"Year after year, Built on Stilts provides a beautiful artistic oasis in which dance and community come first and foremost. The support and encouragement felt from the audience and other participants is delicious and fosters a more open and loving place in which to show dance and see inspiring work."
- Emily Craver, participant/choreographer 2013, 2016 and 2017
"Thank you again for the amazing experience shawnbibledanceco. had at Built on Stilts. The community in Oak Bluffs is incredibly lucky to have an intellectual dance powerhouse right in their back yard...The way you and your staff brought together so many age groups, cultures, arts, communities from near and far, and friends to celebrate dance! I strongly believe, as you do, that movement and our innate desire to express our feelings through our bodies is a crucial part of education and community-building. B.O.S. was the perfect platform, highlighting impeccable organization and stellar performances to a full house every day! I am thrilled to see how excited the B.O.S. community is to participate and share with each other. It is truly promising, especially in the current social climate. Bravo Abby Bender! Thank you for including shawnbibledanceco."
- Shawn Bible, participant, 2017
"I am still feeling the glow of B.O.S. - the tremendous energy and love that exists at the festival's core, the deep sense of community and safe space, the pure joy, the heart-filled dancing. Hats off to you for imagining this festival in the first place and then working your tail off to make it sustainable over all these years. And thank you for encouraging me to choreograph something this year. I needed a nudge to get back in the studio, and I'm so glad I did."
- Chloe Jones, participant 2015-2017
"Of the places we’ve danced this summer and the Island traditions we’ve participated in, Built on Stilts is a true highlight. To watch dancers of all ages, styles, and experience levels come together under one roof filled us with deep appreciation for the Vineyard dance community. It's incredible to hear a crowd cheer equally loud (and truly loud!) for the professional artists visiting from NYC and the mother-daughter pairs, older swing-dancing couples, and little kids in cowboy hats. From group warm-up to group bows, Built on Stilts creates a palpable sense of community. "
- Yard interns, participants 2015
"The supportive energy that thrives within the B.O.S performance space is unique. The audience members become integral extensions of the show, creating new vibrancy in the performers night after night. This dance festival is truly special. We'll be back."
-Ashley Sleeth, visiting artist 2015
"Thanks for doing such an awesome job, once again, with BOS. I am always impressed how well you put the shows together without ever seeing the dances! And many thanks for keeping my creative dance juices flowing!"
--Scott Crawford, longtime participant
“The highlight of my year!” Thank you so much for all the effort you put into giving us a chance to bring the wonderful gift of dance for all to experience!!!! “
--Esther Caroline Deming, longtime participant
“There’s nothing like BOS!!! We are so grateful for all you do to share this amazing art form with us! We love it!!!!”
--Amy Kurth, longtime participant
“Thank you for your vision! You have given so much to so many through the magic that is BOS!”
--Jil Matrisciano/RISE, longtime participant
“BOS is truly a gift. Looking forward to seeing you back and refreshed for season 20!”… “ I forgot to add how much fun it was enjoying our two-year-old grandson’s total love for Built on Stilts. After Thursday’s performance, it was all he could think about until Friday’s show.”
--David Schultz, longtime audience member
“… thank you so much for providing the creative outlet for artists of all ages!”
--Cindy Sabella, longtime audience member
“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your incredible talent, hard work and amazing vision. BOS is a wonderful mixture of talent created from the heart and performed with soul."
--Renee Balter, longtime audience member
"There's no way to adequately measure or appreciate the work you do. The joy one can see in the dancers of all ages and skills is an incredible and wonderful legacy! The love of dance, of creating, and performing will live way beyond you and I. Thank you for doing what you do and doing it so well. Thank you for providing the opportunity to express ourselves, to briefly bask in the limelight, for a few moments to be a star, and to contribute to the legacy so that it may live on in our children and grandchildren. See you next year!"
