Dance of the Genders
Dancers process with baskets of food. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Flock Dancers, portraying people in power, show off their power during "Boast," a dance during the rehearsal of Regender at the Flock Barn in Sharon, Vt., on July 8, 2013.
Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »
Flock dancers Heiko Pohl, left, and Kelly Armbrust rehearse Monday in Sharon. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Flock volunteer Stacey Glazer takes notes during a rehearsal of Regender in the Flock Barn in Sharon. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
The stage is a clearing, hidden behind a thin tree line far into the heart of Sharon, and on rehearsal days you can hear music from the dirt road leading to it. On Wednesday of last week, that music was a Native American song played on a flute, notes rising above the trees and floating serenely in the air.
But there was movement in the clearing, past the barn and across a pathway surrounded by tall grass. Eight men and women, of differing ages and dance experience, emerged from the forest in a straight line, carrying wicker baskets filled with pine cones. They set them down on small tree stumps. Lively percussive music took over.
Carol Langstaff, from behind a white folding table nearby, watched them. Next to her, Stacey Glazer of Thetford took notes. “He’s a schoolteacher, he’s a doctor, I’m not sure what he is, he’s a farmer, he’s a computer programmer,” Glazer said later, pointing out various dancers. “Making something together is really an amazing experience.”
They are “making something” for the Flock Dance Troupe’s Regender, the fifth in a cycle of nine performances created by Langstaff and put on each summer at the clearing — Star Mountain Amphitheater — or the nearby barn, if weather doesn’t permit. The first show takes place Friday evening.
It will be the first performance since 2003 of Regender , which examines the push and pull of masculine and feminine energy . Langstaff said the show deals with today’s focus on competition rather than solution, presented within the framework of the four classical elements: earth, air, fire and water.
To accomplish that, she’s amassed a cast of dancers, professional and not, with ages spanning from children to the elderly. A dance in which three middle-aged adults push each other out of the way to grab the spotlight comes not long after a moment in which a bunch of children, carrying cut-outs of animals, rush into the clearing.
In Langstaff’s view, allowing younger dancers into the show works for several reasons. One, she said, is because it gives them an opportunity to create something with their parents, who are also performing. Another is because the children, who bring a carefree enthusiasm with them, nudge their parents to commit further.
“They absolutely climb into the bubble of illusion, wholeheartedly,” Langstaff said of the younger cast members.
When removed from the moment, though, they retreat backstage, which is a pine-needle path among the trees flanking the clearing. Safely hidden from audience view, there are lounging chairs, Co-op bags and costumes on hangers affixed to cut branches that have been tied between two tree trunks with twine.
As the younger children danced in the clearing, Lucia Gagliardone sat on their blanket, surrounded by markers and coloring books. Her first Flock experience was in 2003, the last time Langstaff put on Regender. This time around, the 15-year-old said, she could identify better with the characters, as well as the overarching themes of the piece.
“It’s a way for me to see the world, and things that Carol takes from everyday life, and it allows me to see them through the medium I’m comfortable with,” she said.
Around the backstage bend, a five-year veteran of Flock broke sticks over his knee.
“I love to dance,” Kristov Bardales, 9, said twice in about 30 seconds.
But what does he like about it? About Flock?
“I like — oh my god, I don’t really know,” he said. “Everything.”
That view was pretty much the consensus among the dancers moving around the area, who occasionally watched the rehearsal from the clearing’s entry points at the edge of the forest. They would watch, often partially hidden by the trees, maybe crouching. They’d watch as the music turned on a dime, from traditional Korean music to a song from the Amelie soundtrack to Nine Inch Nails’ Eraser, and they’d watch the growing pains — too-early music cues, dropped props — of a piece early in the rehearsal process.
That rehearsal last Wednesday was the first time the cast had pushed themselves straight through a performance of Regender, warts and all. As they approached the end, Martin O’Connor’s relentlessly upbeat Celebration Reel began to play, cued by Jim Rooney, Langstaff’s husband, who was ensconced within the forest, sitting under a metal lean-to.
The cast, in parts, began to file into the field, dancing happily. Susan Birsky of Quechee lingered, waiting for her turn. This is her first year performing in a Flock show, and her first time dancing in a show in years. For this, she takes the part of an air spirit.
“There’s so much joy, if you look at it right now,” she said. “All these age groups together.”
The music continued, and much of the cast danced freely in the clearing. Birsky turned around as those still backstage filtered out, and she followed them, strands of white cloth flowing as she moved.
The first three performances of Regender will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Star Mountain Amphitheater. Tickets are $12, $10 for students and seniors, and free for children under 10. Seating is on sloped grass. For directions and more performance dates, go to www.flockdance.org.
Jon Wolper can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3248.