Always entertaining Built on Stilts begins August 9

Islander Devon Lodge, who is currently studying at Juilliard, performed "Landfill" in 2011. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The Island dance community will unite at the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs from August 9 to 12 and from August 18 to 21 to celebrate the 16th year of Built on Stilts, the Vineyard’s homegrown dance festival.

Built on Stilts was created by Abby Bender and Anna Luckey in 1997 as a venue for people of all ages to showcase their talents in any performance art, from dance to slam poetry, from theater to live music.

What began as a one-night show with a few performances and a small audience has snowballed into an anticipated staple of the summer that runs for eight nights, each with a different lineup, and includes the works of more than 40 choreographers and even more dancers. The once sparse audience is now a dedicated crowd whose presence and cheers fill the chapel each night in support of the performers.

Some groups and dancers from the Vineyard and beyond return each year, such as Laura Sargent Hall of Kaleidoscope Dance, Island Salsa, and the staff of The Yard, among many others, and newcomers are encouraged to try it out.

Registration is open to anyone over 16, but younger performers can join in too. The Advancedshop workshop for ages 12 to 16, and Stiltshop, ages 5 to 11, allow kids to explore the art of choreography and to craft their own dances for the festival.

In an interview with The Times last August, director Ms. Bender said, “Built on Stilts brings the entire community together and reminds us that we all have this wonderful language in common.”

Doors open to the sound of the drum circle in the middle of the chapel floor at 7:30 pm, and the program begins at 8. Admission is free and audience members can come and go as they please. For schedules and more information visit