Philip Montana, Jennifer Sydor (held by Benjamin Asriel), and Alexandra Albrecht
Philip Montana, Jennifer Sydor (held by Benjamin Asriel), and Alexandra Albrecht perform a work-in-progress by Sharon Moore. Photos by Sally Cohn

Sensual and sensational

By Anna Marie D'Addarie - September 20, 2007

The audience is an essential element of the creative process and one that the artist is least able to control. As an artist, you hope people will come to see your work, and if they do, you hope they will be understanding and open to new ideas. Last weekend the Yard presented new works from choreographers-in-residence. The ideas were fresh, the dancers were thrilling, and the audience was fortunate to be a part of the process.

The evening began with opening remarks by Yard board member Sandra Stone who explained the Bessie Schoneberg Choreographers Residency (the Bessies). Applicants come from an international pool of choreographers, and after much consideration five are chosen to come to the Chilmark facility and work on new dances. The professional dancers are then chosen after intense auditions in New York City, and spend three weeks working with the choreographers in Chilmark. Last weekend's performances were the result of this collaboration. Ms. Stone said, "It's a gift (for the choreographers) to be able to come here."

Sarah Young and Amber Lee Parker
Sarah Young (left) and Amber Lee Parker in "Fracturing Forms," choreographed by Sidra Bell.

New work is born

"Bottled," by Janice Lancaster, opened the show. Sounds of ratchets and breathing punctured the darkness. Projections on the upstage screen looked like ameba under a microscope or molten lava bubbling to the surface. The dancers (Philip Montana, Lauren Muraski, Jennifer Sydor, and Sarah Young) seemed like bugs caught in a huge web of sound and sight. Outside forces propelled them and yet, each movement seemed to come from somewhere deep inside the dancer. It was this pull of interior and exterior that made the piece so fascinating. The dance ended with a projection of angled lines like a forest of birch trees (see Calendar cover), but instead of just being on the screen behind the dancers, it came from the front, enveloping them, trapping them.

In "Venn duet," danced by Benjamin Asriel and Bergan Wheeler, choreographer Stefanie Nelson used earthquake-like moves to give birth to her work. The duet had several segments and the dancers seemed at times playful and argumentative. Their bodies melted into one, changing shape and meaning, a tribute to the dancers' ability and the choreographer's vision. This piece was always interesting and challenging for the audience.

After intermission, artistic director Wendy Taucher presented "Sound and the Moving Image," choreographed by Sharon Moore. The work-in-progress was danced by Alexandra Albrecht, Benjamin Asriel, Philip Montana, and Jennifer Sydor. Ms. Moore was called away on a family emergency and could not complete the residency. Ms. Taucher took the opportunity to use what Ms. Moore had started and give the audience a practical demonstration of the art of choreography. Ms. Taucher explained that there are complex choices to be made at every juncture. "It is 90 percent music, and 90 percent movement," she said.

Benjamin Asriel and Bergen Wheeler
"Venn duet," with Benjamin Asriel and Bergen Wheeler.

The dancers performed the short piece. Then Ms. Taucher had them perform it again to new music and added the direction to dance it "frisky." The second time through it was a completely different dance. The third time, the dancers were directed to be "very alone." The difference was palpable. The mood in the entire theatre changed. The last time through, the music was the Rolling Stones "Satisfaction," performed by Devo. Ms. Taucher explained that using a familiar piece of music could inform the choreography. Once again, the audience was treated to a much different piece. It would be a mistake to think these dancers were mere guinea pigs in this experiment. They were fantastic. This segment of the show was born out of necessity, but it was very interesting to see the creative process unfold.

The next dance, "I Charmed a King," could be an example of song lyrics informing the choreography. Out of all the pieces, this dance was the closest to a narrative story. The excellent performance by Alexandra Albrecht and Sarah Young's choreography elevated the piece.

Closing the show was Sidra Bell's "Fracturing Forms" danced by Lauren Muraski, Amber Lee Parker, Bergan Wheeler, and Sarah Young. The music was more pulse, like a heartbeat, and tones like something from an appliance or electronic device and yet not recognizable. The combination of music and the movement was hypnotic. The dancers lured you in, little by little, until we (the audience) were in communion with them.

Alexandra Albrecht
Alexandra Albrecht in "I Charmed a King."

Doing what they do best

I have seen the Bessies before and am always amazed at what the Yard does. The Yard's mission is to "support the creation of new work by providing choreographers and dancers with housing, stipends, rehearsal space, public performance opportunities, artistic guidance, and above all, uninterrupted time to explore and experiment." Being in the audience to witness the creation brings the process full circle.

For more information about the Yard, visit or call 508-645-9662.