ROCKPORT — The pandemic won't stop the much-awaited ninth annual summer production of Quarry Dance.

Instead of the public navigating the topography of Cape Ann to get to the chosen venue, this year the dance will be viewed virtually.

Lisa Hahn, the executive director of Rockport's Windhover Performing Arts Center, said this year has been challenging due to the pandemic, which has waylaid performing artists around the globe.

She took this opportunity to create something special by reaching out to quarry owners who otherwise would not have been part of such a production because of public safety reasons and the inaccessibility of their land. The result is the use of three private quarries, the igneous stages for the production, which celebrates the pristine geologic history of Cape Ann.

The film will be live streamed in early September, complete with original music by jazz musician and multi-instrumentalist Russ Gershon. Each section of the dance was filmed at each of three private quarries by Boston-based videographer Anders Johnson, and then edited into one dance.

The performers are members of the Dušan Týnek Dance Theatre, an innovative troupe based in New York City, which helped to create the seminal performance. 

"When March rolled in (this year) and everything shut down, our initial response was that we have to cancel everything and we have to postpone the quarry dance to following year. But I did a project for a composer online and I rehearsed with dancers by Zoom and we were able to put it together without physically being in the same location, and it got me thinking perhaps there is some way to do Quarry Dance Nine in this age of the pandemic," said Týnek, the choreographer. "These limitations push you to explore different realms."

Opportunities, challenges

Additionally, the dance production as a film brings with it opportunities for both the dancers and the audience.

Due to the need for social distancing, the dancers traveled two at a time to Cape Ann where they worked with Týnek  to create the site-specific dances, and each vignette will become part of the greater dance tale. 

"Duets and solos on these quarry walls and waters are the building blocks of Quarry Dance Nine," Hahn said.

The dancers worked on choreography one day, and filmed the following day.

"We did this three times," said Týnek. "It's a completely different approach to choreography and how to view dance because I had to divorce myself from the aspect of a live audience and concentrate on the dancers and the environment through the view of the lens. We also were able to go to locations where normally we could never do a live quarry dance." 

The film aspect may bring the dance to an audience that may not have been able to walk to the dance venue or walk with the large crowd during the performance. Moving along with the dancers has become part of the performance over the years.

"This time it will be viewed at their home and it will be a different experience. You will get to see the details that the camera can concentrate on, like a foot or a hand or a facial expression, something the audience may not notice otherwise," Týnek said. "We are directing the audience's view where we want them to look which is different for the audience this time around. This dance is specially made for the camera and people will really get to experience the dance in a intimate way."

Usually the dancers don bright-colored clothing so they can be located amidst the vast rocky terrain.

"But this year, we did the opposite. I didn't want anything too colorful. I wanted them to blend in the environment and be almost camouflaged,"  Týnek said.

Furthermore, Hahn noted the viewer will be able to have a bird’s-eye view of the rockbound landscape and over the cliffs that the camera can provide. 

"At this time, the arts are in a time of crisis, and we hope this quarry dance production helps to provide some hope, elevates our spirits and transcend the difficulties facing us all now," she said.

Hahn noted that Windhover's mission includes providing a safe refuge for artists of all kinds to be able to create new and original work.

"Quarry Dance Nine is the first of these endeavors, and more will come," she added.

Those wishing to donate to Windhover Performing Arts Center to support these efforts, may do so at www.windhover.org by using the "donate" button, or a donation can be sent to Windhover, P.O Box 2249. Rockport, MA 01966. Windhover is a non-profit, and all donations are fully tax deductible.

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com

WATCH THE DANCE

What: Windhover Performing Arts Center presents Quarry Dance Nine — virtually.

When: Live stream is scheduled for early September.

Where: Visit www.windhover.org for details.

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