--Diane Jetmund, longtime participant
"Esther's Line Dance Crew appreciated your willingness to include our performance of Blurred Lines in the 2015 BOS Dance Festival. We had fun in preparation and actual roll out of our performance. We found you to be very accommodating to all partucipants to ensure your program ran smoothly. We trully appreciated you for all that we experienced in dancing on Built on Stilts. It was exciting and rewarding. The group is now talking about what they want to do next year. I hope our performance encourage others to keep moving. The majority of us are 'seasoned citizens' who still have a love for activity in our daily lives and we are Martha's Vineyard Polar Bears!"
-Esther Mizelle Richmond, participant 2015
“Built on Stilts is a unique, spectacular event bringing communities of people together dancing. From professionals showcasing their choreography to amateurs participating in the joy of dance, the festival inspires, the larger community of the island gathers and a cultural experience explodes. I haven't missed a Built on Stilts Festival since 2007!”
--Naomi Goldberg Haas, NYC, participant 2014
“Built on Stilts lifts my spirits every year by allowing me to share in the shear joy of dance!”
--Scott Crawford, local participant 2014
“Built on Stilts is more than just a dance show, it’s an exhilarating dance experience for performers and audience members of all ages. On a beautiful Island, in a capturing space, we drove into Martha’s Vineyard from NY and PA to engulf ourselves in this joyous celebration of dance. Although we perform at different proscenium theaters and intimate dance spaces across the region, the unconventional use of the Oak Bluffs Union Chapel has been our favorite thus far. We’re not sure if it’s the crisp ocean air, the pure joy each and every dancer expressed while at BOS, or the vibrantly supportive audience, but our experience at Built on Stilts in Martha’s Vineyard could rival, even surpass, any other professional dance festival we have been a part of. Our warmest thanks to Abby and her staff, Union Chapel, and the dance loving community on Martha’s Vineyard for putting together such a great festival. We can’t wait to make this our summer dance staple for years to come.”
--Stacia Sleight, Remote Dance Project, a Multi-City Dance Collaborative, participants 2014
“Built on Stilts! The place to be during the summer months! Be a performer, a spectator, or volunteer your skills to make a difference in Arts!
--Esther America, Alegria y Sabor! Boston participant 2014
“This year was my first time participating in Built on Stilts (BOS) Festival and from beginning to end it was a truly wonderful and unique experience. The community surrounding this festival is warm and inviting the crowds were very enthusiastic and the range of people included was extraordinary. I would come back anytime as it was a joy to be a part of.”
--Tiffany Rea-Fisher, Elisa Monte Dance, NYC, participant 2014
“Thank you again for the opportunity! We had a blast! It's such a fantastic event and we would be thrilled to do it again next year. “
--Lorelei Chang/dancEnlight, Hartford, CT, participants 2014
“It's hard to believe that another season with Built on Stilts has finished! Wonderful as always. Our Ballroom Dance MV group has certainly enjoyed performing these last few years and looking back (at my first t shirt), Dorothy and I have been preforming with you since 2005! Always amazing talent and variety and the audience always seems to enjoy the uniqueness of each show. God speed and we look forward to seeing you and hopefully dancing with you in 2015!”
--Tom and Dorothy Newton, local participants 2014
“It really is special as a traveling artist from New York City to feel connected to a greater community. Performing at Built on Stilts gives me that feeling of being at home away from home and I always return back to New York feeling refreshed, having made new friends, and having been a witness to something truly special. The diversity of contributing artists at Built on Stilts also never fails to inspire me. Any cynical feelings I have about art are so easily left behind in the presence of so many different styles and backgrounds. The best part is that no matter who you are or where you came from, there is a heartwarming welcome and explosive applause for you and your work. Way to make a gal feel special, Built on Stilts! Thank you thank you thank you”
--Lyfty Serena, NYC, participant 2014
"BOS is a celebratory, unique dance experience for both the performers and the audiences. My first year participating showed a vibe and talent from this incredible community. It was so inspiring that BOS is now a must for as my summer dance destination!"
