ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 6 * * All Arts News On the Web * * March 15 , 2002


      ArtBits always features a calendar of the goings on of Franklin County artists. Check out these events around Franklin County. Each issue includes the entire text of our weekly newspaper column.

      Stop in for the AAC CoffeeHouses at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. These gatherings bring new opportunities, gossip, "show-and-tell" and workshops. We come together on the second Wednesday for a booked musical performance and an art exhibit at Simple Pleasures in St Albans. On the fourth Wednesday come to the Kept Writer in St Albans for acoustic Open Mike Night featuring music, readings, and more from the best new artists in Vermont.


      The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange will feature 27 Franklin County residents in Hallelujah, a dance performance tomorrow evening at the Flynn Theatre in Burlington. Hallelujah is a creative collaboration that culminates the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange's four-year artistic residency in Vermont.
      Community members, Liz Lerman, and her dancers collected eclectic stories about our history, our artists, our children, and our seniors. Hallelujah features Lerman, her diverse company of dancers, and 50 Vermonters who range in age from 8 to 94. The performers will celebrate work, family, Vermont's scenic landscape, and constancy in the face of change.
      Liz Lerman and her dancers have visited Franklin County several times each year in the four years since the Flynn Theater began an audience building project here.
      An internationally acclaimed choreographer, Lerman brings people of all ages into dance. Her pioneering techniques in the Dance Exchange use dance and movement for teaching, for personal expression, and for wellness. She built some pieces of Hallelujah around the real-life experiences of her Vermont cast members, including Louise Wright of Enosburg; Amy Fletcher, Anne LePeltier, Manon Pellman, and Gail Salzman of Fairfield; Judith Karstens of Franklin; Alice Sturgeon of Georgia; Sue Nadeau of Highgate; and Erin Baker, June Barkyoumb, Raymond Barry, Abigail Buck, Adam Frazier, Dominique French, Elaine Grant, Betty Jacobs, Riley Lumsden, Svetlana Makiva, Haley Manchester, Hailey Putnam, Sue Roberts, Danielle Rogers, Anya Scangas, Patty Walsh, Heather Whitehouse, Pam Woodward, and Eunice Yonkers from St. Albans.
      Dancers Amy Fletcher and Erin Baker are sophomores and study dance in Judith Karstens' and Manon Pellman's class at BFA. "It was pure luck that Erin could give me a ride because I don't drive yet," Amy said.
      They both perform in The Nightmare. "You're stuck in a nightmare, pretending to run, and your feet can't move and you are trying to get away from this horrible creature," Amy said. "The audience will see us being chased by something, but it is an imaginary creature." About 20 of the dancers travel across the stage in the piece.
      Rehearsals started in November. "There is still a lot of cut and paste," Amy said. "There are parts that have been moved around and changed as the choreography grows and changes."
      In Build A Person, the whole group of 50 dancers in a group exercise are going from the floor and building up to be in a standing position.
      "We start on the ground doing a series of 17 steps to slowly make your way to standing, very slowly, controlled, angular movements," Erin said.
      "It's very introverted," Amy added.
      "The two or three really older ladies can get down on the ground farther than I can," Erin said. The oldest dancer, at 94, is "out there with the rest of us getting down on the floor."
      The project has also presented an ongoing St Albans community residency featuring the late jazz trumpeter Lester Bowie, actor/storyteller John "Junebug Jabbo Jones" O'Neal, gospel singer Fontella-Bass, and actor Marty Pottenger to St Albans. Together, they have collected and told stories of St Albans Seniors and Children as well as a history of Enosburg in Movement and Music. The projects included public concerts, workshops with K-12 students and with adults, as well as intimate shows for students, seniors, and other area residents.
      The arts strengthen community ties. "If people get their hands on the real tools of making art, their lives change and our art changes, too," she said. "The people involved [in projects like Hallelujah] become connected enough to want to do other things together in the future. It's very 'community-generating.'"
      The Flynn Community Partners Project was underwritten by the Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Fund as part of the Audiences for the Performing Arts Network program.
      "It's been so much fun. The company has been awesome, people at the rehearsal are hilarious," Amy said.
      Hallelujah stages one performance only, tomorrow at 8 p.m. on the Flynn MainStage. Tickets are $26, $22, and $18 and are available at the Flynn Regional Box Office; by phone at 86-FLYNN (802-863-5966); or online.


JEFFERSONVILLE--Cambridge CoffeeHouse presents an open mike evening of acoustic music at the Cambridge CoffeeHouse at Dinner's Dunn at the Windridge Bakery on Wednesday, March 21, 7-9 p.m.
      The Cambridge Arts Council sponsors the CoffeeHouse on the first and third Wednesday of each month. Admission is free but donations are appreciated. e-mail for info.


      The Burlington Taiko Drummers will perform on Saturday, March 24, in the MVU Theater. Taiko combines the huge, vibrant sound of Japanese Festival Drums with exceptional and athletic choreography. Burlington Taiko studies the ancient practice that uses extensive physical and mental conditioning. The group is also a favorite at First Night.
      This concert will benefit the Franklin Community Playground.


      This year, we are wandering around the virtual state of Vermont to look at the online homes of arts organizations, galleries and artists, film and theater sites, and musicians. We have started with the Local Arts Service Organizations:
      Main Street Arts in Saxon's River cultivates artistic experience and expression with instruction, performance and participation. The site includes a calendar, Special Events, camps, Kids' Day, the Perennial Swap, a Senior Circle, Language Pot Lucks, a String Band, the Kids' Craft Bazaar, and the Jelly Bean Tree. I'd go there just for the tree.


      Barre artist Fred Swan spent three days in St Albans at the Rotary Home Expo. A graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy, he has recently retired from a career teaching math. "Many math teachers don't teach geometry," he said of a field that fits the precision he brings to his paintings as well as his education as an engineer.
      His meticulously detailed, photo-realistic paintings are filled with nostalgia. They hang in public and private collections including CVPS, Johnson & Johnson, and the Vermont Arts Council. He is a winner of the Saturday Evening Post Cover Contest.
CURRENTLY READING: "I have rediscovered reading since retiring," he said. "My two jobs made it impossible to read more than a couple of books each year." He has read through all of the Elmore Leonard and most of Anne Tyler's novels. "Mystery is my favorite genre, but I read a lot of naval history, especially from World War II."
RE-READ: The 39 Steps by John Buchan.
FAVORITE KIDS' BOOK: He has three children and said they enjoyed Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and the Uncle Wiggly stories. "I read [archeologist/explorer] Richard Haliburton's books to my youngest son," he said. "He is now a Park Ranger who loves to go on adventures."


      ArtBits features a quick weekly peek at the bookshelf or night stand of the folks you know in and around Franklin County. That popular feature has a page of its own at the Franklin County Bookshelf here on the AAC site.


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      This article was originally published in the St Albans Messenger and other traditional print media. It is Copyright © 2001 by Richard B. Harper. All rights reserved. Archival material is provided as-is. Links are not necessarily maintained (if a link in this article fails, try or your favorite search engine).
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