Summer arts preview: Dance performances and workshops proliferate at venues both established and totally novel

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    Dancers rehearse "The Quarry Project" at Wells Lamson quarry in Websterville, Vt., in August 2021. Created by Hannah Dennison, of Chelsea, Vt., performances are slated to premiere on August 5, 2022. (Julia Barstow photograph) Julia Barstow photograph

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    Dancers rehearse "The Quarry Project" at Wells Lamson quarry in Websterville, Vt. Created by Hannah Dennison, of Chelsea, Vt., performances are slated to premiere on August 5, 2022. (Julia Barstow photograph)

  • Dance Theatre of Harlem Company returns to the Hopkins Center for the Arts for the third year of its residency in 2022. (Brian Callan photograph) Brian Callan photograph

For the Valley News
Published: 6/16/2022 1:32:49 PM
Modified: 6/16/2022 1:30:34 PM

There’s nothing quite like experiencing the raw, kinetic energy of a well-crafted dance right there, in the flesh. The gentle (or thunderous) sounds of feet hitting their steps; beads of sweat flying through the air like tiny gems flung from dancers as they carve through space. It can be exhilarating, joyful, terrifying — or some combination of these things — to witness a dance coming to life.

This summer, a wave of ambitious dance and performance work will cross stages in and near the Upper Valley, ranging from familiar venues, such as Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center for the arts, to unconventional ones, including one of the world’s oldest and deepest stone quarries.

ChoreoLab is a new initiative sponsored by the Junction Dance Festival during which a selection of dance artists received space to incubate and create new work. This year’s artists are Zoey November and Claire Cook, Julie Larsen and Erin McNulty. Their work is slated to premiere on July 15 and 16 at The Barn, a recently renovated performance space in Corinth.

McNulty is premiering The Morrigan, which takes its inspiration from the titular Irish goddess-figure. The work is set to Irish folk music and “includes themes of shapeshifting, body-as-landscape, perceptions of female power and vulnerability, and the nuances of intention versus interpretation … which all emerged to inform the movement choices,” McNulty said in an interview

From July 22 through 24, the streets of White River Junction will pulsate with music, performance and dance during The Junction Dance Festival.

“We are extremely happy to be offering workshops led by professional dancers which are free and open to the public,” Elizabeth Kurylo, director and president of the festival, said in an interview. In addition to these workshops, the festival will feature more than 40 local amateur and professional dance artists from Vermont, New Hampshire and beyond.

“There will be performances at the Briggs Opera House, Northern Stage, Open Door, the White River Ballet Academy and in the streets,” Kurylo said. Among those performing at the Briggs Opera House are the ChoreoLab artists. Most events are free and open to the public but some may require pre-registration due to space limitations.

Visit for more details

Dance Theatre of Harlem

The Dance Theatre of Harlem returns to the Hopkins Center for the Arts for the third year of its residency there. During the company’s tenure at the Hop, DTH has been developing The Hazel Scott Project, a new ballet which will preview on Aug. 4 and 5. The ballet takes pianist Hazel Scott’s life and legacy as its inspiration and will foreground the expressivity of her music, her commitment to racial justice and the singular presence for which she was best known.

As a part of the DTH residency, a variety of programming will take place in and around the Hop including masterclasses (which are open to the public) led by company members Sanford Placide, Derek Brockington and Daphne Lee. Additionally, DTH company members will perform around campus.

Of these events, Michael Bodel, director of external affairs at the Hop noted, “Long-term residencies give the public an opportunity to have more chance-encounters (with the company); residencies make space for surprises to occur.”

The impromptu performances are experimental in nature and will appear throughout the summer. “The company is giving its members agency to work on their own site-specific choreography which will ‘pop up’ around the Green and in underused spaces across campus,” Bodel said.

A full calendar of events and additional programming can be found at

‘The Quarry Project’

The sheer, striated walls of the Wells Lamson quarry in Websterville, Vt., are the backdrop to The Quarry Project, a dance and theater performance created by Chelsea resident Hannah Dennison. Years in the making, the work was put on a two-year hiatus during the pandemic, but is now slated to premiere Aug 5.

With the granite facade of the quarry functioning like a monolithic theater curtain, the ensemble will perform the piece on a custom-built floating stage, illuminated by natural light and to a score by Vermont composer Andric Severance.

A strong sense of place has always been central to Dennison’s work. “Before any clear image of the choreography emerges it is the setting — the light and the sound of the space, the history and the presence — that is my primary creative partner,” she said.

Dennison worked with her crew during the pandemic, via Zoom and with one-on-one site visits, and her longtime collaborator, filmmaker Lukas Huffman, created two films that document the ensemble’s engagement with the project during its hiatus. While We Wait (2020), and At the Edges of Us (2021) will screen at two free, outdoor showings in Burlington and Montpelier in late June and early July.

In anticipation of the premiere, a selection of photographs documenting the project’s development by Julia Barstow is on view at Chelsea Public Library through June 30.

Dress rehearsals July 25-27, Performances August 5-21. More info at

There are as many ways to experience dance as there are shades of green on a summer day. From the improvised to the carefully constructed, the sheer plurality of styles and voices that are performing this summer will offer anyone, regardless of their familiarity with dance, something absolutely memorable to witness.

Eric Sutphin is a freelance writer. He lives in Plainfield.

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