Art Notes: Weekend performances to benefit Junction Dance Festival

Jessica Trout-Haney and Michael Bodel will perform

Jessica Trout-Haney and Michael Bodel will perform "Uncertain Wind: A new work of movement, sound and grain" at the Junction Dance Festival's winter fundraiser on Feb. 10-11, 2024, at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction, Vt. (Courtesy photograph) Courtesy photo

Michael Bodel, Jessica Trout-Haney and Finn Campman will perform

Michael Bodel, Jessica Trout-Haney and Finn Campman will perform "Uncertain Wind: A new work of movement, sound and grain" at the Junction Dance Festival's winter fundraiser on Feb. 10-11, 2024, at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction, Vt. (Courtesy photograph) Courtesy photo

By ERIC SUTPHIN

For the Valley News

Published: 02-07-2024 9:01 PM

Modified: 02-10-2024 10:34 PM


The wheels are in motion for the third edition of the Junction Dance Festival (TJDF), planned for July. The festival was founded by choreographer Elizabeth Kurylo, affectionately known in the dance community as Babette.

“We are promoting artists from Vermont and New Hampshire so they can have an audience,” Kurylo said in an interview. “The mission is to create opportunities so that artists stay here.”

In anticipation of the summer event, Kurylo organized “Shake the Cabin Fever Fundraiser,” a benefit performance that features three new works that will light up the stage of the Briggs Opera House on Feb. 10 and 11. Some of the performers will be familiar faces to dance enthusiasts, but the three works are brand new.

Ellen Smith Ahern, known for the magical “Vulture Sister Song,” which has been performed throughout the Upper Valley, will debut “Shell.” She refers to the piece as a draft but notes that she enjoys bringing works in progress to an audience because the experience helps the piece to evolve.

“Ellen is a prolific dancer. … Whatever she does is very enchanting,” Kurylo said.

She has been working on the piece for the last six months, collecting ideas and images and translating them into movement.

“I knew I wanted to make a new project and the fundraiser felt like a great opportunity to present a draft.” Smith Ahern said. During the performance, she will sing a Lucinda Williams song and will use her grandmother’s quilt as a prop — a choice that connects the idea of a shell to notions of protection, safety and comfort.

Kurylo saw writer/dance performer Calvin Walker in a piece called “The Migrant Body” last summer and knew she wanted to collaborate with him. Inspired by Neil deGrasse Tyson’s writing and the cycles of nature, Kurylo asked Walker to create a poem to accompany the piece. At just over seven minutes-long, “Shhh!” will open with a recorded reading of Walker’s poem in the darkened theater. As the lights go up, viewers can expect Walker, clad in a billowing costume, to dance the energetic piece while contending with a giant parachute.

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“The beginning of the piece is so surreal — the parachute makes things disorienting. … It’s a quality we really enjoyed playing with,” Walker said.

A few months after she found Walker’s work, Kurylo attended a performance of “Uncertain Wind” at The Phantom Theater in Warren, Vt. “The depth and quality really surprised me,” Kurylo said.

She approached the creator and director of the piece, Michael Bodel, a well-known figure in the Upper Valley dance scene, about the fundraiser.

With choreography by Bodel, Jessica Trout-Haney and Reina Hitotoki, “Uncertain Wind” is an atmospheric piece that explores the significance of grain to culture. The sound design by Finn Campman will include audio of ships that serve as weather stations for the BBC, ocean sounds and falling grain all mixed together in real time. The maritime broadcasts are a metaphor for the vital transmission of knowledge in an age of misinformation and distrust.

“We’re looking at creating an environment that is a little otherworldly,” Bodel said.

The themes of transformation and unveiling are an appropriate prelude to the spring. While the summer’s TJDF allows the show to spill into the streets, the current deep freeze keeps us indoors. Fortunately, theatergoers have the opportunity to see three brand new, fresh pieces performed by a group of fabulous dance artists, all while supporting the endeavors of this year’s Junction Dance Festival. At just about an hour with an intermission, the performance is appropriate for all ages, and children under 12 get in free.

“Even if very young children don’t understand what they’re watching, the kinetic action and costumes will be fascinating.” Kurylo said.

Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction. Tickets are $25 in advance, and $30 at the door and can be purchased at sevendaystickets.com. More information can be found at thejunctiondancefestival.org.

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

Theater, new and old

Parish Players opens its annual Ten-Minute Play Festival on Thursday night in the Eclipse Grange Theatre on Thetford Hill.

The Tens, as they’ve become known, are perhaps the best night of community theater the Upper Valley has to offer. The plays come in from far and wide and are generally as bright as new-minted pennies.

The acting, directing and production, though, draw on the Players’ decades of experience.

For tickets ($25, $20 for seniors, $15 for students, and all seats opening night are $15) go to parishplayers.org. The production runs through Feb. 18.

BarnArts opens a production of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Oscar Wilde’s celebrated comedy of manners and mistaken identity, on Friday in Barnard Town Hall. For tickets ($20, $15 for students) go to barnarts.org. Through Feb. 18.

— Alex Hanson

An unpublished book

Looking for news on social media is kind of a fool’s errand, but every once in a while something will pop up.

So it was with an art show, planned for 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at the studio of Gary Hamel. For years, Hamel and his work, which mixes his personal interests with local history, were in the pages of the Valley News almost constantly, it seemed. That’s attributable, I think, to the magnetic charm of his work. Hamel draws together disparate elements, from meticulously detailed paintings of livestock to passages of text and dreamlike backgrounds, to make works with a collage-like effect. They transport a viewer to an older, darker New England.

Saturday’s show is titled “Pages of an Unpublished Book” and features art Hamel made for a book of local history that never went to press.

The show location is 1192 Route 4 in Canaan, a spot that also houses Kalahari Crystals; shop owner Kristin Eastman is helping Hamel get the word out.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.