Vineyard Arts Project: Dancers at work
The dance troupe Morphoses is hard at work this month in a sparkling new studio at the Vineyard Arts Project (VAP) on Upper Main Street in Edgartown. The world-class company is rehearsing for a 2009 fall season that will take it to New York City Center, the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, London's Sadler Wells Theatre, and Amsterdam's Het Musiektheater. Vineyarders will have the opportunity to see the 17 dancers perform in an open rehearsal on Saturday, Sept. 19.
Edgartown summer resident Mary Sharp Cronson, a member of Vineyard Arts Project's board of directors, made the connection between VAP and Morphoses, according to the company's Executive director, Lourdes Lopez. "I happened to call Mary," Ms. Lopez says. "We really lucked out. I had only been to the Vineyard once before, but I knew it was a gorgeous setting. The need VAP is meeting is extraordinary."
VAP founder and managing director Ashley Melone says she has always been an admirer of Morphoses, also known as the Christopher Wheeldon Company after its founder. The British-born Mr. Wheeldon danced with the London Royal Ballet and New York City Ballet before retiring in 2000 to concentrate on choreography.
The Christopher Wheeldon troupe is concentrating its rehearsals on two new pieces. One work by Mr. Wheeldon is set to Rachmaninov's "Suite for Two Pianos." The second, commissioned by Morphoses, is the work of choreographer Tim Harbour, set to music by Australian composer Ross Edwards.
The company will also rehearse other parts of their repertory, including Alexei Ratmansky's "Boléro," Paul Lightfoot and Sol Léon's "Softly As I Leave You," and Mr. Wheeldon's "Continuum." Choreographers Ratmansky, Lightfoot and Léon are participating in the residency.
Last week Mr. Harbour, who came from Australia with his wife, Madeleine Eastoe, principal dancer for the Australian Ballet, sat on the terrace with their infant daughter Ella outside the open doors of one of the studios, watching the troupe practice. The Melbourne resident has been too busy fine-tuning his new dance piece to sightsee. "I've been down Main Street," he said. "That's all." The company does, however, have days off to enjoy the Island.
VAP offers residencies and rental space to a variety of performing artists, but the emphasis has been on dance. "I used to be a dancer," explains Ms. Melone, who completed a degree in Arts Management at New York University this spring. "They (Morphoses) were looking for residencies, and the dates worked out."
Ms. Melone and her parents, Thomas and Joellen Melone, who have summered in Edgartown for 10 years, bring a strong commitment to live arts and arts education. It led to formation of the Vineyard Art Project in 2007. The complex has housing for 45 in two traditional, New England-style shingled houses, and four large studios offering 2,000 square feet of rehearsal space. (Space and lodging for rehearsals are the most expensive items for a dance company.)
Each of the open, airy, vaulted-ceiling studios has a state-of-the art sound system, and a special wooden floor with springs that cushions the dancers' feet. The compound also includes an exercise room, a Pilates studio, cedar-lined costume closets, a costume work space, kitchens and living rooms.
The non-profit, tax-exempt Arts Project had a full schedule of activities this summer. Claudia Peterson OperaFest, a two-week opera training program for singers, led to a fully staged performance in July as well as a series of free performances, with the final one held at the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs. Dancer-choreographers Scott Wise and Elizabeth Parkinson directed the Musical Theatre Laboratory, a student training program with classes in acting, dance, voice and musical theatre repertory. The group gave a free performance on August 5 at the Old Whaling Church.
Benjamin Millepied and his dance company Danses Concertantes spent two weeks in August preparing for its French tour in late fall. Combining a mix of classical and contemporary work, their August 15 open rehearsal was sold out.
Ms. Melone, who works in New York as a freelance arts producer, calls the Vineyard Arts Project her passion. "I hope I will develop Vineyard Arts Project for the rest of my life," she said.
As of now, Vineyard Arts Project remains open May through September. "As we grow, I hope to operate 12 months out of the year," Ms. Melone says.
One of the Project's new ventures is a collaboration with ArtFarm Enterprises, the one-year-old Vineyard theatre organization that uses a sustainable agriculture model for arts production. Led by Brooke Hardman and Brian Ditchfield, ArtFarm presented a new children's play, "Kim and Delia," at the Farm Institute in July.
Morphoses will remain in residence until September 27. Their free open rehearsal on September 19 starts at 6:30 pm. Tickets must be reserved through email@example.com.