Bates Dance Festival and Maine Audubon Society present outdoor environmental performance project

An outdoor dance performance featuring professional dancers and local participants of all ages will be held at a Falmouth sanctuary on Aug. 13 and Aug. 16. The Bates Dance Festival and Maine Audubon Society are co-sponsoring two performances of a newly commissioned site specific work, A Curious Invasion, inspired by the landscape of Gilsland Farm and created by internationally renowned environmental/outdoor artists Sara Pearson/Patrik Widrig & Company.

The performances, developed for a cast of 20 festival dancers and local participants, with original score by composer Robert Een, will take place at 7 p.m. Aug. 13 and at 2 p.m. Aug. 16 at Maine Audubon Society’s Gilsland Farm Sanctuary in Falmouth.

Audience members are encouraged to bring a picnic supper to enjoy in the north meadow Aug. 13, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 and $4 (for children under 12) and can be purchased in advance at the Maine Audubon store located in the new Environmental Center building at 118 U.S. Route 1, Falmouth, or by calling Maine Audubon at 207-781-2330 or at the gate.

Following a highly successful project in 1995, international touring artists Sara Pearson/Patrik Widrig & Company return for a five-week Bates Dance Festival residency highlighted by this premiere. Pearson and Widrig’s most recent environmental work, Love Notes to Central Park, included a movement-sound treasure hunt along a stream and waterfall, dances in rowboats viewed from the lakeshore and dancers scaling cliffs in unison. For this new work, the artists are planning an hour-long walking tour through the woods, meadows and gardens of the Gilsland Farm sanctuary, opening with a group section involving 40 local extras in the north meadow. Vignettes evolve amid the woods and trees leading to a formal piece in the peony gardens, culminating in a joyous finale around the pond. The audience will accompany the artists on this dance tour, stopping periodically to enjoy the beautiful setting, the sound of accordion music by choreographer/dancer/musician David Dorfman and other stringed instruments, and dancers moving in relationship to the natural surroundings.

A pre-performance lecture focused on the site-specific work will be given by Washington Post dance critic Suzanne Carbonneau at 6:15 p.m Aug. 13 at the Gilsland Farm Sanctuary. Free and open to the public, the lecture is part of a Bates Dance Festival educational program, “Inside Dance,” funded in part by the Maine Humanities Council.

In addition to the performances, Dancing Out-of-Doors, a workshop for children aged 8-12 to explore the sanctuary environment with choreographers Pearson and Widrig, will take place at the Gilsland Farm Environmental Center from 10:30 a.m. until noon Aug. 2. Participation is $6 for Audubon members and $8 for non-members. A lecture demonstration for adults titled Creating An Environmental Performance is scheduled in the afternoon from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and tickets are $6 for members and $8 for non-members. In this workshop the artists will show excerpts from their work-in-progress and discuss how they draw inspiration from the site, develop the movement material and handle the unique and sometimes humorous challenges of creating work outdoors. Information and reservations for these workshops are available by calling the Maine Audubon Society at 207-781-2330.

The Bates Dance Festival is a founding member of the Environmental Performance Network (EPN), established in 1993 in collaboration with Dancing in the Streets, New York; Wagon Train Project, Nebraska; and the Arts Festival of Atlanta, Ga. This pioneering network is the first national structure which connects the resources of arts presenters and environmentalists to enable performing artists to create and perform site-specific works in natural settings. EPN activities offer diverse audiences a heightened awareness of place and a range of ecological concerns as experienced through the lens of the contemporary performing arts. These site-specific works have the power to inspire audiences to understand the primacy of an important rural or urban place, or to take action when these spaces are threatened.

In Pearson’s words: “Participants become more conscious of their habitual ways of seeing and being and experience space and place with fresh eyes. Without having to take a trip around the world, participants take a vacation into deeper levels of the self, experiencing community in a new way: not sport, not religion, not traditional socializing, it is a creative, playful, respectful way of coming together that discovers and celebrates that which they have lived side by side with all their lives.”

Pearson and Widrig have collaborated since 1986. Earlier site-specific work includes Common Ground, with music by Robert Een, performed at Jacob’s Pillow, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors and Wave Hill; Ley Lines performed at Central Park’s Bethesda Terrace; and Breath Chant at Coney Island. All of these projects were commissioned by Dancing in the Streets.

Together they have toured throughout the United States as well as Mexico, South Korea, New Zealand, India, Greece, England and Switzerland. They are on the faculties at New York University and Montclair State College, and their work is supported by  onal Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council for the Arts, the Jerome Foundation, Arts International and numerous other foundations and foreign agencies, including the United States- Mexico Fund for Culture, administered by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Pearson, named by The New York Times as “one of the most talented and delightfully unpretentious performers in the current dance world”, is the recipient of a 1989 American Choreographer Award and a New York Foundation for the Arts Choreographer’s Fellowship.

Her work has been commissioned by more than a dozen companies and universities and documented in video specials produced by the national networks of Tunisia, Italy and India.

Widrig is a native of Switzerland, where he taught elementary school before moving to New York in 1984 to dance professionally. He trained at the Nikolais/Louis Dance Lab and has studied the Alexander Technique with Ann Rodiger and Regina Wray.

In addition to its critically acclaimed mainstage performance series of 17 concerts, the festival offers two intensive training programs, one for adults and one for younger dancers. For more information, or to request a brochure, call the Bates Dance Festival at 207-786-6381.

The Environmental Performance Project is funded through generous grants from Tom’s of Maine and the LEF Foundation.

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