Like many teachers, Susan Murphy is intimately connected to the lives of her students and former students. The owner and director of the Marsh Studio in Darien has stayed in touch with Canopy’s Repertory Company, the Athens-based studio she founded in 2002, as well as the aerial artists it produced.
Many of those original students and performers are still involved today, more than 15 years later. Their expertise varies and includes dance trapeze, rope, aerial silks, lyra and other apparatus.
Since Murphy and her husband relocated to Darien in 2009, she has invited the artists in the company to perform for local audiences. The popular shows always draw a crowd, offering unique and awe-inspiring routines. This year will be no different as Murphy, once again, opens her studio for the fifth Canopy Reunion.
And while it will be a return visit, she knows the show itself will be entirely unique.
“One thing I know from being close to the Repertory Co. for 15 years is that they are always exploring new apparatus and novel ways to interact with the apparatus, as well as bringing in a huge variety of music choices,” she said.
“(Performers) Rabun and James are working on a new apparatus as a new couple ... the steel circular lyra. They are finding quite the challenge moving in a circle together instead of the familiar circus trapeze.”
Canopy Reunion V at the Marsh Studio will be held at 5 p.m. May 18 at 1258 Blue Heron Lane, Darien. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. There will be a golf cart providing transportation from the parking area to the studio. Reservations are available online at www.themarshstudio.com, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 912-437-3755.
Like the lyra performance, ticket holders will find the other pieces to be new and varied. For instance, Ashley Travieso will offer an aerial-based rope dance, which combines fierceness and tenderness. Maize Bowen and MJ Hammes will explore science fiction and electronic music, inspired by the book and film, “Annihilation,” while Ann Lily-Woodruff is returning with an important ecologically themed routine.
“Ann is bringing back a solo that she created in a time of great change in her life. The piece represented a glacier — slow moving heavy ice which scraped up mountains and valleys underneath. With rapid warming, the shifting of the ice moves into the ocean. What will become exposed when the ice retreats? Diversity. These dancers have it,” Murphy said.
And while Murphy has watched their skills grow, she has also helped walk many through trying times in their lives. It’s why these particular performances hold such personal meaning for her.
“They call me their ‘dance mama’ and I guess that’s an apt description. Through many phases in Canopy’s life and their individual lives I have been witness. Births, deaths, divorces, marriages, children starting in pre-school and now entering college, alliances formed and broken and reformed…the human drama of living in community with each other creates a bond with these dancers that is rich, deep and lasting,” Murphy said.
“Every year some of the same performers come back and new ones, who recently joined the company, enter the tradition of driving down from the bustle of Athens and along our sandy road, by the pond, into the marsh vista to be with me, each other and sharing their artistry with our community. They take a deep breath, feel the breeze and know this to be, also, home.”
That’s certainly how it’s come to feel for current Canopy director Melissa Roberts. Since bringing the group to the coast for nearly 10 years, it has become a special part of the company’s annual agenda.
“Our performers love to visit with Susan and Don, who are truly our aerial parents, and be able to relax and enjoy the incredible natural beauty of this place. This remote and relatively untouched area is a treasure,” Roberts said.
“We all love the opportunity to take it in when we visit. And to be with Susan, for all of us, it’s almost like coming home. There’s no place like it. We look forward to it every year.”