--Karesia Batan, choreographer and performer, 2011
"Thank you so much for such a memorable weekend at the Built on Stilts Festival. I cannot even begin to describe what a fantastic experience it was for all of us. My dancers thoroughly enjoyed all of the dancing we were able to do over the few days of the festival as well as the diverse choreography they were able to witness. It was so rewarding to see the audience members as excited and dedicated to the festival as its participants were. We admire your dedication to this island tradition...even if it's being lit by flashlights in the midst of a hurricane (Can't lie, it was a little bit emotional). Thank you as well for opening up your house to all of us dancers the night the ferry was canceled. It was overwhelmingly comforting to know that so many of the artists involved were more than willing to offer up their extra floors and couches to some stranded dancers. So excited knowing we were going to have a place to sleep that night we ran out onto that stage wanting to rock the house (totally worth getting stuck on the island). So, thank you thank you thank you for everything! We're proud to say we've been a part of this festival. Thank you again for everything, and congrats on another successful year!
- Kristi Ann & Dancers, participants, 2010
"I have been participating in Built On Stilts for five years, and I see it get better every year. The festival is truly rooted in the community, incorporating its members of every age, race and background and displaying their diversity and talents. As a visiting artist, I have always been welcomed into the community. You would be hard pressed to find a better audience. From the opening drum circle to the closing bows, every performer is supported for their unique contribution to this amazing show. The accessibility of the festival also creates a wonderful opportunity for exposure to dance, and there is definitely something for everyone. It is a great model for anyone looking to organize community based festivals, although it is distinctly of the Vineyard. As assistant stage manager this year, I got a new perspective and was fortunate enough to see all six nights. Absolutely incredible!"
--Charmian Wells, Refractions Dance Collective, participants 2004-2009
"I had heard of BOS for several years before actually making the trip up there. Although it is quite a hassle to get there from NYC, it is completely possible with proper planning and definetly worth the effort! Coming from a serious-minded downtown NYC dance scene, it was so wonderfully refreshing to see the possibilities of what can happen when there are no pretensions, just a bunch of enthusiastic people making art of any kind. It was such a generous and mixed group of people to be around and Abby Bender and the stage managers were some of the most genuine and capable people I've ever worked with! I'll definetly be back for many years to come. Thanks Built on Stilts!"
-Lyz Merida, choreographer BOS '09
“Performing in Built on Stilts is the most fun I've had all year! The audience is amazing and the positive energy of the entire festival is unmatched anywhere else. Thank you Abby for producing this festival every year!!“
--Alexis Major, participant 2001-2009
“The Built on Stilts Dance Festival has become one of the favorite performances in the season for my company, CONNetic Dance. We love the energy, diversity, and family environment of all the dancers involved with the festival and the audience is wonderful-so responsive and appreciative! Overall, Abby has created a unique dance festival that is inspiring to be a part of."
--Carolyn Paine, CONNetic Dance, participants 2007-2009
"I attended the performance this summer and wanted to tell you how blown away I was! I totally loved the energy, the spirit, the guts, the originality of the choreography; all the humor and emotion that came through - not to mention the joy. I'm a filmmaker and my son is at Bard ! I made a donation at the door, and look forward to seeing it again next year !!"
--Jaci Judelson, audience member '09
"As a first time festival participant, (playwright/director) I was thrilled with the opportunity to present my work at such a joyful, well organized & executed festival, and the kids I worked with all had a fabulous experience. Abby Bender and her technical staff are seasoned pros who make the experience fun for all. The huge responsive and appreciative audience attending each night really amazed me and shows what a superb community event this is for one and all!"
Kelly DuMar, festival participant 2009
“Just wanted to say again how positively you impacted my time away from Georgia this weekend. I can't tell you when I've attended three consecutive nights in the past (aside from Church revival) with such a willingness to be there. I wish you many more shows in many more places. The world deserves to have a taste of what you do on MV...I certainly hope to see you same time next year. Sure, the island is nice, but your show makes a return trip more than worth it. Much success! Will wear my tee shirt proudly.”
