Dancing around the farm, the moon

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In case I haven't already told you -- and anybody who knows me knows I tend to repeat good stories with only slight alterations, so I may have already told you -- I have an affinity for modern dance. Even in open fields on hill-tops in Shaftsbury.

My love of modern dance came to me in mid-life, really; say the last 15 years. And while it may not be the most manly thing in the world, modern dance, like my "off-red" shirts, is not something I'm the least bit ashamed of.

It really started just before my wife and I left Portland, Ore., to move east, and my birthday gift was tickets to see a modern dance ballet set to the music of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon." I was a little leery but figured even dumb puppets moving to the music of Pink Floyd was worth the effort; I was instantly hooked.

It was formalized when I made a brief stop as arts & entertainment editor at a newspaper in Easton, Pa., and found a thriving dance community in the area.

So you can guess the delight I found when we moved up here 10 years ago and found thriving dance programs at Bennington and Williams colleges, an active community of modern dance in Brattleboro, and -- of course -- Jacob's Pillow in the Berkshires.

And, even though the two colleges' dance floors are quiet, summer is a great time for modern dance in the area.

Last weekend I attended one of the three dance performances put on by Brattleboro's Vermont Performance Lab as part of its Progressive Performance Festival. I saw the Adele Myers & Dancers performing "Theater in the Head" at the New England Youth Theater -- a piece that you have to see to believe, but one that will make you appreciate the athleticism of some dancers and dances, and makes you never able to look at a pink shag rug in quite the same way again.

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And Jacob's Pillow is ready to start its full season of summer dance programs, starting off with the almost unbelivable convergernce of talent at its annual kick-off Gala on June 18. Get this: There will be the opening of a dance photography exhibit by Annie Leibovitz, music by pianist and composer Philip Glass, and, oh ya, dance performances by the Ballet du Grand Théatre de Genéve, the Mark Morris Dance Group and dancers from Keigwin + Company. The price is not cheap ... then again, read over that line-up one more time. (See jacobspillow.org for details.)

But, you know, maybe the the most original dance event I will see this summer was last Sunday, on a beautiful early summer day, at Karen and Steven Trubitt's True Love Farm, on Cross Hill Road, in Shaftsbury.

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There Anna Moriarty Lev and a group of dancers performed "dance improvisation" -- an unscripted dance without soundtrack -- on a stage of freshly mowed grass with staging and scenery only the man upstairs could paint.

The group included Anna's sister, Phoebe, as well as Kitty Farnham, Jonathan Burkhardt, Megan Bathory, and John Hearst. Each has either a history or an interest in dance.

Anna grew up in Bennington, lived in New York City for several years, and recently relocated back to Bennington, and has always had a desire and ability for dance.

"I have always loved to dance, any kind of dancing," she said in a e-mail interview after the show.

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She attended Eugene Lang College at The New School in New York City, majoring was writing, "but I voraciously took a lot of dance classes." She studied dance improvisation, choreography, jazz, West African dance, ballet, modern and gaga ("a type of guided improv") at the Peridance studio in Manhattan.

For the dance at True Love, she said she would "not call myself the choreographer, more like a director, or leader."

In the weeks leading up to the performance, she practiced improvising, "which sounds like an oxy-moron, but the practice of improvisation is just as important as performing it." ... "On Sunday, at the farm, (before the audience showed up) as the other dancers and I started working and playing together, we found the structure and story of the piece, and each time we ran though it was totally different.

"Improvisation (dance) is very close to my heart," she said.

You know, I kind of like it too. (And, yes, without a soundtrack, I was hearing "Dark Side of the Moon" as they danced.)

Contact K.D. Norris at knorris@benningtonbanner.com.


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