50 years at the Yard

2023 will be a summer filled with performances.


The Yard’s 50th summer anniversary is just about here, and there is a lot to celebrate. The roster of this Chilmark-based institution is full of exciting and groundbreaking dance residencies, performances, workshops, and classes.

The season begins with the piloting of “Launch Pad: A Choreographer’s Showcase,” done in partnership with Headlong, a Philadelphia-based activator of performance research, cultural inquiry, and overlapping layers of communities. It aims to help launch three emerging choreographers — David Guzman, Marguerite Hemmings, and Sophieann Moore — who are at a crossroads in their careers by providing them with space, time, fellowship, mentorship, and compensation. And we can see their respective works in progress on June 10. Yvonne Mendez, the Yard’s acting executive director/program director, says, “It’s really exciting to support choreographers who may not know what their next steps are to come here and investigate what is the next thing they may want to do.”

Sandglass Theater, which will perform on June 24, is a theater puppetry company. One of their members developed a piece, “Feral,” which they will be working on to integrate choreography with small and life-size puppets, visual imagery, and music to reflect a woman’s journey as she experiences the tension between learned behaviors and intuitive knowledge.

Sean Dorsey is recognized as the country’s first acclaimed transgender modern dance choreographer, whose company is a powerhouse ensemble of five trans, queer, and gender-nonconforming dancers. They will perform “The Lost Art of Dreaming” on July 7 and 8, using a rich, layered score of original and commissioned music, and fabulous costumes. “I’m also excited that while he’s here, he will be doing a public conversation and movement workshop with the LGBQ community addressing healing,” Mendez says.

Leo Sandoval, who did a residency with English language learners at the high school this winter (mvtimes.com/2023/02/15/language-of-dance), is coming back with his company, Music from the Sole. The performance on July 15 will feature tap dance and live music that celebrates tap’s Afro-diasporic roots, particularly its connections to Afro-Brazilian dance and music, and its lineage in forms like house dance and passinho (Brazilian funk).

Rainbow Serpent Collective is a Black queer and femme multidisciplinary art collaborative that creates innovative work that fuses multimedia technology, storytelling, and movement. They create multidisciplinary art, film, installations, and dance performances that probe the frontier between technology, art, Blackness, and African cosmologies. The July 29 performance of “Four World Ages” depicts the history of humanity in four ages, from the perspective of Igbo tradition — the Age of Universal Oneness, the Age of Self-Awareness, the Age of Light, and the Age of Suffering. The piece will feature eight dancers whose bodies will be adorned with fluorescent paints and illuminated by ultraviolet light as they enact the saga of human development outlined by Igbo mythology.

Urban Bush Women is returning for its third and final installment of a three-year residency to do site-specific works on August 9, 10, 11, and 12, in Oak Bluffs and Aquinnah. Urban Bush Women brings untold and undertold histories and stories to light from a woman-centered perspective and as members of the African diaspora in order to create a more equitable balance of power in the dance world and beyond.

Rounding out the season are Caleb Teicher and Nic Greiss, who will perform August 19 and 20, along with small excerpts at pop-ups at various Island farms and the Ag Fair from August 17 through 19.

There will be plenty of opportunities to interact with the artists themselves in conversation and movement workshops. The lineup of open classes includes Naomi Goldberg Haas’ multigenerational “Modern Dance for Life,” which focuses on enjoying moving with full expression and purpose. Ugandan-born dancer, educator, and musician Godfrey Muwulya returns to the Island with his high-energy workshops in East African traditional dances, drumming, and music. Mollie Doyles’ yoga classes focus on intelligent sequencing, linking breath to movement, and building a practice that brings consciousness and ease to the body and mind.

With an interest in integrating more music programming, the Yard is collaborating with the Chilmark library by hosting Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish on July 11, with more plans in the works.

For those with young ones between 6 to 12 years old who want to move, you’ve got “Kids Do Dance” with sessions June 26 to 30, July 10 to 14, and August 14 to 18. Each weeklong program will challenge the children through fun, active dance classes that build skill and technique; nurture the child’s choreographic voice and individual artistic expression through composition studies; and develop the child’s connections to the Yard’s professional dancers in residence.

Clearly, there is something for everyone this summer, so mark the dates down in your calendar.

For more information, visit dancetheyard.org.