Side Notes from the Side Yard

The Yard’s resident dance collective, DanceTheYard, performs this weekend. — Photo by Sofia Strempek

A Salt Lake City native, Chloe Jones graduated from Wesleyan University this past May with a double major in dance and Hispanic literatures and cultures. She currently serves as development intern at the Yard, a position which brought her to Martha’s Vineyard for the first time. In her short time here, she’s already fallen in love with the Island. Her other great loves include dancing, writing, traveling, cooking, and hiking. She reports regularly about her experience working at the Yard.

All summer I’ve been told the island exhales come September, and already I feel it. There are fewer cars on the road, and fewer faces everywhere. Shorter lines and shorter days. The change is visible but also felt. It’s an energetic shift, a softening.

The Island and the Yard breathe together. We too are exhaling.

Performances by the Bang Group concluded the Yard’s fourth annual TapTheYard festival. Last week we all celebrated together — staff, interns, and visiting artists — with a potluck of sangria, tacos, and grilled pizza on the Side Yard back porch.

Members of The Bang Group left, and Janie Geiser & Co., a pioneering company in today’s renaissance of American experimental puppet theater, arrived from Los Angeles, and performed two shows last weekend; they were the last visiting company in residence at the Yard this summer.

Next DanceTheYard (DTY) takes the stage. DTY is the Yard’s resident dance collective, co-directed by the Yard’s executive director, Alison Manning, and the director of Island programs and education, Jesse Keller.

On Friday, Sept. 11, and Saturday, Sept. 12, DTY premiers “atlas,” a new evening-length work co-choreographed by Alison and Jesse, as well as a dance film they made in collaboration with filmmaker Danielle Mulcahy, titled “The Blue of Distance.” The Yard interns present “Try This On for Size,” a piece we’ve been developing over the course of the summer.

Next weekend, Sept. 16 through 18, is A.R.T. on the Vine (short for Artists Rising Together on the Vineyard), a festival to celebrate the Island’s community of makers and movers. Friday is an evening of dance, Saturday of music and spoken work, and Sunday brings Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish to the Yard’s stage.

The end of the road is now in sight. A looming to-do list titled “2015 Close Up Shop Week” has been tacked to the wall of the Yard office. Before we know it, we will be readying campus for winter. The houses will be dismantled, countless boxes packed, twinkle lights taken down from the trees.

It feels like yesterday when I first arrived at the Yard. It feels like years ago. Time is sand slipping between fingertips.

Overlapping with the Bang Group’s residency, Naomi Goldberg was also in residence at The Yard last month. She is the founding artistic director of Dances for a Variable Population (DVP), a multigenerational dance company and educational organization based in New York City.

Naomi has been coming to the Yard every year since 2006. While here, she teaches daily community class, open to dancers of all ages and levels. She also visits senior centers and nursing homes on-Island, as part of the Yard’s multifaceted and growing education program called “Making It.”

With the support of Yard staff and interns, Naomi leads movement workshops at the senior centers and nursing homes. Participants are guided through a series of movements that can be done seated or standing. The focus is on personal expression, body strengthening, and community building.

I had the opportunity to attend one of these workshops. About 20 of us, both young and old, gathered in a circle of chairs and learned each other’s names. Naomi then led us courageously through various movement exercises. We isolated different body parts, lifted and lowered limbs, improvised dance moves, performed spontaneous solos and gentle duets …

Toward the end of the workshop, Naomi taught a modified version of the gestural movement phrase that she had been teaching in community class at the Yard. I had learned the phrase the morning before in a studio of sweating, able-bodied dancers. Now I sat between two frail and wheelchair-bound women.

Filled with reverence for my own body, I watched as the woman to my left danced the phrase with contagious joy. Others in the circle grinned ear-to-ear, their faces full of wisdom and wonder.

Living is moving and aging is itself a dance. It is the duet that each one of us dances with time.

September has arrived. Let’s savor the last of summer. Let’s taste fall. And let’s all exhale!