A celebration of dance in its many forms at Built on Stilts

Stiltshoppers show the audience their feathers in "Wonderful Webbed Feet, Beautiful Beaks, Fabulous Feathers." — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Built on Stilts, the annual dance and performance festival, celebrates its 17th season starting this Thursday, August 8. Shows continue nightly through August 11, then resume August 17 through 20.

This season features the work of more than 40 choreographers from the Vineyard and beyond. Participating groups include amateur acts, local companies such as The Yard and RISE Vineyard Performing Arts, visiting acts from as far away as Seattle, and professionals from companies in New York City.

“The festival’s all-inclusive philosophy has attracted an enormous range of choreographic sophistication and technical ability, defining Built on Stilts by its collective energy and creative output, as a home in which professional participants are free to experiment and fledgling performers can discover the joy of making dances,” according to a press release.

Festival director and co-founder Abby Bender says that this year’s performances will be more varied and include more visiting artists than ever before. Built on Stilts encourages all styles of performance art, from miming to circus, and it features dancers of all ages. Each year, two workshops are offered: Stiltshop, for kids aged 5 to 11; and Advancedshop, for teens 12 to 16. After a week of working with an experienced choreographer, the youths collaborate to create their own performances for the festival.

This year, there has been a “changing of the guards,” says Ms. Bender. “Many of the locally grown amateur dances are being made and performed by young adults who grew up through the kids and teens workshops and have been part of the festival since they were quite small.”

This year’s festival also includes performances by faculty members from Bard College’s Dance Department, Ms. Bender and co-founder Anna Luckey’s alma mater. “There’s something that has come sort of magically full-circle about these artists’ involvement,” Ms. Bender said.

Built on Stilts, August 8–11 and 17–20, 8 pm, Union Chapel, Oak Bluffs. Nightly drum circles begin at 7:30 pm. Free, donations encouraged. No reservations. For more information, visit builtonstilts.org.