The Feet to the Floor Fundraiser & Festival, which takes place Sept. 30-Oct. 3 at the Northampton Community Arts Trust building, aims to raise money to build a wooden “sprung floor” at the 33 Hawley St. center, a floor with built-in give to absorb impact and lessen the chance for injuries to dancers, and which would also be suitable for other uses. Its expected cost is $100,000; $20,000 has been raised so far.
But that doesn’t mean dancers haven’t found other ways to stay active and creative. And on the first weekend in October, dancers and other artists will come together in Northampton as part of an effort to help further construction of the city’s community arts center.
The festival, which features dance workshops and performances, an art exhibit, music, poetry and a tour of the building, is also designed to help raise funds for additional improvements to the Arts Trust’s largest space, called the Workroom, the last major part of the building remaining unfinished (with a few other exceptions).
Organizers are dedicating this future floor to the memory of the late Nancy Stark Smith, a Northampton dancer and leader in the dance form known as Contact improvisation.
Produced by A.P.E.@Hawley and the School for Contemporary Dance & Thought, also in Northampton, the festival has been something of a moving target, says A.P.E. Associate Director Lisa Thompson. Planning has taken place during the surge of the COVID delta variant, requiring regular reassessments for, say, how many audience members should be permitted for events.
For the project, all the participating artists are donating their time and efforts for free.
“It’s been a challenge, and not every artist (we contacted) felt comfortable about performing in the space,” Thompson said during a recent interview in the 3,800-square-foot Workroom. “But overall the program has come together pretty well.”
Jen Polins, founder and director of the School for Contemporary Dance & Thought, says she’s pleased with how many dancers have committed to the festival; many have deep connections to the Northampton dance scene, she added, “and we’re really happy to have them back.”
Schedule of events Both Friday and Saturday, Oct. 1 and 2, include a full series of events. Sunday, Oct. 3 includes a morning dance workshop and afternoon performances by regional high school dance students, including many from the School for Contemporary Dance & Thought. The schedule on Thursday, Sept. 30, is more limited.
Friday’s itinerary includes an exhibit of paintings by Rachel Jenkins and a talk led by the artist, followed by a reading by members of the Group 18 poetry workshop in Northampton. Saturday, Oct. 2, is the “Day of Dances” with short presentations by multiple dancers including Chris Aiken and Angie Hauser, who teach at Smith College, and Cameron McKinney, a New York dancer, choreographer and teacher whose work often celebrates Japanese language and culture. Other shorter performances that evening include dance, music and poetry.
All the events take place in the Workroom, which slowly but surely is moving closer to a finished state. The space now has a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system and has received its official certificate of occupancy. What’s needed now is soundproofing along the walls, a lighting system, the sprung floor — dancing is currently done on a vinyl marley floor that can be set up in different locations — and more permanent seating, among other things.
Completing the construction is being done step by step, Thompson said, using grants and fundraising, which is helpful in that it can give planners a better sense of how to proceed with the next part of the construction once one part of the project is complete. She says about $2.5 million is needed to complete construction of the entire Arts Trust building, including finishing the lobby and box office and a visual arts gallery. The entire building project cost is pegged at $9.25 million.
They envision being able to host as many as 300 people there for a range of events, just as the Arts Trust’s smaller “flex space” can host theater, dance, music and more. The Workroom has already been used for a range of events — theater, dance classes, artists’ residencies, last year’s virtual presentations of Transperformance and First Night Northampton — but finishing the space will enable the Workroom to accommodate audiences more comfortably, Thompson and Polins note.