While the world isn’t quite back to normal, there are signs that the upcoming season will be something to celebrate as Rise Vineyard Performing Arts once again presents its annual holiday show, “Season’s Greetings!”
“We wanted to do something that was inclusive of all the styles of dance and genres of music, and generations of nostalgia, in something that is fun for everyone, not just ballet enthusiasts with something like ‘The Nutcracker.’ That’s how the show’s name was born,” Rise director Jil Matrisciano says.
Last year because of COVID, there was no live performance. Instead, Matrisciano used clips of the 2019 performance interspersed with scenes she shot in her decorated backyard of Santa at the North Pole talking to students. Rise previewed the resulting creative movie at the Drive-In. “I wanted people to at least get a feel for the holiday show,” Matrisciano said. “I look back on the film and think, Wow, this is actually really cool; it’s creative. You do what you have got to do!”
Speaking about the regular seasonal show, Matrisciano says, “It’s sort of a little Island treasure. People look forward to it at the holidays because it’s a destination event to take your kids to. It’s really joyous. I call it my homegrown labor of love because the set, the costumes … everything about it is completely from scratch.” Her mom, mother-in-law, and some volunteers were the first people to sew costumes that you’ll still see onstage currently.
The show benefits the Rise Above Access program, which offers scholarships to youth on the Island whose families would not otherwise be able to afford dance classes. “People, I think, look forward to the fun and festivities, but they also feel good about supporting kids in need, so it’s a win-win for everyone,” Matrisciano shares.
While typically even larger, this year there will be an impressive cast of 170 students. Usually there is an afternoon performance that repeats in the evening, but due to the current limited capacity of the Performing Arts Center, they have split the schedule into three abbreviated shows. The “littles,” ages 3 to 6, will perform at 11 am, and then there will be a 2 pm and 6 pm show with the older students. “It will be almost the same show, but there will be a few little surprises that will be different,” Matrisciano said.
Rise is in its 15th year teaching ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, acrobatics, and hip-hop year-round, including summer classes with guest artists from off-Island. There are two components, the recreational dance program, which includes the First Steps for what Matrisciano terms the “littles,” and Roots for the “teens” and “tweens.” Rise also has its company program, which is an intensive in which students have a heftier class schedule with requirements. “They take a ballet foundation, and contemporary, tap, and jazz classes, and then we take some of their choreography and travel off-Island to compete,” she explains. There have been seven or eight students from the company program who have gone on to pursue dance as their career choice.
Matrisciano recalls how Rise had to pivot during the worst of the pandemic when they closed their facility from March through August 2020, but still did dance outside. “We put tap mats on the basketball courts of the Martha’s Vineyard Y. And we danced at St. Augustine Church’s fields. We actually competed at the nationals, and did great. It was refreshing to know that the kids were that into it, and didn’t want to stop. But it’s going to be amazing to get back onstage and have a live audience. The kids are stoked to get back,” Matrisciano says.
She wants folks to know that even though this year’s shows will be abbreviated, Rise is producing a full-scale DVD, which will include all the performances, and be ready in time for Christmas: “I told all the families they can shut the Yule Log off on the TV, and put on their kids dancing instead.”
“Season’s Greetings!” takes place on Dec. 19. Tickets can be purchased online at bit.ly/risedance, or call 855-222-2TIX (2849) and select option 5. Tickets are $15 for those 10 and under, and $20 for those 11 and up. Cost is $5 more for tickets purchased at the door.