What could be cooler than to have a cathedral-size dance studio on your own property? Especially if you’ve been passionate about dance your whole life? This is the lucky fate of Sally Cohn, dancer, arts photographer, choreographer, and one of the Island’s many Leonardo da Vinci of the arts — should we say “Leonarda”? — who back in 1999, with the gentle encouragement of her husband, psychiatrist George Cohn, built a 1,500-square-foot studio on their 4.2-acre property off Pennywise Path in Edgartown.
This coming Friday, April 1, Ms. Cohn and her dance troupe, under the artistic direction of Sandy Broyard, will light up this utterly gorgeous dance space with its new iteration of its ongoing theme and title: “What’s Written Within.” And what IS written within, you might ask? Well, try directing that question to Sandy Broyard, and she’ll tell you, “We all have a personal and wonderful message deep inside.”
Ms. Cohn grew up in New Haven, Conn., and threw herself into dance lessons at the earliest age. In 1949 she began discipleship with teacher Ernestine Stodelle, who herself had studied with one of the great pioneers of modern dance, Doris Humphrey. Ms. Cohn studied with Ms. Stodelle for 45 years. The devoted pupil opened her own studio, Modern Dance for Children and Adults, and brought to her space a second generation of hard-driving energy, offering classes for modern dance, ballet, and yoga.
Enter the other major timeline of Sally Cohn’s life, and that is, of course, her Vineyard connection. Starting in 1961, she spent summers here. We know how this seasonal attachment can eventually reel one in until there is no getting out. In 1997 she and husband George moved here from New Haven (they’d met at Yale University Hospital where she was a head nurse, he a doctor in internal medicine). And, apparently, one cannot take Sally Cohn anywhere without throwing in a dance studio for her comfort level. In 1999, with the help of architect, musician, composer, and artist Bruce MacNelly, Ms. Cohn built her dream studio.
The space contains vaulted high ceilings and double rows of high windows that let in ethereal light, casting the pale pickled wood — some of it paneled, some beadboard — in an ever-changing light, often a bright bedazzling beige, other times a pale apricot in the diffuse glow of a foggy afternoon. Over the past 18 years since its construction, the studio has hosted events from all over the Island and the country, including collaborations with and/or hosting of the Yard, the Anna Sokolow Company, Island Theater Workshop, and keeper of the Isadora Duncan flame Cynthia Jensen.
In addition to performances delivered inside the studio, the Cohns’ property harbors outdoor meadows and raised platforms for al fresco dance. There are also, distributed about the acreage, boulders with flat tops upon which dancers have struck the most ingenious poses, which Ms. Cohn and other photographers have adroitly captured on film.
Sally and George Cohn are lucky enough to have kept family en famille; their only child, Amy Crawford, now in her early 40s and herself a lifelong dancer, lives next door with husband David Crawford, a systems administrator at the West Tisbury School. They have two kids: Jack, 11, and Molly, 9, who are students at the school.
But back to Dance with a capital “D.” For eight years now, the Cohn studio has played fairy godmother to a group of dancers under the What’s Written Within banner. Meeting several times a week are a men’s group, a coed group, and a women’s group, and they all merge their talents and joie de danser under the artistic direction of Sally Broyard and the co-direction of Ms. Cohn. And then, from time to time, they come together for an evening presentation of what they’ve all “written within.”
The dancers include (and see if you don’t know at least half of them): Genevieve Abbot, Harriet Bernstein, Ted Box, George Cohn (yes, he’s 91, and he dances during time away from his still active therapy practice), Sally Cohn, Scott Crawford, Corinne de Langavant, Sandra Demel, Wayne Elliot, Jesse Keller (a young Island dancing icon who will appear as a special guest performer on April 1), Margaret Knight, Carol Loud, Susan Puciul, and Billy White. The same multifaceted Bruce MacNelly will play guitar.
The performance takes place April 1 at 7:30 pm. For reservations, call 508-274-2487. Ms. Cohn also offers this performance space, with kitchen, sleeping loft, den/bedroom, one bathroom, and secluded gardens, as an artists’ retreat, rehearsal, conference, and performance arena. To learn more, go to theartiststudiomv.com.