Nancy Hugger and Sally Cohn
Nancy Hugger offers Sally Cohn a hand during a rehearsal of Ms. Cohn's "Water Dance." The performances were held in a private studio in Edgartown. Photos by Danielle Zerbonne

Passion for movement

By Danielle Zerbonne - January 25, 2007

Well-bundled dance aficionados emerged from the icy cold last Wednesday night, stepped into the warmth of the dance studio and began shedding layers. Smiling faces greeted one another with shared enthusiasm. Although the show hadn't even started, it seemed clear it was already eagerly embraced. Then the room went black, and an up-tempo drumbeat flooded the room. With no further introduction, the opening night of the annual Vineyard Dance Choreographer's Workshop Performance was underway.

With energy, strength, and grace, the dancers moved through 10 dances, each with a distinctly different feel. It took months of memorizing movements and music, and this performance is "the culmination of all the hard work and the learning," says dancer Michelle Pikor. These women, after all, are not professional dancers. They are teachers, business owners, mothers, and wives, members of the Vineyard community with busy lives outside the dance studio. Vineyard Dance has been a place where they can step outside everyday life and come together in a shared passion.

The first piece, "The Dancers Prepare," was arranged by Vineyard Dance co-founder Bill Costanza, and started off the program with a delightful sense of energy. The dance was obviously well-rehearsed, and it was impressive to see 12 dancers moving together so precisely, each dancer taking her job seriously. At the same time, the dancers' expressions showed an unmistakable pleasure in the simple act of moving to music.

Nancy Hugger, Sioux Eagle, Sandy Broyard, Peggy Koski Schwier, and Clare Ives
(L-R) Vineyard Dance members Nancy Hugger, Sioux Eagle, Sandy Broyard, Peggy Koski Schwier, and Clare Ives share a laugh during rehearsal for the Choreographer's Workshop Performance.

The next nine dances, each choreographed by a different dancer, offered glimpses into the individuality of its creator. Sally Cohn's piece, "Water Dance," is awash in green and blue, with dancers costumed in wispy, flowing fabric. For this piece, Vineyard Dance veteran Peggy Koski Schwier used a drum, gong, and chimes to propel the dancers through their movements, and they glided across the polished wood floor with alternating turbulence and calm, as the title of the piece implies.

Kanta Lipsky's evocative solo, "Invocation," concentrated its movements in one small area, while Kathy Joyce Costanza's "Amazing Grace," a flowing piece with nine dancers, utilized the entire floor. Cathy Weiss's "Opa!" elicited chuckles as she took on the persona of a spurned lover who, when stood up for a date, dealt with the rejection by downing her wine and bursting into exuberant twirls.

A mixture of music and spoken word punctuates "Cling," a moving piece choreographed by Sandy Broyard. A woman's voice intones in a clear firm voice, "If you ever find yourself in trouble, cling to the wreckage." The lights go out on the dancers huddled together in the middle of the floor. "It's about sailing through life," Ms. Broyard says of the theme of her dance, "and if you hit some trouble, cling to where you are and you'll get through it. It's about being connected to those people that support you. That's such an important part for those of us who live here year-round. In the wintertime we have this amazing fabric of connection to one another."

The value of community and personal connections is a theme that comes up often when speaking to members of Vineyard Dance. Many of the women have been part of the group for years, and have watched each other's children grow up. "We've been together for a long time," says Ms. Pikor. "I can remember when we would set up our kids with their GI Joes and their Legos while we were rehearsing." Longtime Vineyard Dance member Weit Bacheller agrees. "We're all there to support each other. It's a great circle of friends... it's very inspiring to me and gives me great satisfaction."

Wednesday's performance concluded with Nancy Hugger's thoughtful "Reflection," and after multiple bows to a long round of applause, people began slowly trickling back out into the cold. Audience member and Chilmark resident Susan Puciul summed up what the annual performance has meant to Island dance enthusiasts. "For years it's been a jewel," she says, "in the heart of winter."