The Built on Stilts Dance Festival is comprised of performances by members of the Vineyard community and beyoond. Shows might also include live music, storytelling, theater, poetry readings, comedy, circus acts, fitness demos and more! All shows are appropriate for all ages and free to the public.
The festival's mission is to provide a forum for anyone and everyone to share their work with the Vineyard community and its myriad visitors, and to make these performances accessible to audiences for free. Built on Stilts aims to provide a life-affirming public exchange of art and energy by presenting a wide array of dance and other art forms from people representing diverse cultures, ages, backgrounds and levels of training. Dance and performance is in all of us, for all of us!
The Martha's Vineyard Built on Stilts project was spearheaded by Abby Bender and Anna Luckey in 1997 in the hopes of creating an all-inclusive, grassroots performance venue for island artists. The pair are two of the five founding members of the former New York City-based collective dance company KICK STAND DANCE which enjoyed a long partnership from 1998-2005. The group opened the Brooklyn-based studio and theater, Triskelion Arts, a rehearsal and performance center for theater, dance, comedy and circus arts, now a vibrant, far-reaching nonprofit organization that was under Abby's leadership between 2005-2016.
Built on Stilts has grown substantially since its inception, and what began in August 1997 as a magical one-night performance of the works of seven choreographers, has evolved into an enormous festival of the island's remarkable artistic spirit. The event now runs between five and eight nights and features more than forty original works of dance and other forms shared by dozens of people from near and far. Interested visiting artists are encouraged to join
The festival is a creative playground for children and adults, from beginners to professionals, representing diverse stylistic backgrounds. It has showcased ballet, modern, hip hop, jazz, tap, ballroom, breakdance, belly dance, line dancing, martial arts, movement theater, circus arts, mime, improvisation, fitness, live music, storytelling, spoken word and, of course, a bit of stilting. Each performance opens with an improvisational drum circle open to all willing musicians. The rhythms bouncing down Circuit Avenue draw in passersby, who flood the gates of the historic Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs, which has housed the festival since its first season.