Dancers on site in Shepherdstown
Shepherdstown featured some extra ordinary scenery last weekend, when 17 dance artists (and 1 banjo player) sprang from its quietest corners and busiest restaurants.
The first ever Shepherdstown On Site Dance Festival, A Goose Route Production, included spontaneous performances of various dance forms at sites all around the downtown area.
Both outdoor and indoor locations such as Dickinson and Wait Craft Gallery, Bistro 112, Shepherdstown’s Urban Garden, Town Run and various others, set the stage for the collection of improvised dance art.
Goose Route founder Kitty Clark said the festival was an opportunity to make dance more accessible and approachable.
“It just seemed like a great way to really bring dance to people,” she said.
Inspired by the faux performance stage at Shepherdstown’s Encore Apparel and Motion store, Clark said she envisioned a dance performance experience that incorporated Shepherdstown’s storefronts, busy streets, and historic places.
In the tradition of on-site dancing, each performance centered around its given location with dancers making the best of the authentic material, and sometimes limitations, each space provided.
“They used their environments to tell a story,” she said.
“I think it’s fun for the dancer.”
Unique in that performers were assigned their locations just hours before their performances, participants in the festival rallied to coordinate performances, sometimes sharing locations to build an experience that worked for all involved.
Sean and Andrea Kilmer, a brother and sister from Charles town performed alongside the head of their dance company, Joshua Legg, of Joshua Legg Dance Projects in Winchester.
Only his second site specific piece, Sean Kilmer expressed excitement and a little anxiety before being assigned his space on Friday.
“I’ve never done anything as spontaneous and like, improvised as this,” he said.
Legg, who has danced for a number of years, performing in both a conservatory setting and in other on-site pieces, said he thought the festival would capture the versatile nature of both dance and dancers.
“Audience members are going to see a collection of very different approaches to dance and very diffierent ideas about how to interact with unique performance spaces in a very public forum,” he said.
Erin Crawley-Woods, who was born in Shepherdstown before moving to Martinsburg, discussed the experience of returning to the area for the festival and the nature of on-site dancing itself.
“I thought it was a great idea,” she said.
As a graduate dance student a the University of Maryland, Crawley-Woods said she has been focusing her own graduate research on site specific dance and jumped at the chance to participate in the festival.
“I find myself much more inspired in situations like this, rather than in a studio or the theater,” she said.
Concluding on Sunday with a Master’s Class and impromptu performance at the Shepherdstown Farmers Market, Clark said she thought the weekend was a success.
“I think people were really charmed,” she said.
Likening it to a dance carnival, Clark said the festival’s major achievement was showcasing an art form, even this artists’ community isn’t used to.
“We’re less accustomed to dance,” she said. “With this… Now there’s art all around you,” she said.