--Judy Tucker, audience member 2008
"We, LiNK, had an amazing time at BOS. We were very excited to be a part of such a diverse, unique dance concert. Having so many genres under one roof is a rarity! It was a pleasure working with you. Your organization is worth coming to from every state! Thank you. I hope to work together again soon."
--Ginger Cox/LiNK contemporary jazz dance. co., visiting dance company, 2007
“A week in a half after the girls performed in B.O.S. Willa and Maria were driving down the road and I overheard them talking about B.O.S. They both said ‘I really miss it. I really loved it.’ We feel so lucky that our daughter gets to participate and perform in such a wonderful festival. She is surrounded by multi age, multi-cultural, multi-talented people for 3 weeks. She gets to see first hand that dance is for all ages and all body types. It is another place for her to gain confidence out in the world. Of all the fabulous events that go on during the summer on Martha's Vineyard, Built on Stilts is my favorite happening. Thank you for the experience.”
--Sarah A. Vail, mom of Stiltshop performer
“Built on Stilts is like no other theatrical experience that I have participated in before. The unique and diverse audience creates a fearless stage for artists to perform on and performers are watched by non-judging eyes. This does not happen in other places. I have never felt such openness in an audience and looking around at the younger performers in this years festival I realized that this kind of freeing and non-criticizing sanctuary was shaping all ages on a major level.”
--Hannah Bos, performer, 2006, 2007
“This was my first time at one of the B.O.S performances. As a year-round resident active in the community, I had heard a lot about the performances and knew people performing. I tried to get there a couple of times in years past but either got there too late to find parking or got sidetracked by something else. So I considered it a triumph just to get there Fri. night for the last performance. I loved it! Why? Because of the diversity of the dance genres, diversity of the dancers and diversity of the audience. Everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun and it rubbed off on the audience. The quality among the professionals was very high and the non-professionals seemed to be doing the very best work they could. I am a great aficionado of dance in any form and I was so inspired that I put my name on the list of possible participants next year! I don't know if I'll follow up but it seemed totally possible the other day.”
--Zelda “Zee” Gamson, audience member 2006
“superb as usual! all apects of stiltshop- My daughter Adelaide LOVED every bit.... games, planning the dances, the beach, the bigger girls, you, the performance, watching all the other dancers.... definitely stiltshop is one of the (if not THE) highlights of her summer! THANK YOU! You provide an incredible opportunity for these younger girls to be a part of something that builds such confidence and creativity. It really is magical! We all look forward to next year. “
--Hillary Noyes-Keene, mom of Stiltshop dancer
“Participating in Built on Stilts has been such a gift for our company and for us as choreographers. We received such a warm welcome from the sweet people of this community. As a result we have come back for three years in a row and each year has been better than the previous one. Our dancers have commented on how beautiful the surroundings and the people are and we all feel blessed to share in the experience. The audience is receptive and the feedback is amazing. It is one of the highlights of our year as a company. Also the diversity of the dances is reflective of the beautiful diversity of people who love to dance, from the young children who are dancing and exploring choreography and their own movement to the older couple doing a beautiful mature interpretation of the waltz, the entire spectrum of different colors and flavors is represented in Built on Stilts.”
--Charmy Wells, Refractions Dance Collective, performers 2004-09
“How many enthusiastic folks (both familiar and not) have approached me on the street, at the grocery store - and even in church - to offer unconditional praise for the truthful, energetic and creative dance performances of Built on Stilts - often people who might never even have watched dance except for this opportunity, let alone relate to it with such joy! Now in my early 70's, somewhat a "closet dancer," I am at last given opportunity to share my dances with welcoming audiences and wonderful dancers of all ages, styles and abilities. BOS is truly a marvelous tribute to diversity in dance and diversity in people, and something of which Martha's Vineyard can be very proud. Certainly, I am!”
