Move more at the Yard’s community dance class

From left: Danielle Doell, Sally Cohn, Susan Tirabassi, Ben Cheney, and Susan Puciul. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

On Thursday, the Oak Bluffs Public Library hosted its first community dance class put on by the Yard, the contemporary dance and performance center based in Chilmark.

The Yard instructor Danielle Doell described the event as an “improvisational, movement-based pick-your-own-adventure class.” She says the class functions as a fun gateway into choreographed dance routines, as well as a way to socialize with Island people of all skill levels and age groups.

Nathan Luce, the library’s program coordinator, said the class is “open to all physical types, ages, and [levels of] experience.”

“Even though they say anybody is welcome, I didn’t know what the structure would be like,” Mr. Luce, who participated in the program, said. “But the class tricks you into learning the moves. You already intuitively know most of the moves.”

Under the compassionate guidance of Ms. Doell, the class culminated in a learned dance routine put together piece by piece throughout the hour-and-a-half class, giving the routine a familiarity that was aided by periodic movement games and synchronized dancing with partners. These extra activities made it easy for participants to let go of inhibitions.

Mr. Luce said the class succeeds in getting its members active physically as well as mentally. “Putting the dance combination together used a part of my brain that I don’t usually use,” Mr. Luce said. “The class strengthened my mind and body connection in a really wonderful way. I was surprised and satisfied.”

Daquan Sugar, a UPS driver who found the event online, said the class was “awesome.” He shared the dance floor with Sandy Broyard, head of the improv dance group What’s Written Within.

“We get stuck on our own movement paths,” Ms. Broyard said. “It’s important for the body to move and twist in all different ways and get a sense of moving with all the people in the room.”

Sally Cohn, who is also involved with What’s Written Within, said the class was “great for the body — a great stress reliever.” She also praised Ms. Doell for her teaching methods.

Ms. Doell, a self-described “artist-educator” who has taught in Ireland and New York, considers living on Island to be “a dream.” She said her involvement with the Yard makes it possible to lend her skill to those who express interest.

The new collaboration with the Oak Bluffs library is part of the Yard’s mission to “create education and community building.” Most Islanders have seen this in action at the Yard’s Chilmark campus, with programs such as Dance the Yard, and also off-campus with collaborations such as “YardWORKs,” where Yard staff teach dance to members of the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard.

In addition to the adult-oriented community dance class, which will be held from 5:30 to 7 pm on Thursdays for the next month, a tween edition will be held from 3:30 to 4:30 pm.

“In general, the class is part of a push we’re doing to put on programs that will appeal to people across the age spectrum,” Mr. Luce said. Those who attended Thursday’s class can attest that no matter what your age, finding ways to move more is time well spent.

The Yard Community Dance Class: Every Thursday through March 17, Oak Bluffs library. 5:30 to 7pm for adults, 3:30 to 4:30pm for tweens. Free. 508-693-9433.