Five Senses reimagined
In 1962 the Beach Boys invited listeners to “Come on safari with me.” This weekend, Pilobolus, an international movement and entertainment company headquartered in Washington CT, welcomes visitors to join in a different kind of safari, one that engages all the senses on car tours that it promises will be “slow-motion roller coasters of emotions for all ages.”
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the dance troupe has reimagined its Five Senses Festival, converting it to a car caravan that allows the audience to view performances by dancers and musicians as well as art installations from the safety of their cars.
The festival will be held for three days only this year, Friday through Sunday, July 31st - August 2nd, from 10:30AM to 2:30PM at Spring Hill Vineyards, 292 Bee Brook Road, New Preston (rain dates August 7th-9th). Admission is $50 per car load. There is limited availability and pre-registration is required. Timed tickets with staggered start times will be sold with up to six cars proceeding along the course to each performance station before the next group enters.
The vineyard has a long road that meanders through it, providing niche views that can be seen from cars, some up close and others at a distance. Visitors can expect to experience the festival on a multitude of sensory levels, from sight and sound to even smell.
This year’s festival theme, Crossing Borders—both physical and imagined—was conceived well before the pandemic hit and has taken on new meaning in the midst of social isolation. “Since COVID-19 happened in March, followed in June by the horrible tragedy of George Floyd, the idea of crossing borders has taken on so many different meanings,” said Artistic Director Renee Jaworski. “Now we’re talking about crossing social borders, the borders between being awake and dreaming, wishing and action, who we are and who we need to become. With all that in mind, with the idea of a car safari and the underlying themes enmeshed, we started to think about how to put it together.”
Jaworski said that recreating the festival in five months presented challenges. “When we went into quarantine back in March, we knew we either had to reconceive it or cancel it altogether,” she said. “As a company, we don’t go down without a fight so we put on our thinking caps and walked around the vineyard, thinking about the safety measures we would have to take. Being outside is a benefit to us and constraints are not new to us, they make us even more creative.”
Two things happened on that preliminary walk: the planners threw out the idea of a walking safari, realizing that many people would not be able to access the program that way, and substituted a car route. And they realized there were natural and manmade “stages” already available along the road.
“Now we were up to May and we realized we might have a Stage 1 reopening,” recounted Jaworski. “So, we talked to our collaborators, some of whom we had already identified, and said, ‘We have this crazy idea, can you help us develop it further …’ We got together (online) and started to talk about how to make it work.”
Among the collaborators are vocalist Kat Edmonson, the Litchfield County Choral Union and dancers from Pilobolus who will emerge from the woods. Two aerial artists will perform as well, though not at the same time, spinning overhead in the trees.
The end result is a course that takes visitors past six stations where cars can be parked, allowing the occupants to watch dance, listen to musical performance, see the aerial performances, enjoy choral performances by the Litchfield Choral Union and take part in interactive pieces that will engage all the senses.
This will require much of the performers, Jaworski acknowledged. The artists, working in the heat and sun, will perform up to 16 times a day. “It’s a lot of work,” she said, “but we have courageous and gracious performers who are very generous with their time and energy and their willingness to try this. Are we sure this will work—you can’t be innovative and be sure. You have to be nimble to respond.” She referred to Friday’s dress rehearsal as “research and development.”
Along with the car safari, there will be three-day morning wellness programs as well as evening activities by bonfire.
“We know the world needs this right now,” said Jaworski. “Since March we have been forced to get our entertainment largely through the screen. People are missing the completely human element that you can only get when surrounded by people—even if they are 10 feet away. We need to be able to dream, to experience worlds that don’t exist yet. You can’t have hope if you can’t dream.”
For tickets and registration, go to fivesensesfestival.com or pilobolus.org.
Friday: Fireside storytelling with Darlene Kascak; “Connection as the Opposite of Addiction” with John Simoncelli, executive director of Greenwoods Counseling and Referrals.
The Kat Edmonson Show with appearances by Stuart Bogie and Luke O’Malley of Superhuman Happiness and Alita Moses.
Saturday: Performances by The Thunderbird American Indian Dancers and John Hughes playing the West-African kora.
Screening of Aggie, pre-film talk with Emmy-nominated director Catherine Gund and Anne Pasternak.
Sunday: “Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable” with Kevin Booker; Coffee House community-curated music.
Screening of Monkey and the White Bone Demon, followed by a talk with director Mirra Bank.