Newport, RI

Contact Name
Dominique Alfandre
Project Dates
2000 - Present
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2011
Island Moving Co. is based in Newport, RI, which has no performing arts space. The Company, over its 29 year history, has made a virtue of necessity by performing in Newport’s lovely landscapes, on an outdoor stage and in site specific situations. In 2002, to celebrate its twentieth anniversary, the Company founded Open for Dancing, a biennial site specific dance and art festival. Meanwhile, the Company has established a summer home in the Great Friends Meeting House, a 1699 historic structure owned by the Newport Historical Society. The "project" is to use Newport's historic infrastructure & its landscapes as a setting for the Company's imaginative contemporary ballet and its collaborations with other artists. Since 2000, the Company has used more than 20 Newport sites for performances
Project Goals
What were the project goals?
The goal started out to find performance space for the dance company.
Have they changed over time?
It has grown to include the goals of our partners, who see the performances as a way to keep their properties vital. By creating dances for the spaces we use, we incorporate the goals and character of the organizations we work with. By including other collaborating artists, we create unique works which attract diverse audiences and bring audiences into spaces they would never otherwise visit. In return, the sites bring audiences to dance, which they might not have attended otherwise.
Who are the project partners and stakeholders?
Partners and stakeholders we have worked with include the City of Newport, the Tourism Bureau, the Preservation Society of Newport County, the Newport Historical Society, the US Navy, Fort Adams, Ballard Park, Belcourt Castle and the Newport Restoration Foundation (Doris Duke's residence, Rough Point).
Project Specifics
How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
In planning Open for Dancing, for instance, three choreographers visit Newport and choose a site after spending a couple of days driving around exploring. The IMC then facilitates the collaboration, according to the needs of the choreographer and of the site. IMC has created dances in historic mansions who view themselves as museums, on the Newport Navy Base at the foot of two mothballed aircraft carriers, and in public spaces such as parks, wharves and beaches.
Have they been refined over time?
Each project is different. The basis for each project is imagination and trust, which the Company works to build throughout every year and throughout the community.
What were your major obstacles?
Obstacles are the fun part. Sometimes the obstacle is the perception of the project by the site. This is the hardest obstacle to overcome, because some people are just not interested. But we have overcome that obstacle, as well as the obstacle of an intransigent or reluctant partner, by subtly marshaling our community in support of a project.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Our reputation as a responsible partner is established and we cultivate it consciously and carefully.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Other obstacles can be worked through, such as security on the navy base or lack of electric power, etc., by dogged work, attention to detail, careful listening to both artists and sites, and judicious leverage of the sites’ capabilities. These are essential and would be my recommendations to others, as well as to find out as much about your chosen partner as you can.
Project Impact
How has this project contributed to creative community building?
Site specific work has become Island Moving Co.’s trademark. By loosening preconceptions about how and where dance can happen, the Company has broadened our audience and our engagement with our community.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
Site specific work has also honed our skills as collaborators and made the organization more pragmatic and flexible. The work has changed the way the public and the sites themselves view these venues. Experiencing performance in a landscape changes the way you see it, and our dances in historic buildings have revealed aspects and characteristics of those structures to everyone involved. Taking each project as distinct, we would say we have usually achieved our goals. Overall, this tactic for our survival has achieved our goals for the Company, which is provide work to professional dancers, to create new work and to engage our community in dance. Our Open for Dancing idea has been replicated in other communities, with the strong commitment of producers to the artists’ vision. The work has also impacted the Newport arts community, strengthening ties and communications between arts and cultural organizations.
Were there unexpected impacts?
The City is also more open to public art projects and eagerly anticipates hearing about upcoming Open for Dancing projects.
CCX Workshop Handout