THE MISSION OF THE YARD: The Yard supports diverse, contemporary dance-makers and related artists in their creative processes through paid creative residency, public performance, long term education, and artist driven civic engagement. We serve all ages and cultural populations on Martha’s Vineyard, and work collaboratively with artists, producers, and other cultural organizers within regional, national, and international contexts.
In doing so, The Yard promotes creation, education, and community building through artistic practice—with a special emphasis on contemporary dance and related collaborative forms—in the rural island environment of Martha’s Vineyard. The Yard acts, on behalf of its core commitments, as an active collaborator, co-commissioner, and touring partner with other leading institutions across a regional/national/international context to raise up a culture that reflects and benefits the demographic life and times of the island of Martha’s Vineyard and the country.
Founded in 1973 by the late choreographer and arts philanthropist Patricia Nanon, The Yard is the only non-profit dance organization of its kind on Martha’s Vineyard (MV), substantively connecting all six of the island's towns and diverse populace to the performing arts mainland. The Yard campus sits on 2.6 wooded acres in the farming/fishing town of Chilmark and incorporates 3 residential houses for artists and interns, a 100-seat barn theater and dance studio, and an open-air public gathering space with furnishings. The Yard is one of a very small handful of cultural organizations located in the rural “up-island” area of Martha’s Vineyard (comprising three towns: West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah), making it a vital hub for cultural and community activity.
In a typical year, The Yard presents the robust four month Yard Arts summer season (late May to mid-September) including over 40 performances and garnering 4,000+ total performance attendees. Multi-week creation residencies that culminate in ‘in-progress’ performances are overlaid by single-week presentation residencies of other artists mounting finished and touring work. Most recently, the 2019 Yard Arts season featured Ronald K. Brown, Joanna Kotze, Yanira Castro, Aysha Upchurch, and Amy Brenneman, among many other internationally acclaimed artists and emerging choreographers (the 2020 Yard Arts season did not take place because of the COVID-19 pandemic).
In October 2015, The Yard established the Winter Yard, an off-season performance and artist residency series geared towards the year-round population of Martha’s Vineyard and designed to tie into the school year. The sixth Winter Yard season in 2019/20 featured performances by Bessie winning performance artist Dan Froot, dynamo Canadian contemporary dance company Rubberbandance, and internationally renowned Malpaso Dance Company of Cuba.
Over the past decade, The Yard has made significant strides to enhance its year-round reach, through community and education programs supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Barr Foundation, as well as local donors. The Yard provides a multiplicity of creative arts opportunities through our family friendly programs, community dance and movement classes/workshops, pop-up performances, public dance parties, and our annual KidsDoDance! summer program, which is directed by Deborah Damast, Director of Dance Education at NYU. In addition to programming on our campus, we are an active partner and collaborator with various island institutions, including schools, senior centers, and libraries, among others..
Recently, The Yard has developed our “Making It” in-school curriculum, which formalizes the work the organization has been doing in the Vineyard schools for nine years. The curriculum, which was heavily influenced by the 92 Street Y’s Dance Education Laboratory (the DEL Model), uses dance as an outlet to connect curricular themes, spark creativity, build collaborations, and support critical thinking. Thus far, we have created a total of eight units, with subjects ranging from Jazz vernacular to rising sea levels on Martha’s Vineyard. Four of these units were adapted for virtual instruction in the face of the pandemic.