Collaborative culmination

A ‘Divine Vision’ comes to fruition at Pathways Arts, thanks to Abby Bender and friends.

Abby Bender, left, and Jesse Jason at a past event. — Melissa Knowles

A very special event to be hosted by Pathways Arts this weekend is, as of this writing, in the process of percolating in the hive mind of more than a dozen artists working in a variety of disciplines.

The evening of performances, described as a blend of dances, musings, improvisation, and play, is the brainchild of dancers/choreographers Abby Bender and Jesse Jason, who have assembled a group of talented performers to present a conglomeration of dance, text, music, and visual elements. The theme for the evening is “Division/Revision,” although Bender notes that the organizers have left it up to the participants to interpret that theme in any way they wish.

Tanya Augoustinos of Pathways remarks that the event is one that epitomizes the mission of the arts organization founded by Marianne Goldberg over a decade ago. “Marianne always encouraged collaboration and seed projects,” says Augoustinos. “We very much welcome multidisciplinary across forms, and encourage different mediums.”

The evening will be divided into three portions. The main event will be a conglomeration of movement, text, theater, and visual arts. “We’re including performers who are all of one stripe or another. All bring something to the mix,” says Bender. “We’ll be stringing together a piece that is improvisationally based.”

The multi-artist piece will be followed by what Bender describes as “a palate cleanser.” She and dancers Lagan Love and Holly Jones will be reprising their rendition of the BeeGees song “Stayin’ Alive” that they performed at the recent Lip Synch contest at the Loft.

Rounding out the bill will be a solo performance by Boston-based Cassie Tunick, who creates pieces described on her website as “physical theater.” Tunick is a protégé of Ruth Zaporah, who originated the form called “action theater,” which Tunick performs and teaches in the Boston area and elsewhere. In 2015 and 2016, she and Bender co-created and performed new work at the Yard in Chilmark.

“It’s a hybrid of movement and text and sound,” says Bender, describing action theater. “It’s an embodied, language-driven art form that’s almost theatrical in nature.”

Bender explains the genesis of the multi-performer piece. “A couple of years ago Jesse [Jason] did an event at Tisbury Water Works. She involved about 20 people. They split into two groups and just facilitated the material to create a show in one day.

“This project is based on the fun of that. We wanted it to be not so precious. This is a fun, low-stakes, creative way to be together with people.”

Anyone who is familiar with Bender’s work from various projects she has presented on the Island (including the annual Built on Stilts festival, and the Halloween-centric events “Rise” and “Granger Things,” to name a few) will know to expect something completely unique with an emphasis on creativity, experimentation, and fun.

One might refer to Bender as the Vineyard’s impresario. Over the years that she’s spent on the Island (and previously in Brooklyn as the founding artistic director of Triskelion Arts), Bender has variously played the roles of creator, producer, choreographer, performer, and orchestrator of performance events that have fostered cross-pollination among a diverse array of artists, and forged a community of collaborators willing to break boundaries and enjoy a sense of play.

“Abby is one of the pioneers on the Island,” says Augoustinos. “She stretches the forms that she excels at into other areas.”

“Division/Revision: An Evening of Dances, Musings, Improvisation, and Play,” assembled by Abby Bender and Jesse Jason with Lucy Grinnan, Holly Jones, Danielle Mulcahy, Hadassh Nelson, Katie Federowicz, Melissa Petrosinelli, Katherine Reid, Libby Stackhouse, and special guests Lagan Love and Cass Tunick. Doors open at 6 pm. DJ dance party follows the performance. Free, with donations welcome. Pathways, Saturday, April 6, 7 pm. 



  1. Thanks for the great piece, Gwyn! Cass is actually based in New York City, not Boston. She did teach at Emerson for several years and occasionally performs in Boston. The Bee Gees was performed by Lagan Love, Abby Bender and Jesse Jason (not Holly Jones)

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