Dancing in the Streets

The Southern Vermont Dance Festival returns to Brattleboro, Vermont for its 5th year under the direction of Brenda Lynn Siegel.

Brenda Lynn Siegel, the executive/artistic director of the Southern Vermont Dance Festival, has dance, performance, and drive in her blood. Her mother was a dancer and instructor, her grandfather, Ernest Kinoy, wrote the screenplay to Roots, her grandmother was an accomplished Jewish female activist, and her great uncle was a famous civil rights attorney. “If I could be half the person that any of them were, and do half the good that they all did in the world, that’s the best I could hope for,” Siegel says.

Siegel works tirelessly to make the Southern Vermont Dance Festival an impactful event while also juggling motherhood and her role as co-founder of the IBIT (Intrinsic Beauty of Invisible Things) Dance Company. Growing up in Vermont, Siegel was a competitive figure skater. She left to earn a degree in dance from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts and from there she landed in Baltimore, Maryland to choreograph for the Baltimore Children’s Theatre.

Brenda Lynn Siegel in rehearsal at IBIT Dance Company, photo by Kiqe Bosch

She returned to Vermont to raise her son and continue her work in dance. When tragedy struck in 2011 and Tropical Storm Irene stripped Siegel and her son of their home and belongings, recovery became her focus. Through dance, Siegel conceived a plan. “Dance is a form of escape from hardship,” she says. In 2012, Siegel debuted the first Southern Vermont Dance Festival to both bring awareness to the Brattleboro dance community and support local business in need of storm assistance. “It’s an exciting festival and what makes it unique is that we turn the downtown into a campus,” Siegel says. “When you’re there during the festival you see people from the community, who aren’t dancers, watching and participating in workshops and performances. Then you’ll see groups of dancers in dance clothes heading to their next class.”

Southern Vermont Dance Festival, Brenda Lynn Siegel

Julie Marie Muskat performing in the Promenade at Southern Vermont Dance Festival 2016, photo by Jeff Lewis

The festival is open to all—instructors, choreographers, and attendees travel from all over the world to be there. “It’s for everyone from the dance enthusiast to the dance expert, and it’s also for people who have never walked into a studio,” Siegel says.

In addition to performances, the festival also features visual artists whose movement-inspired work will be displayed in various galleries around town. New this year, festival goers can share in art, conversation, and food at a community potluck meal. A Midsummer Night’s picnic will be held at Scott Farm where guests can enjoy performances while they nosh. A free social justice promenade will take place downtown where walkers will experience music or performance every 15 minutes at various locations along a self-guided tour.

Southern Vermont Dance Festival 2016, photo by Jeff Lewis

This year’s festival is set to be the biggest and best yet, and with Brattleboro’s long list of dance studios and businesses, it’s an ideal location for such a diverse, dance-inspired event. “People have said our workshops are like master classes they’ve taken in New York City,” Siegel says. “They say, “It’s every bit as good as when I’m in the city except, I’m in Vermont.””

Brenda Lynn Siegel–executive director, Southern Vermont Dance Festival
Newfane, Vermont
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Top image Julie Marie Muskat performing in a gala at Southern Vermont Dance Festival 2016, photo by Jeff Lewis
Janet ReynoldsDancing in the Streets

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