OUT AND ABOUT: The Island troupe in mid-frolic.
The unusual title — Open for Dancing — for Island Moving Co.’s five-day fall dance festival comes from several sources. The company has always held a summer dance series “in the open,” be it the lawn at St. George’s School or a stage at Fort Adams. Their commitment to performing outside has been risky, considering the fog and mist that sometimes shroud Newport in the summer, but directors Dominique Alfandre and Miki Ohlsen have persevered.
Beginning in 2002, and every two years since, they have commissioned three choreographers to create site-specific pieces and opened the dances up to the participation of community members. The back lawn at Rough Point, the ravine at Ballard Park, the gardens at the Elms, the sod maze at Chateau-sur-Mer, and the ramparts and tunnels of Fort Adams have provided amazing settings for dances. A trolley shuttles audience members between the sites. (See www.islandmovingco.org.)
This year, choreographers include longtime company member Michael Bolger, Andrea Haenggi from New York, Joanna Haigood from California, and Rhode Island’s own Brian Jones, the latter boosting the mix with tap dance.
“This will really be a fun one,” Jones told me. “I’d love people to come away clapping and feeling that rhythm. I want people in the crowd to feel like they could just jump in and join us.”
Even what looks simple in tap dance can have a sophisticated syncopation that involves intense rehearsal, three days of it for all of the dancers and community participants in Open for Dancing. Jones’s dance is titled “Switch,” set to the Will Smith tune of the same name (Saturday 1 to 3 pm and Sunday 4 to 6:30 pm at the Newport Harbor Center).
“It’s a hypnotic, tribal drum kind of piece,” Jones emphasized. “Not a story being told. And we will stage an entrance or parade to get the beat going.”
At the Tennis Hall of Fame, Andrea Haenggi will create a post-pop-art happening, with a half-dozen tennis players, eight IMC company dancers, one dancer from Haenggi’s company AMDaT (Andrea Maria Dance art Technology), and seven young girls from the community (Saturday and Sunday 3, 4, and 5 pm).
“I never played tennis in my life,” Haenggi explained in a recent phone conversation. “But I took my inspirations from the place itself and from Newport’s huge history, including that time of Jackie Onassis. I started to think in pop-art terms.”
Haenggi is collaborating with vocalist/ composer Alexandra Marculewicz, who has pre-recorded some parts of the score and will deliver some of it live. Costumes will be made out of yellow felt, and there will be tons of yellow tennis balls flying around, as dancers skirt the players and young ball girls weave in and out.
Haenggi, who has done site-specific work in Russia, Prague, and at the World Financial Center in New York City, hopes that the audiences at the Horseshoe Piazza at the International Tennis Hall of Fame will “feel something that they’ve never known before, something that goes beyond the visual experience of the dance.”