Dancers in the garden. NIR ARIELA PHOTO
Dancers from the Amanda Selwyn Dance Theatre. NIR ARIELA PHOTO
A section of the larger work "Threads" will be presented. NIR ARIELA PHOTO
The evening of dance will take place at the home of architects Marcia Previti and Peter Gumpel. NIR ARIELA PHOTO
The pandemic forced many of us to consider our relationships to each other. Whether it was making sure strangers stayed 6 feet away, happy hours moving to Zoom, or simply having more time to consider the ties that bind, isolation bred questioning of connection. And for Amanda Selwyn, choreographer and artistic director of Amanda Selwyn Dance Theatre, it inspired the work “Threads.” This Friday, Green Afternoon IX, an excerpt from the work, will be presented in East Hampton.
“‘Threads’ really explores our relationships to one another,” Selwyn explained in a recent phone call. “And the fragility of relationships, the idea that the threads are metaphors for how we connect to one another. They can be torn, they can be mended, they can be pulled and pushed against one another.”
The work has evolved and expanded as the conditions of the pandemic have changed. After Zoom rehearsals and a virtual performance, company dancers were eventually able to return to the studio and do an in-person performance, with the work premiering in April of this year.
The East End performance will be held August 6 at the home of architects Marcia Previti and Peter Gumpel, at 230 Old Stone Highway in East Hampton. This will be the ninth time the dance company has performed outdoors in the couple’s gardens.
While the titular threads of connection are figurative, Selwyn’s choreography has played with making them literal.
“I collaborated with a scenic designer, Anna-Alisa Belous, and we actually hung fabric throughout the space that the dancers manipulated over the course of the evening,” Selwyn explained. “There were a handful of sections where the dancers were wrapped up in fabric or unwrapping themselves, or actually a few sections where the dancers are physically tied together. Last summer, we presented a few sections before we got into all that work with the physical fabric. So one of the things I’m really looking forward to doing this summer is bringing out some of the fabric and playing with some of the sections where we have the fabric.”
By now, outdoor performances are much more normal, due to the pandemic. Green Afternoon has been taking place en plein air for years. Performing outdoors brings challenges — weather, muddy costumes, etc. — but it also provides opportunities for the work to breathe differently.
“We do it on the grass, so it allows for a lot of the floor work to be really sensuous and juicy,” Selwyn said. “We’re also thinking of rather than rigging the fabric to the scaffold in the theater, we’re gonna actually hang some of it from trees. So it’s gonna be very interactive with nature.”
And instead of sitting back in a dark theater, viewers — who will be served wine and hors d’oeuvres — can get a closer look at the performance.
“The dancers are right up next to the audience, so you can see them sweating, you can see them breathing. It’s a very vulnerable, open way to share,” Selwyn said.
In addition to the main performance from “Threads,” when guests arrive on the grounds dancers will be placed around the gardens, dancing throughout the property in outdoor “rooms.” Selwyn was inspired to create an interactive element in part by “Sleep No More,” a New York City production which lets the audience choose how to follow the action of “Macbeth.”
“We invite [the audience] to explore the ground and we have dancers peppered throughout the grounds, interacting with what Marcia [Previti] calls outdoor sitting rooms,” Selwyn described.
“The way she’s designed the grounds, there’s all sorts of little cute spaces that have different seating areas, or sometimes there’s a sculptural component that she’s created. Sometimes it’s just the way that the trees and the gardens and the flowers are arranged, but there’s all sorts of different ways to explore the property.
“We have put the dancers kind of like hide and go seek all over the grounds. They’re doing a series of structured improvisations,” she added. “It’s like a movement meditation in these different parts of the property.”
For example, by a tall, blue square-shaped sculpture, dancers used angular, repetitive movements to move around it. The movement installations end with a frenzy of energy, transitioning into the main performance and leading the audience to a great lawn space, where a section of “Threads” will be performed. Afterward, viewers can mingle with dancers and individuals from the dance company.
“We’re excited to get people to come and check it out,” Selwyn said. “Even though it’s audience-interactive, there’s no pressure, the audience really can get as engaged as they feel comfortable. If they want a more passive experience, they can have that. If they want a more active experience, they can get right up close to the dancers. What we really try to do is create an event that everyone can find their own way of experiencing and enjoy the beautiful outdoors in August.”
Amanda Selwyn Dance Theatre’s Green Afternoon IX, an excerpt from “Threads,” takes place on Saturday, August 6, at 5 p.m. To purchase tickets, visit amandaselwyndance.networkforgood.com/events/43208-green-afternoon-ix. For more on the Amanda Selwyn Dance Theatre, check out amandaselwyndance.org.
One fine body…