A Winter Dance Gala: Showcasing Vermont’s emerging professional dance world

Photo by Shannon Alexander


V ermont’s professional dance community, which comprises myriad styles and genres, is often hidden in dance classrooms throughout the state. But seven of its most respected choreographers and dancers will emerge when Vermont Dance Alliance presents its Winter Dance Gala at 2 p.m. Sunday at Green Mountain College’s Ackley Auditorium in Poultney.

“The point is to provide a place for people to come together and celebrate movement in a season that’s often isolating and feeling more stagnant, so having the gala in the winter, I thought, was a chance to bring people together in the doldrums of cold weather,” explained Hanna Satterlee, founder and director of the state’s professional dance organization.

“It’s a chance to highlight the skill of our members and produce something on a professional level in a rotating venue, with different participating artists each year.”

Taftsville choreographer Peggy Brightman will be represented by “Triptych,” set to music by Anonymous 4. “Three dancers with linked hands begin seated side-by-side on a bench,” Brightman wrote. “They gradually change with purposeful connections throughout the dance. The movement is slow and unfolding, mirroring the repetitious plainchant quality of the music.”

“Super Viverie,” by Ciara Perez of South Royalton, involving five dancers, has trauma survival as its theme. “Bringing together dance, painted art and spoken word, this piece is a dedication to art forms that bring healing, peace and confidence to those who overcome trauma,” she wrote. “It also serves as an inspiration and a reminder to those currently suffering or passing through trauma that strength and love are available to carry them through to acceptance, peace and self-love.”

Erika Lawlor Schmidt of Pawlet is joined by three Green Mountain College dance students in her “green apples / like a cloud,” with an original score for Tibetan singing bowls. She wrote that the work “is constructed from pure movement and explores our physical relationship to sound, color and object. … All parts vary according to the individual, his or her foundation of movement, and how that shifts (subtle or severe) within a particular environment (color and sound) and in relationship to other physical elements.”

Tyler Rai, who alternates between Vermont and New York, created “Glacial Erratics” for two dancers. “This piece derives from the desire to heal and regenerate landscape, through the acknowledgement of paradox, darkness, resilience and reverence,” she wrote. “We work our muscles of continuance, persisting through the shifting truths of land, power and sacredness. We go on, in dance and in stewardship to that which is present and that which has yet to be born.”

“This Isn’t Yours Anymore,” by Jessie Owens of Jeffersonville, features four dancers and music by Jeremy Frederick. “This piece considers the complexities of relationships between women, specifically proximity vs. isolation, support vs. censure, competition vs. collaboration,” she wrote.

Emma Manion of Montpelier created her solo “I’ve been good. BUSY. But good!!” to music by Nina Simone and Bibio. “This work is subject to get more specific on the topic of where artistic expression begins and how a life in this world can re-shape where it goes,” she said. “At its base, the dance aims to show an artist’s creative process based on both expectations and playfulness, with a caution of over-exhaustion, overthinking it.”

Barre’s Isadora Snapp is represented by “Multitudes,” a solo for dancer Mary Jo Cahilly-Bretzin, with music of Fionna Apple. Snapp wrote that it “explores the different facets of our personalities. How can one person embody two vastly different personas? How does our outward appearance reflect our inner selves?”

This is VDA’s second Winter Dance Gala, now an annual event. Green Mountain College is providing not only the venue but the housing. Poultney’s Stone Valley Arts is the sponsor.

As part of the gala, Satterlee, a respected dancer-choreographer herself, will teach a master class, “Composition, Improvisation, Movement and Play,” for 20 participants of all levels, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 17.

Satterlee formed the dance cooperative in May 2017, gaining tax-exempt status in October. The next big event is the Spring Dance Symposium, April 15 at Burlington’s Flynn Center, on the business of dance, expected to become a yearly spring event. Also planned are a summer day of dance and a fall members’ conference and retreat.

“We’re trying really hard to focus on these four seasonal events, trying to make them polished and good, so they can repeat every year,” she said. “There are so many opportunities to put our hands in the soil and fertilize it for more opportunities, but we’ve been going really hard on pop-up events. I think with time that things will settle and we’ll be known for these seasonal events, and then the artists can take the reins on those pop-up events. It’s been busy.”

Vermont Dance Alliance

Vermont Dance Alliance presents its annual Winter Dance Gala, featuring the work of seven Vermont women choreographers, at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 18, at Green Mountain College’s Ackley Auditorium in Poultney. Tickets are $15-$25 sliding scale, $5 for students with college ID; go online to vermontdance.org. As part of the gala, dancer-choreographer Hanna Satterlee will teach a master class, “Composition, Improvisation, Movement and Play,” for 20 participants of all levels, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 17; for information or to register, email info@vermontdance.org.