by Wanda Strukus
Dance in the Fells Wright's Pond
at Wright's Pond, Elm Street in Medford MA.
For more information and directions, please visit tworoads.org and like Dance in the Fells on Facebook.
More Wild Adventures in Site-Specific Dancing? Yes, Please!
Dance in the Fells Returns to Medford
As we put the final touches on Dance in the Fells Wright's Pond, our second festival of outdoor, site-specific dance, we're once again thrilled and humbled by our intrepid and wildly innovative choreographers who are making bold and wonderful dances for this year's location: Monkeyhouse, Brian Crabtree, Alli Ross, and the trio of Kara Fili, Tara Weaver, and Carolyn Lewenberg. We've watched them embrace the landscape, immersing themselves in water, sand, and leaves, and running, rolling, wading, and swinging through all the woods has to offer them. We're just days away from bringing in an audience out to see these amazing dances, and our thoughts are almost entirely on that audience's experience: how we welcome them into our site-specific playground and encourage them to be as intrepid, bold, and playful as our choreographers.
The first Dance in the Fells brought over 400 people into the woods to watch contemporary dance. They came by car and shuttle-bus, by foot and by mountain bike. They came alone or they brought their children and their parents, their partners and their dogs. As they walked from site to site, they encountered people they hadn't seen in years, and spoke to strangers they might never see again. They watched one dance or six dances and loved some and didn't love others and talked to each other about these dances and what they meant here among the trees, water, rocks, and foliage, and across this 1000 acre stretch of woods spread an overwhelming sense of connection and community.
Of course, for some of the audience, a minority (fortunately), the warm and fuzzy feelings of community were overridden by feelings of anxiety - anxiety about getting lost in the woods, about not being able to find the next site, about missing something that other people were seeing, about bugs and spiders, and what happens if a dancer tries to interact with them, and where are the toilets anyway? All the things you don'thave to worry about when you watch dance in a traditional concert venue instead of on a hiking trail. There's that old saying, "you can't please everyone," and of course, you can't. And site-specific dance in the woods isn't everyone's cup of tea - it's challenging, unpredictable, and you need sturdy shoes. But deep down, we want it to be everyone's cup of tea. We want everyone to love dance and the woods as much as we do, and to love the extraordinary adventure that our choreographers have created for them. How do we invite an audience on this kind of journey?
Well, we experiment! This year's site, Wright's Pond in Medford, MA, is gorgeous, but significantly smaller than our previous site - the dances are spread out around the parameter of this pretty pond, and although the terrain changes from leafy path, to beach, to gravel path, to rock outcropping. it's no more than a ¼ mile walk to see all four of them. The location is half wild-and-rocky woods (The Fells) and half beloved (and nicely-groomed) community park, so many people are familiar with the landscape and its history of community use - swimming, fishing, hiking, building sandcastles, and just watching the sun go down. There are real bathrooms, a food truck, and a program with notes from the curators and the choreographers. There are volunteers from the local high school and signs to help people get from one dance to another. There are benches and picnic tables. The presence of these amenities make the site very different from our first festival. Are we getting soft? We don't think so. We used to be afraid of giving away too much, of helping the audience too much, of letting anything interfere with the raw encounter between dance and nature. But now we know, no matter how user-friendly we try to make Dance in the Fells, it's going to be a wild and unpredictable adventure. There will be moments of community and moments of anxiety. There will be great beauty, and probably a bug or two if it's warm enough. There will be someone who's afraid of getting lost in the woods and someone who will be disappointed if they don't get lost, even if just for a few minutes. And there will be beautiful Wright's Pond, turning golden in the afternoon light, geese honking overhead, leaves crackling underneath our feet, and the sounds of a viola and an accordion as we gather to watch these beautiful dances unfold. Please join us on this journey - we can't wait for you to see this!
Wanda Strukus is co-founder of Two Roads Performance Projects with Kyna Hamill and co-produces Dance in the Fells
Two Roads supports the creation of public art and site-specific and environmentally based performance.