What’s Written Within

Islanders of all ages get ready to dance at MV Hebrew Center.

"What's Written Within" troupe members Sandy Broyard, left, and Margaret Knight in a studio photo. — Photo courtesy of Sally Cohn

What’s Written Within, the Martha’s Vineyard improvisational modern dance company, is composed of Island men and women ages 17 to 89 who have come together to explore the art of improvising dance. The group is directed by Sandy Broyard and Sally Cohn, and has also performed at The Yard and in Built on Stilts. This weekend marks the company’s fourth annual show.

“The tenet of the group is that everyone of every age, whether trained in dance or not, is capable of expressive, amazing, and personal dance,” director Sandy Broyard told The Times via email. “Having a desire to move and explore leads to the discovery for each person to know how their body is meant to dance. This dance unfolds from one’s individual history and the imprint of their unique life experiences,” said Ms. Broyard.

Eight years ago, at Sally and George Cohn’s studio in Edgartown, three of the present members of the company began to dance together regularly. “We now have 20 members and meet three times a week, year-round,” Ms. Broyard said via email. “Some of our dancers have had extensive training. Many have not, but we come together to share our love of moving and dance.”

“Our dances, similar to jazz improvisation,” said Ms. Broyard, “are created with the elements of tuning in to one another, picking up motifs from others, variations in time, being aware of both harmony and discord, using stillness, repetition, and mood.”

Ms. Broyard defines her role with What’s Written Within more as a facilitator than as a director. Ms. Broyard first experienced improvisation while studying with Mary Wigman in Berlin in 1961 and in the 1970s Ms. Broyard worked with Jack Weiner in New York City at his School for Creative Movement, exploring and defining the elements of dance improvisation.

Ms. Cohn created a space for the dancers, and handles the production work for the company. She studied with Ernestine Stodelle, taught Doris Humphrey dance technique in New Haven, and was director of Dancers in Concert. She is also a staff photographer at The Yard.

The dancers for this Sunday’s performance are Genevieve Abbot, Ted Box, Sandy Broyard, George Cohn, Sally Cohn, Sandra Demel, Margaret Knight, Carol Loud, Susan Puciul, and Susan Tirabasi. Performing guests from The Yard include Sierra Adams, Holly Jones, and Jesse Keller. Bruce MacNelly will be playing electric guitar for three of the dances.

The What’s Written Within performance is at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center (MVHC) in Vineyard Haven on Sunday, April 19, at 4 pm. The performance is sponsored by the ARTS at MVHC, and the suggested ticket price is $5.