's what I love to see happen; that makes me very happy."

Vineyard Dance Choreographer's Workshop, Thursday, Jan. 18 through Saturday, Jan. 20, 7:30 pm, and Sunday, Jan. 21, 4:30 pm. Call for location. Benefits Nathan Mayhew Seminars. Suggested donation $15. Reservations: 508-693-0479.