Southern Vermont Dance Festival launches fundraiser, prepares for July's events


BRATTLEBORO — The Southern Vermont Dance Festival has gotten too large for its leotards, and founder and director Brenda Siegel of SVDF is in expansion mode, launching the fundraising campaign It Takes A Dance Circle. The ultimate goal is to be able to support three full-time staffers and to ensure its sustainability for the future. According to Siegel, the festival has grown so much each year that it has become too much for one person to manage. She hopes to be able to hand the reins over to a full-time paid director, someone who will be able to put 100 percent effort into applying for grants now that the festival has become eligible for them as of last year. She also plans on hiring a production manager and an administrative assistant, and to be able to pay stipends to dancers that now do it for free.

The Southern Vermont Dance Festival began as a response to Tropical Storm Irene to promote the arts and become an economic driver for the community! Now in its fourth year, it has done just that. As downtown Brattleboro is turned into a dance campus with classes, performances and free community events from the courthouse to the Marlboro Graduate Center, thousands of people are drawn to town filling hotels, motels, and restaurant seats, and shop during festival week. Better still, many are so taken with the town they return at a later date, again supporting local businesses. As an economic driver, Siegel said their wish at SVDF is to continue to grow. "We are really honored to have an opportunity to do something like this for the town – we want to be able to expand because we have the drive and the inspiration to do that. We are 100 percent committed to making it better for the community."

Siegel, who is a dancer and a choreographer, said she has become more involved in thinking about economy and how we (SVDF) affect it lately, and thinking about how they can be a benefit to these businesses that support the festival and not to take away from them, that we (SVDF) need to be sensitive to that. She said, "We need to work together, businesses and artists, to make our arts economy work."

Previews of dance performances and inspirational talks have been taking place all this week to garner sponsorships, volunteers and to raise funds. Last calculation, SVDF has raised $12,000 toward the $200,000 goal. Much of the funding is through web site because it allows for offline contributions as well as a place to sign up for volunteering, and it takes donations in whatever dollar amount one can afford. There are links on their web site for those who would like to donate.

Last Monday's dance preview was a great example of the spirit of collaboration SVDF has with several organizations in town. A sneak peek of the Footloose dance accompanied by a life-size poster of Kevin Bacon was performed at Pliny Park. All in good fun to help the Brattleboro Chamber's endeavors to entice Mr. Bacon to come to Brattleboro for September's Baconfest.

Also in collaboration is Latchis Arts that will be hosting events and classes, and SVDF always promotes the simultaneously happening Rock River Studio Tour in the Newfane and Williamsville area.

On opening day, July 14, after the Thursday Night Gala at the Latchis, there will be a reception at 118 Elliot in Brattleboro at 6:30 p.m. to meet this year's festival choreographers. Refreshments and hor d'oeuvres will be served, then at 7:30 p.m. a talk on "Access in the Arts."

Also noteworthy is the Black Tie Barbecue at Nalaukha in Dummerston that was once Rudyard Kipling's private residence on Saturday, July 16. Beginning at 5:30 p.m., Top of The Hill Grill Fixin's will include beef brisket, barbecue chicken, barbecue tempeh wraps, roasted roots, green salad, corn bread and dessert. Tours of Rudyard Kipling's home will take place also. Tickets are limited, only 75 available at $75 each and going fast. Advanced purchase is required. Then at 8 p.m. at Nalaukha an Evening Gala Concert. Inspired by the promenade theater of Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center's Forest of Mystery, a traveling performance on the property using both natural and theatrical lighting that will begin around 8:30 p.m. A ticket for that is $25 and also requires advanced purchase.

These are just a small sampling of what's happening at the four-day festival. To see the whole schedule and to purchase advance tickets visit The schedule will also be available on reformer/

As the festival continues to blossom, who knows, maybe it will be the next Jacob's Pillow?

When asked what she thought was why the SVDF has been so successful she said because it is multi-faceted. People crave dance training, but don't have a lot of time. This festival is a great way to try out a class or two, and to see excellent performances that one might expect to see in New York City. And for area dancers, it is an outlet that they can't find anywhere except for in the city. For the dancers who come in from the city, it's like a mini-vacation. For people who are new to movement, they can come see performances and perhaps do a class. It offers the opportunity to bring dancers and non-dancers together. SVDF's motto: We bring dance to the community and we bring the community to dance.

It is truly a unique festival.

Contact Cicely M. Eastman at 802-254-2311 ext. 261.


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