The Yard begins innovative, unexpected, and audience-accessible season

The resident up-and-coming artists include South Asian Hari Krishnan (right), who has been teaching Bollywood dance classes during the residency, and New York choreographers Deborah Lohse (center) and Donnell Oakley. — Photo by Sally Cohn

This summer The Yard — the Chilmark-based choreography and dance residency/performance center — will host a variety of artists who stretch the boundaries of contemporary dance. Included in the 2013 performance schedule are works by choreographers who integrate dance with film, theater, and physical comedy. The subjects range from work drawn from recent research into the brain, to a performance that brings the works of artist Edward Hopper alive.

In July, actress Amy Brenneman will return with a new one-woman show. A fall adult puppet theater piece will address the issue of hunger in America. And The Yard will reprise its very popular tap dance festival with new performers, an extended schedule, and an audience participation spectacle at the high school’s Performing Arts Center.

All around, the season features some of the most unexpected, innovative, and audience accessible entertainment that The Yard has hosted in its 41 years, while also featuring new work in a more conventional vein by stars of the contemporary dance world. Included in the extended season of 13 unique programs are half a dozen recipients of Guggenheim Fellowships and a lineup of award-winning, globally acclaimed troupes.

“We are embarking on one of our fullest seasons in a long time with some of the most exciting programming we’ve ever had,” said Alison Manning, managing director.

The Yard has dug itself out of the financial woes that have plagued it for the last two years and is focusing more than ever on community education and off-site programming, according to artistic and executive director David R. White.

“This is a year when we’ve begun to get ahead of the game after a couple of years of doing a turnaround,” Mr. White said. “Debts are retired. That’s behind us. We finished last year in the black.”

A major three-year gift awarded by an anonymous donor this past spring has launched the organization’s “BACK (THE) YARD” challenge match initiative. This year’s matching goal of $250,000 will help towards the multi-year makeover plan, which includes refurbishment of the buildings, upgrading the theater, and increasing the space for residents.

The Yard will kick off its 2013 season this weekend with new work created during the past month by participants in the The 2013 Bessie Schönberg Residency. The resident up-and-coming artists include South Asian Hari Krishnan, who has been teaching Bollywood dance classes during the residency, and New York choreographers Deborah Lohse and Donnell Oakley. The trio have worked for the past month under guest Yard mentor David Brick, co-artistic director of Philadelphia’s HEADLONG Dance theater,

Next up, Mitchell Rose will present his unique mix of film, theater, dance, and comedy in “The Mitch Show.” Mr. Rose, a former choreographer and award-winning filmmaker who, according to Mr. White, has been called the Woody Allen of modern dance, will combine his many talents in a show described in the program as, “a fast-paced evening of comic films and audience-participation pieces.”

On June 28 and 29, three of the preeminent “downtown” dancers from New York City — Jodi Melnick, Jon Kinzel and Vicky Shickwill — will present a new work created during their Yard residency. Mr. White refers to the three as “dancer’s dancers.”

Ms. Manning says of Ms. Melnick, “She is one of my favorite artists in the dance scene right now. Having her on our Yard stage is a really special thing.” This past April, Ms Melnick was featured on the cover of Dance Magazine where she was referred to as “one of the most beautiful dancers there ever was.”

Starting off the July lineup is a unique dance troupe from Providence originally made up of family members and currently comprising a multigenerational, multicultural mix of performers. The group, Everett, will present a dance/theater experience called “Brain Storm,” which explores the human brain. The work is based on current neuroscience research and personal narrative and was developed in part during time the group spent at the Crotched Mountain Hospital, a facility in Western Massachusetts specializing in brain injury rehabilitation,

Following that, Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer will present “Voyeur,” which uses the “movie still” works of Edward Hopper as the basis for a series of dances incorporating video, choreography, and imaginative sets.

The climax of The Yard’s season will be the second annual Tap the Yard Festival of Rhythm and Beats. This year, the festival has been extended to two weeks and incorporates other forms of rhythmic dance including Irish step dancing, hip hop and popping by the Wonder Twins, and a performance by Camille Brown and Dancers, a critically acclaimed troupe known for its high theatricality.

Mr. White calls Ms. Brown’s troupe the centerpiece of this year’s festival and notes that they will be back for their own residency in 2014.

Two companies who made a splash at last year’s festival — Michelle Dorrance/Dorrance Dance and the Bang Group — will return. Also included in the two separate programs are renowned tappers Derrick Grant and Jason Samuels Smith.

Choreographer Doug Elkins returns in August. His comic work “Fraulein Maria” proved a hit with Yard audiences the last two years. Mr. Elkins will again showcase his irreverent combination of dance and physical comedy in two different shows. One of the Doug Elkins’ performers, acclaimed clown Mark Gindick, will stay on to present his show “Wing-Man.” The actor and former Ringling Brothers and Big Apple Circus clown was featured in the PBS documentary “Circus.” “Wing-Man” won Best One Man Show at the United Solo Theatre Festival.

In September, see a special puppet theater presentation by Dan Froot/Dan Hurlin called “Who’s Hungry,” which addresses the issues of hunger and homelessness in the U.S.

Other programming includes the return of Public Dancing Allowed events featuring local musicians, a new series of sing-along evenings and, possibly, music jams. The Yard will also continue, and expand upon, its tradition of hosting visiting artist-led community classes, and bringing workshops and demonstrations to Island schools.

Of this year’s smorgasbord of a schedule, Mr. White says, “There’s stuff that lyrical and beautiful and gorgeous, and stuff that’s fun and raucous. We cover the waterfront.”

Dance: Bessie Schonberg Mentorship Residency, Friday and Saturday, June 14 and 15, 8 pm, The Yard, Chilmark. $25; $15 seniors/students/active military. 508-645-9662;