One thing’s for sure with Martha’s Vineyard: It will never let you down. There is always the vast blue sky, where the wisps of clouds let your imagination run wild, envisioning your favorite mystical, mythical figure. Below, there’s water, water everywhere. Lagoons, ponds, the docks with boats pulling in from far-off places like Montauk or Longport, N.J., or the boats whose sails billow in the soft breeze blowing off the coast of the mainland; watching the ripples or the waves is mesmerizing.
Then, there’s the beach. Thankfully, the Inkwell has been cleared of rocks, and the sand is once again soft enough to set down your chair, spread out your beach blanket and get ready to see all of your favorite friends and make some new ones, as everyone who is on the island passes by at one time or another. Seen doing just that was Shirley Cuevas, who celebrated her birthday with a champagne toast along with Carol Bradley Pines and her daughter Pam; Janice Francis; Marie Baskerville; Tom and Shirley Williams (parents of TV and radio personality Wendy); Dr. Carol Kaufman; Father Darryl James; and all of the others who had gathered around her.
Father James was in relax mode, as he had hosted the chicken-and-waffles breakfast the day before with the help of Amy Ruth owner Carl Redding and then jetted off to Chicago to conduct a funeral. He then took the next flight out, back to MV, and there he was. Watching from the benches on the sidewalk above the beach were Kendall and LaVerne Flowers, who the previous evening had hosted, along with daughter Crystal and son-in-law Hon. Ludwig Gaines, the much anticipated White Party, where all guests were required to dress in white from head to toe.
The White Party has become the signature event for the annual Howard University Alumni Association Bison on the Vineyard gathering. Among those in attendance were Jen and Alex Seymour; Kurt L. Schmoke, the vice president of Howard University; Kristen Clark; and Chris Washington, president of the association (not the DJ). The evening’s DJ was Russell Willis, who played all of the sounds from the early ’90s, since both Chris and Ludwig are from the class of ’92.
The highlight of my visit was an invitation to watch a rehearsal of Dance Theatre of Harlem II, the newly formed company that will put DTH back on the map. The company was there, in residence at the Vineyard Arts Project, to bond and learn nine new company works in nine weeks before embarking on a national tour, beginning Oct. 20 in St. Louis. Their New York performance will premiere April 10-14, so be sure to mark your 2013 calendar. There in the flesh was dancer Virginia Johnson, whose grace, warmth and charm are all you would expect from a prima ballerina, and then some, as she is very approachable. She is my personal role model.
Dance Theatre of Harlem started out as a dance school, formed by Arthur Mitchell and Karl Shook for youngsters to develop their artistic spirit in classical ballet, while engaging their minds and bodies in a positive and safe manner. It wasn’t long after that the company was formed. DTH became the first Black, classical ballet company that was recognized around the globe. Mastering works by George Balanchine and new works of their own, Virginia Johnson, Eddie Shelman, Tania Leon (now living, performing and creating in Paris) and others in the fantastic company performed before kings, queens and presidents.
To think that I came face to face with Johnson, shook her hand, sat next to her while we watched the dancers rehearse and even shared an approving nod and said, “Ahhh, beautiful,” at the same time, just made my day. At the end of it all, she gave me an embrace. I am definitely on cloud nine.
There are certain things that, if you are going to be on Martha’s Vineyard, then you absolutely must do. One is to go to South Beach, located on the Atlantic side in the town of Katama, where the horizon sometimes meshes with the sky. When you go, be prepared to camp out, as by the end of the day, friends such as Wes and Renee Allen, Ron Thorton, Ron Crampton and Wally Bullock are sure to be there too. This year, the Allens were joined by long, longtime friend Krishna Tarter Tabor, now living in California and wife to former Inglewood Mayor Danny Tabor. Krishna and I go way back to when we were first students at DTH under the watchful and stern eye of Arthur Mitchell and the late Karl Shook, Thelma Hill and Tanaquil LeClercq. What a coincidence; both Krishna and DTH here, at the same place, at the same time. If only I could go to the beach at Gay Head, located in the town of Aquinnah, to sit and meditate on this. Gay Head is another trip you must take, so you can gaze upon cliffs, have a lobster roll at Dream Catchers, where they only use chunks of lobster, or have a blue fish sandwich and learn the history of the first Aquinnah Indians to populate the island.
Always plan to spend one beach day at State Beach, a delightful retreat between the Inkwell and South Beach. I am usually able to catch up with Bill and Brenda Cavette there, but missed them this year, as their stay had been earlier in the month. Two favorite friends whom I didn’t miss were Burt Belasco and Ann Patrick Fox. These are two of my first friends ever. Bert is Julia’s godfather, and it was with Ann, daughter of the late Fanny and Mel Patrick, that I stayed on my first trip to Martha’s Vineyard many moons ago. The only old friends I didn’t see on this trip were Stanley and Jill Nelson but I’m sure they’re busy writing and filmmaking somewhere.
In the daytime, there is no escaping a little Vineyard shopping along Circuit Avenue, where you can run into Angie Brown Johnson or Karen Wilkenson, who continues to teach belly dancing in the morning in Tuckernuck Park. Our evenings were spent taking leisurely walks along Circuit Avenue, where we each got our favorite flavor of ice cream cone, and were then off to the races at the Flying Horses Carousel, where riders upon the antique horses get a chance to grab the brass ring as they go around and around. We barely missed grabbing the brass ring, but that was okay because we had a golden time.
Until next time … kisses.