--Carol Loud, performer 2003-08’
“It has been my honor to have been a part of Built on Stilts and to have worked with Abby and Anna for 9 years. One of my preferences, as a professional performing artist, is to perform with and for the community at large. I participate every year I look forward to August, which becomes the month I focus on dance more than usual, (as I am a musician, skater and clown as well). Everything takes a back seat to the festival and is always a huge inspiration to me...The eclectic mix of dance styles coupled with the different levels of training and experience, make for a very interesting environment. The director and crew a pleasure to work with, and their ability to run a tight show does not interfere with their incredibly supportive and pleasant demeanors. They make dancing and hard work look fun! They have become a fixture here in our summer Oak Bluffs community and are such an asset to our cultural life. I look forward to many more years of dancing with them. “
-- Corinne de Langavant, performer, 1999-2008
“Although this note is overdue; I wanted to thank you again for making it possible for my granddaughter, Jackie Sicoli, to participate in the B.O.S. performance this summer. The diligence required, the camaraderie, and what she learned from observing you and Abby and others involved gave her a wonderful sense of accomplishment. In my opinion B.O.S. is one of the best events of the summer; and my congratulations to you, Abby and others on celebrating your 10th anniversary. Enjoy your winter and I look forward you seeing you next summer.”
--Jacki Wyman, father of Stiltshop participant
“We have been studying, dancing, and performing in the Boston area for years. Many of our dance performance venues have been shared concerts, and Built on Stilts is the most organized, professionally run festival that we have ever performed in! Having the opportunity to perform with dancers with myriad geographic, choreographic, cultural and life span influences is a truly invigorating experience. The good will, energy and excitement is contagious; we look forward to returning again and again. Thank you Abby and Anna for spearheading such an amazing event.”
--Korinne Hertz of Amara Dance, performers 2005-'06
“I have been a part of Built on Stilts since the first summer. I am a choreographer, dancer and dance teacher, and have been a year round resident of Martha's Vineyard for over fifteen years. I have been involved in many different dance performances throughout my life, and none of them compare with Built on Stilts for fun, positive energy, or a sense of community. There is no performance quite like it, and none as near and dear to my heart. The summer is the busiest time on Martha's Vineyard, and all of us involved lead very busy lives. Somehow, we have found a way to make time and space in our lives to make this a priority. We rehearse all summer, between our many jobs and family commitments. We work with different dancers, and many old friends. The end product is always different, often unexpected, but always greeted with enthusiasm by our packed audiences of friends, family, islanders, and passersby that hear the drums or the applause and can't resist the excitement. It is hard to explain what makes Built on Stilts so wonderful. I love having a venue to display my work and to take risks. During the rest of the year I work with children, and take care of my own two young children, which is fun and fulfilling. But rehearsing and creating new work enables me to push myself artistically. Choreographers return year after year and I've seen their work grow and improve as well. I think the art improves due to the combination of the festival's support of everyone and all types of dance, and the incredibly supportive audience that allows it participants to feel comfortable and confident enough to try new things. I also love that it is free, and therefore available to all people. It makes a lot more people come in and stay, and become exposed to art that they would otherwise not see. It has been exciting over the last few years to see the festival grow, attracting professional companies from New York and Boston. Most of them return each year, telling me that they love the amazing energy and welcome feeling they get from Built on Stilts and all of its participants. It is wonderful to work next to very talented choreographers and dancers who also love what they are doing, and who see us as their peers. Built on Stilts is run seamlessly by Abby Bender, who does it as a labor of love. She keeps the atmosphere relaxed and supportive, while professionally running the 7-day festival with 50 choreographers and over 100 dancers. She tirelessly answers hundreds of phone calls and emails, makes tech schedules and performance orders, programs and t-shirts, flyers and postcards. She finds places for dancers to stay and houses some herself. She makes her own choreography on top of that, and dances in many of our pieces (mine included). We all pitch in and do what we can, but it is maybe 5% of what she does to keep this growing and vibrant festival what it is.”
--Laura Sargent Hall, performer 1997-2009, Stiltshop co-director, 2007 and mom of Stiltshop participant