Mass. event brings dance out of the theater

Earlier this summer, the Somerville Arts Council (SAC) produced “Dancing in the Streets,” a series of free outdoor dance performances created in 2013 in support of the local dance community. 

Courtesy of Erin X. Smithers
Dancers from Ali Kenner Brodsky & Co. perform at the 2016 première of ‘PARt’ at the Jamestown (R.I.) Arts Center.

As dancers stretched next to a portable floor in the Foss Park car lot, an audience of nearly 100 gathered to watch the outdoor production, partly illuminated by the lights from Moreno Barber Shop across the street, on a summer night in Somerville, Mass.

Earlier this summer, the Somerville Arts Council (SAC) produced “Dancing in the Streets,” a series of free outdoor dance performances created in 2013 in support of the local dance community. 

The two-part event brought together a diverse group of people with a common appreciation of the performing arts.

The production showcased six regional companies that, thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, had the chance during the fall of 2016 to work with New York-based choreographer John Jasperse, developing and workshopping new pieces. This festival celebrated and promoted the creative expressions of a diverse city.

“Using the arts to highlight the assets of a community, it does a lot in relationship to community-building,” said Gregory Jenkins, executive director of the SAC.

Fukudance, Betsy Miller and Matthew Cumbie, Ali Kenner Brodsky & Co., and Weber Dance were among the companies who participated in the event. 

Dancers performed their pieces in the unconventional venue of Foss Park with the help of several spotlights and a van stuffed with equipment for music.

New restaurants, music festivals, art showings, and events such as “Dancing in the Streets” have helped transform the city, once known as “Slummerville,” into one that cherishes cultural identity. 

“If anything now, the problem is the reverse,” Mr. Jenkins said of the area. “Everybody and their mother wants to live in Somerville.”

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