Built on Stilts dances into its 20th year

Teo and Marta Azzollini perform at a previous Built on Stilts event. —Sally Cohn

Built on Stilts, the lively community dance festival which takes place annually at Oak Bluff’s Union Chapel, is celebrating 20 years this August. Dance events take place from August 11 through 14, and August 20 through 23. Doors open at 7:30 pm with a communal drum circle and warm up for dancers. This is followed by a demonstration by stilt walkers outside the chapel at 7:45 pm. Dance programs start at 8 pm.

This year’s eight-night festival will feature the work of over 60 choreographers, from the Vineyard and beyond, with an eclectic mix of professionals and amateurs, young and old.

Built on Stilts began in 1997 as a one-night concert featuring the work of seven dance choreographers. It has since grown to encompass the Island’s artistic spirit, including local artists and others from New York City, Boston, Hartford, and as far away as Albuquerque, N.M., and Lansing, Mich..

The festival’s all-inclusive philosophy has attracted an enormous range of choreographic sophistication and technical ability, defining Built on Stilts by its collective energy and creative output, as a home in which professional participants are free to experiment and fledgling performers can discover the joy of dance.

“Moving into the 20th year of Built on Stilts feels amazing,” festival director Abby Bender said in an email to The Times. “We have aged, the makeup of the Island has changed. Thousands of dancers and countless audiences have taken part, some for one season or just one show, others never miss it. But no matter how much the world changes and despite the passage of time, the feel-goodness of this event stays the same. Builts remains by the people, for the people. I’m moved by its longevity.”

The program is different each night. Shows are always free to the public and audiences

may come and go as they please. Donations at the door are strongly encouraged; no reservations necessary.

For a detailed festival schedule, visit builtonstilts.org.

There will also be an anniversary garden party fundraiser on Friday, August 26, at the Oak Bluffs home of festival director Abby Bender. Guests will have the opportunity to chat with festival performers, staff, and audiences while enjoying light fare, beer, wine, and signature cocktails. There will also be a small live auction and, of course, dancing. Cocktail attire is encouraged but not required. Fundraiser tickets and details are available at brownpapertickets.com/event/2584984.