Earthdance Summer 2006 Update

Earthdance began in 1986, when a group of dancers and artists in Boston joined together to cultivate a place for creative expression. Purchasing 175 acres of land in the glorious Berkshire hills of WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS, they planted the seeds of community. Today, Earthdance is an internationally recognized presenter of workshops, contact improvisation jams, performances, and community events, drawing thousands of people to the area each year. People cherish Earthdance as a “home,” and our volunteer program draws creative individuals from all over the world who are interested in contributing to community, dance, art, and the running of a vibrant nonprofit organization.

Snapshot: Two ballerinas learn how to put up sheetrock and teach everyone how to say “thank you” and “you're welcome” in Russian and Finnish. “Prometheus” helps the dreadlocked one haul extra mattresses into the now-vacant lofts for the teachers of the Western Mass. Moving Arts Festival. Margit asks if we can bring a feng shui expert in for the building project when Samantha tells her the original front door of the main building is now the laundry room. Spirit has his tent set up for the nights he is too tired to drive home.

Before the summer season even began, Earthdance received a surprise visit from the local fire inspector bearing this news: guests were no longer allowed to sleep in the main building. This was only a month prior to the busiest time of the year, with a schedule of workshops for every weekend of the summer.

This apparent calamity, however—after throwing the staff into a tizzy for 76 hours—became the setup for one of the greatest miracles of community support in Earthdance history. It became apparent that the renovation of Stephen Yoshen's house, originally intended for new staff housing, would have to pick up pace and intensity to become a new guest dormitory that complied with building and fire codes. The estimated cost of this rapid transformation was a daunting $120,000!

Meanwhile, within a week, a tent village was erected in our backyard to accommodate the summer guests. We threw a sheetrock party. All the staff learned how to use a nail gun and, in line with a phenomenon I was once told when I arrived, “Dancers who come to Earthdance become carpenters,” we hammered on.

Within three months of the news, through phone calls, fund-raisers, and a renewed love affair with a place so many dancers from across the globe call home, donations poured through, tallying, by September, $135,185! (While this is an amazing amount to raise, the total cost of the project—buying, renovating, and other costs—is well over $500,000, so the financial pressure is still on.)

Familiar faces, new faces, came with their own hammers and capri pants to share their ideals—and the fashion in which they eat chocolate—in the vortex of the kitchen cutting table.

The seams that hold together the ever-evolving structure of Earthdance are only visible to those that have hung around for a while. Through this present millennium, it has been Samantha Burnell who has stitched and restitched the fabric of staff, volunteers, lawnmowers, and laundry machines to what stands as Earthdance today. The conclusion of this summer marks Samantha's departure as co-director, and in her place, her co-director Spirit Joseph sets upon a solo venture as director, leading us on with the support of new staff member Margit Galanter as our new associate director.