Side Notes from the Side Yard

Rooted by the standing leg.

Scott Nelson, right, and Schwa DeVivre — Photo by Caleb Carr

This past Saturday marked the second annual Vineyard Pride event at the Yard. One of our Dancehall (Public Dancing Allowed!) events, “Pride, Not Prejudice 2” brought people of every age together in celebration of the Island’s LGBTQ community and its friends.

For the occasion, the Yard’s open-air studio was converted into a lounge and the barn theater became a dance club. DJs LeFox and Mark Louque, plus a boatload of colorful blowup furniture, set the mood.

Outside, under twinkling lights, kids piled into our homemade photo booth full of pink flamingos and lined up to have their faces painted. Flatbread Co., one of the event’s generous sponsors, fired up its wood-burning pizza oven early and kept it going late.

The star of “Pride, Not Prejudice 2” was New York City’s Schwa de Vivre. Hosting the event in full drag (and with multiple costume changes), Schwa kept the party dancing and laughing with contagious exuberance.

Like the calm before the storm, Sunday was spent resting and recovering, as this is the Yard’s busiest week of the summer. We currently have 30 artists in residence and a performance happening every day, beginning with Ronald K. Brown/Evidence at Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, August 11, and ending with Cuba’s Malpaso Dance Company at the Yard on Saturday, August 15.

As always, we kicked off the week with our community class. On Monday and Wednesday mornings, the Yard’s executive director Alison Manning teaches Horton, a dance technique developed by American choreographer Lester Horton (1906–53). Her class is built of breath, strength, and ever-expansive movement.

Alison talks a lot about the “standing leg,” which refers to the leg dancers are balanced on in any given moment. The other is our “gesture leg” or “working leg.”

It’s easy to forget about one’s standing leg, for it’s the working leg that appears to do all the action — lifting off the floor, suspending in space, swinging to the front and the back.

In class, Alison asks that we redirect our attention to the standing leg. “Push into the floor with your standing leg,” she tell us. “The floor will push back.” And it does every time. In Alison’s class the floor becomes a tool and a comfort, a partner and a dependable friend.

It’s counterintuitive to focus on one’s standing leg when the other leg is kicking, swiveling, swinging. But it’s the standing leg that makes the working leg possible. For this reason the standing leg is sometimes called the “supporting leg.”

On Sunday I stop by Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven and pick up a copy of Wislawa Szymborska’s “Here.” In the book’s first poem, Szymborska writes, “you spin on the planet’s carousel for free,/ and with it you hitch a ride on the intergalactic blizzard,/ with time so dizzying/ that nothing here on Earth can even tremble.”

Here at the Yard, life’s carousel moves at full throttle, and this week is especially dizzying. Despite the whirlwind, I feel rooted. Szymborska might tell me that I feel rooted because of the whirlwind. From motion comes stability.

The standing leg and the working leg necessitate each other. There can be no one without the other.