by Gwen Roolf-
CALAIS — An innovative combination of dance and theater is coming to the historic Kent Museum in Calais, June 18-21. “Threads and Thresholds” is a collaborative work between veteran choreographer Hannah Dennison, visual artist Leslie Anderson and composer David Severance.
Most recently lauded for her 2012 dance-theater piece “Dear Pina,” performed by 30 dancers in the enormous, dirt-floored breeding barn at Shelburne Farms, Dennison has designed her new work for a very different — but still classically Vermont — sort of building.
The Kent Museum was built in 1837 as a tavern and inn to serve stagecoach passengers traveling between Montpelier and Montréal. Restored in 2001, the red brick building sprawls across a lawn at Kents’ Corner. The floors creak and light spills in from many windows. The rooms have exposed lath, chipped plaster, peeling wallpaper, even antique pencilled inscriptions.
“Threads and Thresholds” takes this sensory-rich environment as its starting point. Each room of the museum will be embellished to create a particular environment. Textiles, threads, and lighting will produce large-scale effects in tandem with natural materials (flower petals, feathers, tree branches), which will variously create boundaries, currents, or motion.
The audience will enter the installation in groups of 20 and will be guided through the rooms. Dancers and musicians will inhabit many of the rooms with the audience, while other rooms will be enjoyed in stillness. The show culminates in the museum’s ballroom.
“When I began to make my work, my interest lay in dance-theater pieces with a large ensemble,” Dennison says. Unable to access stages that could accommodate her creations, she turned to non-traditional spaces. “I rediscovered what I had been doing for most of my childhood — responding to the setting, whether it was in a tree, in tall grass, or in a potato cellar,” she says. “I also realized how comfortable I was, with none of the nervousness I had felt on the stage.”
She presented “The Rose Street Bakery Project,” (1995), a weekend performance that addressed the need for food and shelter, in an abandoned bakery that would soon become Vermont’s first artist cooperative. Her “Waterfront Project,” (1997), occupied Burlington’s post-industrial waterfront, offering alternative perspectives for the re-integration of abandoned buildings and surrounding land. “The Neighborhood Project,” (1999), focused on how people experienced the idea of home at a time when homelessness was on the rise and a shopping mall had replaced much of the downtown residential area. Dennison considers each site a “magnetic and potent partner.”
To realize her large-scale visions, Dennison has become an enthusiastic collaborator. For “Threads and Thresholds” she, Anderson, and Severance are joined by dance-theater artists Paul Besaw, Lida Winfield, Sara McMahon, Tracy Martin, Avi Waring, Bridget Wheeler, Coulter Cluett, Willow Wonder, Dan Senning, Mia Pinheiro, Carolyn McCarthy, Mollie Morgan, Ashley Heaney, and this writer, in addition to five musicians: Andy Christiansen (piano), Elizabeth Reid (viola), Sofia Hirsch (violin), Aislynn Taber (flute), and Noah Marconi (cello).
“Threads and Thresholds” runs June 18-21; performances are at 2, 2:45, 3:30, 5, 5:45, and 6:30 p.m. “Threads and Thresholds” lasts about 90 minutes. Adults $20, persons under 18 $10. June 16 and 17 preview tickets $10. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.
Go to www.hannahdennison.org/threads-and-thresholds for information and reservations, or call 800-823-8830. Drop-ins are welcome as long as there is space.
The Kent Museum is located at the intersection of Old West Church Road and Kent Hill Road. “Threads and Thresholds” is produced by Cradle to Grave Arts in partnership with the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation.