BAR HARBOR — Surrounded by a powder blue ocean and soft rose sky at sunrise Saturday, 20 early risers ventured to the Cadillac Mountain summit, joining dancer Dianne Eno in celebrating the dawning of a new day.
Adorned in flowing dresses, Eno and fellow dancer Tsuio Juan Kowzun lay still on a granite rock with an orange-red fireball rising behind them. The dancers rocked gently to sounds of American Indian-inspired music, extending one arm and then their entire bodies, silhouetted against the lightening sky, in a performance called “The Awakening.”
As a participant in Acadia National Park’s fifth annual artist-in-residence program, Eno performed three dances Saturday in the wild at various park locations, completing her project for a National Park Service-sponsored program.
Eno, who in 1983 founded a modern dance company now called Dianne Eno/Fusion Danceworks based in Keene, N.H., and New York City, was selected from about 40 applicants to participate in this year’s program, according to program coordinator Shirley Beccue.
Professional writers, composers and visual and performing artists participating in the program donate a piece of work to the park collection and are asked to participate in an offering with the public.
Integral to Eno’s artist-in-residence study and her Saturday performances is her mission to increase public awareness of people’s relationship to nature and getting them to feel more connected to the Earth.
Dancing outdoors helps nurture that relationship for Eno and her audiences. Her dance company’s annual performances on the rocky summit of Mount Monadnock in Jaffrey, N.H., have drawn up to 1,000 spectators.
“Find as many ways to connect with the Earth as you possibly can. … It’s essential to our health in every way, physically, spiritually, psychologically,” Eno advised.
In the 5 a.m. performance, Eno praised the coming of a new day through movement, poetry and American Indian sign language, relating creatively to the natural world around her. Through movement, music and sign language, Eno seeks to introduce audiences to “contemporary ceremony” and what she calls a new level of perceiving humans’ relationship to the natural world.
As an artist-in-residence, Eno lived in housing provided by the park for two weeks this winter, during which she combed Mount Desert Island for sites to hold her performances.
“I scoured the whole park and had to choose three [sites] out of about 100,” she said.
The summit of Cadillac Mountain provided a fitting location for her “awakening” performance, since the mountaintop is recognized as one of the first places on the Eastern Seaboard to receive the morning sun.
Dancing atop Cadillac at sunrise was a first for Eno who, barefoot and lightly clad, danced half of the show in silence, since the cool morning temperatures froze the portable stereo.
The technical surprise did not appear to faze the bundled-up audience. A Bar Harbor woman said she was moved to tears by the performance. Another Bar Harbor resident, Steve Perrin, said, “I think it’s great that people come out and celebrate people and nature.”
“You should come and do it every morning,” he enthusiastically told Eno after the performance.
In a flawless midday show called “Spirits of the Wood” at the Pretty Marsh picnic area, Eno and her dance partner fancifully imitated forest animals and wove the dance around a seaside landscape of gnarled roots, tall trees and rocks. Eno dedicated part of the dance to a friend and teacher from the Ojibwa tribe who passed away two weeks ago.
Beccue said the artist-in-residence program was founded in part to recognize that some of the country’s great artists and writers were the first to record the nation’s visual beauty, which “awakened us to what treasures we have,” Beccue said.
“All these artists love what they are doing … and their enthusiasm rubs off on other people,” Beccue said.