The Yard says “Public Dancing Allowed!!!”

Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish get the crowd moving in support of children’s dance education.

Felicity Russell capturing people's attention with her original moves at The Yard’s “Public Dancing Allowed!!!” event. – Photo by Larisa Stinga

Up-Island last Friday night was cold, clear, and quiet. Unless, of course, you were at the Chilmark Community Center, where Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish brought rhythm and heat to every able body inside those polished wood walls. “Just try to sit still,” said octogenarian Leigh Smith of Vineyard Haven, as she swayed to the bluesy grooves of the beloved Vineyard band.

The Yard, known as the progressive dance collective of choreographers, artists, and educators, which hosts world-class dance performances all summer, is equally invested in bringing dance education to Island children and youth year-round. Director of Island Programs and Education Jesse Keller explained that all proceeds of Friday night’s lively event would go towards “Making It: Kids Make Dance” –– a visionary, mobile, and diverse dance-education program that collaborates with local institutions to bring music and movement to kids from kindergarten to high school.

Standing to greet members of the community who had come to shake off the week with joyful abandon, the artistic and executive director of The Yard, David White, articulated the exciting interdisciplinary curriculum designed by “Making It” for Vineyard kids. Mr. White, passionate about what his community-based organization can accomplish, explained that when people think about art education, they typically think of the visual arts, yet there’s a real need to expose youth to the range of what dance and performance art encompass. By bringing guest musicians and dance educators to the Island, Mr. White and Ms. Keller intend to interweave cultural anthropology and mathematics with music and dance traditions to form a dynamic and unique program.

Glancing across the lively crowd Friday night, one thing was certain: Dance makes people happy. It was a family-oriented event that brought out Islanders as young as 5 years old, that moved the feet of twisters, hipsters, and gen-Xers, creating a truly unique sight. Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish have to be credited for drawing out the rhythm in everyone, but The Yard’s “Public Dancing Allowed!!!” event helped closet any fear of dancing for all to see.

Managing Director of The Yard Alison Manning beautifully expressed what the ultimate value of dancing as a community embodies: “This is the most basic and communally accessible art form. Everyone comes out of the womb moving. Having a shared language of movement is something a community can do together easily… giving children, adults, and seniors the language of movement to share with one another is opening a little piece of joy. Why would we not want to dance together?”

If you were one of the unfortunate ones who missed Friday’s event, Ms. Keller assured the glowing audience, saying, “There will be plenty more to come. This is the first of what we hope can be a monthly night, because it really benefits our program, not only in terms of fundraising, but in letting the community know what the program is all about. So, thank you for coming, have fun, and dance!”

For more information about The Yard and their educational programming, visit dancetheyard.org.