For Art Hop, A Dancer Explores Liminality At The Edge Of Lake Champlain

Sep 8, 2016

Erika Senft Miller is a dancer and choreographer who draws inspiration from specific sites and incorporates them into to her performances.

As an arts educator and steward of the land and the lake, Senft Miller has chosen to stage her latest site-specific piece at the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center on Burlington's waterfront.

She'll act as a conductor of sorts, orchestrating a multi-sensory performance with more than 40 artists and dozens of moving parts at this weekend's 24th Annual SEABA South End ArtHOP.

The piece is meant to touch on a concept Senft Miller uses often; that of liminality, or that ambiguous place between the stages of a ritual. She describes it as, "The time or place where you are too far in to return, yet not far enough to see where you will arrive."

From the docks at the sailing center, Senft Miller will guide –  and be a part of – groups of dancers, boaters, yogis, paddle boarders, singers and musicians in a piece called "Between Land And Water." Some performers will be in the water, some out on the docks, on the land and out on the breakwater, if the weather cooperates.

Spending many afternoons at the center while her daughter practiced with a sailing group, she fell in love with the site, its waterfront, the view and the center's mission. The sailing center teaches sailing, paddle boarding and adaptive water sports to adults and children alike, as well as programs on lake stewardship with floating classrooms.

"I think the work [the sailing center] is doing is so complex and so meaningful. And that underlying idea that when you really have an emotional and positive experience with a site, you're going to take care of it better." - Erika Senft Miller, choreographer

Senft Miller says she wanted to combine the mission with Burlington's vibrant arts scene and create an event that would get people down to the site. "My background is in arts education so I like that applied learning," she says. "I think the work [the sailing center] is doing is so complex and so meaningful. And that underlying idea that when you really have an emotional and positive experience with a site, you're going to take care of it better."  

Senft-Miller fell in love with the waterfront, the view and the center's mission while spending many afternoons there while her daughter practiced with a sailing group.
Credit Mary Williams, VPR

She adds her thoughts of Lake Champlain. "It's not just a foreground for pretty sunsets but it's actually real."

Tied in to the liminality concept is the expectation of the unexpected, as the weather can easily change. "What I love about it is, we don't really know what's going to happen," she says. "It might be super glassy and we might have a perfect sunset at the end of the second performance. It might be totally stormy, which creates a whole other experience. We just don't know!"

"Between Land And Water" will feature a multi-layered performance with a lot happening simultaneously, another echo of the sailing center itself.

She said the gathering of all of these artists to encourage others to come to this site on the waterfront is, "a true testimony to the creative talent and inspired energy in this community.

Senft Miller says, "There's so many things that are happening all at the same time and you can choose what you want to dial into. You can just sit here and watch the horizon and watch the sunset, or you can sit here and listen to the wind playing with the leaves ... or you can have this super-soft focus and just let it all kind of spill in to your sensory system and let it be its own thing."

The two performances of "Between Land And Water" at the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center in Burlington are Saturday, September 10 at 5:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. The show is free and space is limited and the rain date is Sunday, September 11.