Nantucket Dance Festival Returns This Week Under New Leadership

Waverly Brannigan •

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The Nantucket Dance Festival returns to the island this weekend, hosted for the first time by a new non-profit, the Nantucket Dance Theater. The festival, which will run from July 6th-9th, is its first significant fundraiser, with all proceeds going back to the Nantucket community to support dance programs, education, and performances for children on-island.

Under the leadership of island dancers Michelle Birmingham and Alison Barone as co-chairs and Lauren Lovette and Lauren King, formerly of New York City Ballet as co-artistic directors, this year's festival includes a wide variety of dance, expanding beyond ballet for the first time. “It's going to be a really exciting show…the variety is going to be something that's never happened here,” said Birmingham.

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The Nantucket Dance Festival's new leadership, from top left: Alison Barone; Michelle Birmingham; Lauren Lovette and Lauren King.

Some of the styles to be showcased during the festival include classical ballet, tap, modern, and street dance which will be performed as a blend of duets, solos, and group pieces.

The show will open with Lauren Lovette’s original choreography “Game On,” and the co-artistic director will also be performing the Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, with Philip Duclos of The Royal Danish Ballet.

Dario Natarelli, a tap dancer and teacher at the Broadway Dance Center in New York City will perform a solo world premier tap piece.

The modern solo “Runes” will be performed by Rei Akazawa-Smith, a former dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

The show’s finale will include drummer Michael DeQuattro, as well as the professional dancers and any students who participated in the master classes held on Thursday, July 6th.

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Some of the many talented dancers coming to Nantucket for the Dance Festival. From top left: Christopher Grant; India Bradley; McKenzie Soares; and Miriam Miller.

Beyond the main performance, there are many more opportunities for the community to engage with the dancers, choreographers, and musicians involved with the festival and experience the world of dance.

The festival kicks off on Thursday, July 6th with a welcome party at Cisco Brewers from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Lite bites and drinks will be served, along with the opportunity to meet some of the biggest stars of the dance world. Tickets can be purchased here.

Dancers of all ages and levels are welcome to participate in the master classes that will be taught on Thursday, July 6th from 9 a.m to 4 p.m. by professional ballet, tap, street and modern dancers. All attendees will have an opportunity to join the final number in the July 8th performance, and can RSVP here.

The festival’s main performance is on Saturday, July 8th, at 7 p.m. at Nantucket High School’s Mary P. Walker Auditorium. Tickets can be reserved here. The dress rehearsal, which will be held on Friday, July 7th at 7 p.m. is open to the public, but donations are encouraged.

The festival will conclude with a farewell brunch, held on Sunday, July 9th from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum. This event will be catered by Island Kitchen, and the dancers and other performers will be available for a Q&A session. Tickets can be found here.

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After months of planning the festival, Birmingham feels overwhelmed by the continued support from the Atheneum, the previous host of the event, and Nantucket’s community. She explains that saving the dance festival was a great opportunity to preserve something that was important to many people, but “also to expand and branch out to make it feel more connected and inclusive to other dance styles and the island’s community.”

The proceeds from the festival will primarily help Nantucket Dance Theater start a collaboration with the Nantucket Boys and Girls Club that aims to provide dance classes for island children year-round, as well as raise money to provide scholarships for local dancers to train on and off island.

“I hope the festival gets people excited about dance and pursuing it at any level, and shows how much there is in the dance world to inspire and broaden opportunities,” Birmingham said.

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