Chloe Jones, the Yard’s executive director, is brimming with good news. While the winter-spring season included three residencies, two of which happened in the artists’ home communities, the venue is sprucing up its campus for a summer full of dance that will allow the performers the luxury to create in a safe and beautiful environment. Each residency will include a public component, which will be performed outdoors, with some also done virtually.
Pivoting from entirely virtual to these in-person residencies feels, in Jones’ words, “amazing.” Typically the Yard would put all its tickets on sale at the beginning of the season; instead they are taking a staggered and more nimble approach to making decisions about capacity at events and safety protocols closer to the actual dates. “Our priority,” Jones says, “is to keep our community and staff safe.”
Their model for this summer season is a “bubble residency,” which includes the company quarantining and testing before coming, and being in a sequestered environment once on the premises. Even though all the performers should have been vaccinated in time for their arrival here, Jones shares, “I think it’s going to take all of us a little bit of time to ease out of this past year. We’ve been talking about how we want our artists to be in a creative, generative space, and don’t think that’s possible if you don’t feel really safe; and the same goes for our staff. The focus of these residencies is to have uninterrupted, supportive time to get into a new process or a work that has been in development.”
The first residency is Company SBB-Stefanie Batten Bland, which is in the final stages of a project inspired by the Martha’s Vineyard African American Heritage Trail. Bland came across the trail when first at the Yard in 2016. Batten Bland has researched oral histories in the archives of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. The result is “Embarqued: Stories of Our Soil,” an installation-based dance-theater work seeped in Island history, which will take place at the museum itself the weekend of June 18.
Yard alumna Lida Winfield returns to the Vineyard with Christal Brown with a live performance, film, and podcast, “Same but Different,” which explores the similarities and differences between Christal and Lida in a cultural commentary on race, age, and gender; Winfield is white and Brown is Black. In addition to live showings of “Same but Different,” Winfield’s latest work, “Imaginary,” will stream during the week of her residency.
Distilling the art of breaking to its purest form, Raphael Xavier (pronounced ZAH-vee-ay) returns to the Yard to continue creating “Xavier’s: The Musician and the Mover,” which highlights the traditions of freestyle and improvisation in both breaking and jazz. He will be joined at a live performance at Featherstone, which will mix live music, poetry, and movement, by a saxophonist, bassist, pianist, percussionist, and dancers.
Danza Orgánica and Aquinnah Wampanoag tribal members will continue their multiyear collaboration to create “âs nupumukâunean (We Still Dance),” which through dance, song, installation, and storytelling honors stories of the Aquinnah Wampanoag people. Danza Orgánica is a dance theater company that creates antiracist, antipatriarchal, and decolonizing work with and for communities interested in embodying a liberated future. Danza Orgánica first connected with members of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe during a 2018 residency at the Yard. Since then, the two groups have been collaborating to create “âs nupumukâunean (We Still Dance).”
Netta Yerushalmy engages with audiences through the sensation of things as they are perceived, not as they are known, and challenges how meaning is attributed and constructed. Yerushalmy’s new evening-length dance work, “Movement,” “steals” movement quotes from an expansive range of dance across genres, cultures, and idioms in order to experiment with pluralism and discord as guiding creative and political principles. The project features a bifurcated electronic score from two potent female composers, and performances from seven stunning dancers who hail from Sri Lanka, Senegal, Israel, Taiwan, and across the U.S.
Jenna Pollack’s creative practice spans the realms of dance, theater, engineering, film, and cultural organizing. Pollack offers practices for physical listening, reflexive imagination, rigorous play, and the mobilization of community. This summer she brings together a diverse group of eight collaborators who come from dance, film, performance art, engineering, and sound design. “We’re hoping that by placing performances across the Island, we will be able to reach more of our community, to offer a variety of experiences,” Jones says. And as the world unfolds, in August they may hold some smaller performances in the Yard theater, incorporating social distancing and mask wearing. With artists always at the center of each residency, it will be up to them what outcome will serve them and be the most meaningful, exciting, and engaging for Island audiences.
Company SBB’s performances take place Thursday, June 17, and Friday, June 18, at 8 pm. Details and more information about purchasing tickets to performances and public events are available at dancetheyard.org.