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Dancing With—And Beneath—the Stars

July 22, 2015 6:00 am0 commentsViews: 65
Jeffrey Cirio Photo: Jordan Jennings

Jeffrey Cirio
Photo: Jordan Jennings

by Jeannette de Beauvoir

It’s just one evening—but, oh, what an evening! On July 25th, the Cape Dance Festival takes over the outdoor amphitheater at the Province Lands and makes it a night to remember.

This year, for the first time in its three-year history, the festival has extended its reach with a week-long residency prior to the performance, led by the new Cirio Collective. “It adds a week of activities in Chatham (with open level master classes) and Wellfleet, ” says Stacey-Jo Marine, one of Dance Move’s co-founders. “Jeffrey Cirio is so incredibly talented, I have been trying to get him on to the CDF program for all three years, so I’m thrilled that it’s working out this year.”

Co-founder and producer Liz Wolff agrees. “The residency is an exciting and important step in our plan to establish Cape Dance Festival as a serious cultural institution on the Cape and in the dance world,” she says.

Seasonal projects may be a perfect idea for cultural endeavors, but pulling them off isn’t as easy as it may seem. The Cirio Collective, founded this year by Boston Ballet principal dancers Jeffrey and Lia Cirio, is a good example. “That we were able to get this off the ground in essentially six months is pretty amazing,” acknowledges Jeff Cirio. “And doing it while dancing a full season in Boston was sometimes a challenge. Our vision is to keep this as a summer project. The goal is to give dancers, choreographers, and others summer employment, free from distractions and fear of failure. That will always be the goal. Coming into the project, we didn’t know quite what to expect, but it started to flow right away. It’s definitely a team effort and that was really the effect we wanted to have, i.e., a group of people coming together to collaborate and create. And in the end, we hope to create work or works that will inspire.”

Dancing under the stars at the amphitheater provides its own inspiration: the night, the natural surroundings, the nearness of the waves. It was nature, appropriately enough, that first motivated Catherine Cabeen. Her dance ensemble, Hyphen, is also participating in the festival. “I grew up in Illinois and started dancing in my backyard,” says Cabeen. “I loved the feeling of wind in my hair and the immense possibilities of how energy moves through open space. I loved nature as a child, and all of the swirling dances that manifest within it. The first time I saw a professional dance company, I knew I was looking at something I wanted to be part of. The movement onstage was contagious and my little heart felt lifted by it in the same way that it did looking at wind moving across the tall grass of central Illinois.”

What the two companies have in common is their emphasis on collaboration. “Collaboration can be hard, but I think it’s through examining things that are different from us that we truly begin to understand ourselves,” explains Cabeen. “I enjoy collaboration because it knocks me out of my comfort zone. It makes me accountable to the realization of my ideas, and it expands my world-view through conversation and discourse.”

“We’re open to collaboration with anyone,” agrees Cirio. “We want to incorporate other art forms. For instance, in the dance for the Cape, we collaborated with a musician from Boston who wrote poetry for the piece. One of our dancers is very adept at musical production, so were able to play with that poetry. We are definitely hoping to expand our collaborations.”

In addition to conducting the master-class residency, the Cirio Collective is performing a world première set to music by Brahms, incorporating the aforementioned poetry and choreographed by Cirio—who will also dance a solo piece created for a gala in Japan.

Cabeen, too, is excited about what she’s bringing to Dance Moves. “The piece I’m working on for the Cape this year is a collaboration with a composer and a fellow dancer,” she says. “I started the work thinking about how opposites define one another, specifically I was thinking about masculinity and femininity. But as we began working on the piece our conversations opened to examine race, age, basic principles from physics, and even the way our former selves affect our current ideas about our self. So the piece is very much about oppositional energies and how things that seem like opposites are actually supporting and framing one another.”

It’s impossible to watch these dancers and not be affected by the passion they clearly feel for what they do. “We consider ourselves very blessed to be able to do something we love so much,” says Cirio. “It would be very difficult to have this career and not have a passion for it, because it really does consume your life. Add the fact that a dance career is relatively short, and people can then understand why we try to take as little time off as possible. We’re trying to fit in as much as we can while we can. We’ve been very lucky to be part of a company that does classical works as well as neoclassical and cutting-edge contemporary, which allows us to experience a real depth of experience in our dancing.”

“One of the things I love about dance is that it is inherently social,” says Cabeen. “Dance is about communication. Interpersonally, we all depend on body language more often than we realize. Harnessing the power the body has to communicate through dance can make people more conscious of what their body is saying all the time. When I tour internationally it always amazes me that even though I may not have the verbal vocabulary I need to order a cup of coffee, I can still communicate with an audience about profound aspects of being human through dance and performance.”

And all of it will come together on July 25th. “We have a thrilling program this year,” says Wolff. “Some of the best dancers in the world will be performing, and there will be five premiere works to share with the audience. There’s something for everyone; we offer a huge range of styles—contemporary ballet, classical ballet, modern dance, ballroom, musical theater, and more.” Cabeen agrees. “The Cape Dance Festival is an amazing experience for everyone involved,” she says. “We’re feeling confident, excited, and nervous—all of those things,” says Cirio. He probably speaks for all the participants when he adds: “We couldn’t imagine our lives without dance.”

On July 25th, neither will the audience.

The Cape Dance Festival happens at the Province Lands Visitors Center’s outdoor amphitheater on Saturday, July 25, 6 p.m. For tickets ($25–$100) and information call 646.734.6338 or visit capedancefestival.com.