Modern dance lends itself to the pastoral. Think of the crowds that ascend to Jacob’s Pillow’s old mountaintop farm in the Berkshires each summer, or the legendary Isadora Duncan’s time spent at Ralph and Jane Whitehead’s White Pines, on the Byrdcliffe Colony campus, back in its earliest days.
“Let them come forth with great strides, leaps and bounds, with lifted forehead and far-spread arms, to dance, Duncan wrote of her singular style, which shifted how we see human movement forever. “You were once wild here. Don’t let them tame you…For the children of America I will create a new dance that will express America.”
Duncan’s spirit, along with over a century of ever-contemporary dance explored and presented over the years, has returned to Byrdcliffe’s evocative Theatre this month for the 30th iteration of Choreography on the Edge, a consistently innovative program aimed at giving professional choreographers and dancers a chance to experiment and push their boundaries, in performances that started last weekend with some chestnuts from past works and continues Friday, August 16 through Sunday, August 18 with an array of new works by local choreographers Andrea Pastorella, Laura Ward, Julie Manna, Rebecca Frank, Jai Mason, Jess Lewis and Jocelyne Danchick.
The entire weekend of performances started as A Choreographers Concert 30 years ago when a number of locally-based dancers presented a showcase for new work at Woodstock Town Hall. The original idea was simple: the only requirement being that all performers combine movement and music in ways that were completely new for them. Eventually, the annual performances drew choreographers from further afield and moved, 20 years back, to Byrdcliffe Theatre.
“To maintain the focus on fresh, innovative work and a high standard of professionalism, choreographers are asked to dig deep, incorporating elements they haven’t used before,” noted the event’s producer, Zach Jacobs. “The pieces are not auditioned and most of them will be premiering, giving the work an immediacy that engages the audience in a more energetic and intimate way…The line up is comprised of choreographers and dancers spanning a wide range of styles and techniques; primarily modern dance, contemporary ballet and cultural motifs.”
Last weekend’s inaugural performances included solos, duets and trios from dancer/choreographers with such illustrious troupes as Octavia Cup Dance Theatre, D’amby Project, Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company and Pilobolus.
Support for the entire two weekends of Choreography on the Edge has come from Ulster Ballet Company, The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, and the D’amby Project.
Performances of Choreography On The Edge will take place Friday and Saturday evenings, August 16 and 17, at 8 p.m., and Sunday afternoon, August 18, at 3 p.m. at the Byrdcliffe Theater, 380 Upper Byrdcliffe Road in Woodstock, NY. Tickets are $12 each. See www.woodstckguild.org or call 453-8673 for further information and tickets.