Archive 2008 - 2019

Massachusetts Dance Festival

by Jim Montalto

When it comes to the performing arts, those working behind the scenes are just as vital to the success of a production as the performers themselves. Backstage hands, sound and lighting technicians, instructors and coaches all help a performance blossom from a creative spark to the event an audience experiences.

Volunteers play just as an integral role in this process. Their motivation is a pure passion to see the talent, support team and all others involved succeed for the sake of the art itself.

“Our volunteers are the backbone of our success every season,” says Karyn Edison, who is the Education and Communications Manager for the Massachusetts Dance Festival, and director for Holliston-based Dancing Arts Center. “Their selflessness keeps the energy of Mass Dance Festival going. When faced with challenges, and for many organizations in the arts they are, volunteers often are the solution. They provide support anywhere and everywhere, which makes them an invaluable resource.”

(Miriam Barber, with her puppet Rosalita and husband Luther, )

Miriam and Luther Barber are a shining example of this selflessness, especially for the Massachusetts Dance Festival, an organization that works to raise the profile of dance as a profession in Massachusetts and holds performances twice a year that highlight professional and emerging dancers and troupes.

“People don’t realize the value of dance enough,” says Miriam Barber, who taught multiple-handicapped children for more than thirty years and used rhythm instruments and dance with large puppets as entertainment and therapy at senior citizens homes. “You can teach so many other aspects of life lessons through dance.”

Massachusetts Dance Festival Volunteer and Programs Coordinator, Erica Sigal noticed Barber’s zeal for dance when they meet in a Zydeco class, which involves a combination of Creole and Cajun music and African American blues and jazz.

She asked Barber to volunteer for the Massachusetts Dance Festival when it first began about four years ago.

“Since then, I’ve been attending the meetings, giving input, handing out postcard and flyers, and going to studios and to make sure the word gets out about the Mass. Dance Festival.”

She also recruited her husband Luther, a retired software engineer who has had a passion for dance since he was a child.

“Last year I collected tickets. This year I was on the performance selection committee,” Luther says. “Of all of the performances I’ve seen, the ones at the Mass. Dance Festival have been the most enjoyable. It’s good to be able to contribute to something that provides such an enjoyable experience. We’ve got dancers from age 10 to 80, and the energy and enthusiasm from both the emerging and professional companies is so wonderful to experience.”

“People come out of this festival energized, and I love being part of that,” Miriam Barber adds. “I love the feeling of being exposed to such different dances, and seeing the different ages of people taking the workshops, and seeing how much they enjoyed the experience.”

This year, the Massachusetts Dance Festival continues to include a wide range of dancers, both in age and experience, as well as a wealth of different styles of dance. Professional dance companies such as BoSoma Dance Company, Contrapose Dance, and Sokolow Now along with emerging companies such as Boston Community Dance Project, Dancing Arts Ensemble, and The Connecting Point Dance Company are schedule to perform at Boston University on June 23 and 24 and at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst September 22 and 23.

The festival will also feature approximately 12 workshops each day, showcasing many of Massachusetts’s most prominent dance teachers in as many genres of dance as possible. It offers annual statewide education workshops and performances that are inclusive of all dance genres, and provides opportunities for professional and emergent dancers and choreographers, while inspiring community-wide involvement.

More information about the performances can be found