Photos by Rob Strong
Sheepdog trials occur rain or shine, and so, in that spirit, the world premiere of Doggie Hamlet took place Thursday, June 29, on the Dartmouth Green, despite skies that went from threatening to pouring. Hardy audience members with raincoats, boots and umbrellas thronged the perimeter of the fenced-in area on the north half of the Green that was the stage for this unusual work by world-renowned choreographer Ann Carlson. All ages also enjoyed a “Sheep Station” of wool-related activities offered elsewhere on the Green, with the help of the Dartmouth Office of Sustainability and the Upper Valley nonprofit, Vital Communities.
A meditative, largely wordless spectacle, Doggie Hamlet weaves together dance, theater and the eloquent art of sheepherding by trained sheepdogs. Five humans, two dozen sheep and several dogs collaborate on choreography composed of everyday movement and the herd’s swoops and flourishes against the green backdrop. Known for award-winning, one-of-kind works in unconventional settings, Carlson here is freely inspired by David Wroblewski’s best-selling 2008 novel The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Kipling’s The Jungle Book.
Doggie Hamlet was developed in part in a residency at Vermont Performance Lab, which presented a preview of the work in September 2016. After the Hop premiere of the completed work, performances are being planned for Jackson Hole, Wyo.; Philadelphia; Los Angeles; and possibly New York City. The work was selected for funding by New England Foundation for the Art’s National Dance Project (2015) and Creative Capital’s Map Fund (2014).