Bugs and blooms at the ballet

Dancers from Ballet Vermont perform Sunday at the first Isham Family Farm summer series show of the season. Photo by Heather Garufi

Isham Family Farm launches First: Earth Summer Series

By Erin Zubarik 

Special to the Observer

Last Sunday, the Isham Family Farm kicked off its First: Earth Summer Series by inviting Ballet Vermont to perform “Bees and Friends.” 

Spectators picnicked on the lawn while dancers dressed as pollinators moved to the soundtrack of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” The show used music, movement, Vermont landscapes and colorful costumes to bring together community and connect people to the natural world.  

The Isham Family Farm was built by some of Williston’s first settlers in 1788 and has more than 200 years of history. The farm is run by Mike Isham and Helen Weston, who grow berry bushes, pumpkin patches, corn and Christmas trees. It was Weston’s idea to start a performing arts summer series on the farm. 

Weston has a background in the performing arts; she grew up studying ballet, piano and theater, and she was a music teacher in Addison County for many years. As a young girl, her parents would bring her to local performances, and she recalls how these productions had the power to unite people. Weston hopes that the Isham summer series can mirror the productions she attended as a child by bringing together arts and the community. She also wishes to bring attention to environmental protection. All proceeds from the show are going to the Vermont Center for EcoStudies. 

“I think it’s really important for us to move forward constructively as a world,” Weston said. “I feel like we are getting further and further apart from recognizing our neighbors and our differences and knowing that we can resolve things just by knowing each other.”

There was something for everyone on Sunday: before the show, children were invited to participate in an art project and learn a dance with the performers. Adults listened in as local researchers from the UVM Extension and honey farmers from Bee the Change spoke about how they are working to preserve pollinators in the area. All of these events were set up on the lawn before the performance for families to gather, snack and chat.  

The performance itself featured caterpillars that transformed into butterflies, a romantic duet between fireflies, and maple tree leaves with changing colors. These metamorphoses were paired with Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” concerto — a piece of music that also celebrates changes in the natural world. 

Ballet Vermont Executive Director Katie Decker said that the purpose of “Bees and Friends” is to bring awareness to the importance of pollinators.  

‘“Bees and Friends’ focuses on different bugs and creatures in a garden, and the setting of the ballet is in a garden, so for each main character in the story, there is a different inspiration for the dance,” she said. “For instance … in this ballet there is a male firefly and a  female firefly that have different flashing patterns, and they are trying to assess if they are going to make it work as mates, or if they are going to have to go separate ways. So each piece in the ballet has a story behind it or a characteristic of that bug or creature that we are trying to bring to life.” 

After the show, the performers were met with grand applause, signifying an entertained audience and a successful beginning to the First: Earth Summer Series. The next summer series performance will feature the Youth Opera Company of Vermont and will take place on June 13. 

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