by Adele Jones

The Hudson Valley Philharmonic will present the world premieres of two symphonic works by composer and folklorist Bill Vanaver on Saturday, March 31, at 8 p.m. at Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) in Kingston, NY. Mr. Vanaver’s “The Earth Will Have its Own” and “The Ballad of Polly Vaughn” will feature performances by The Vanaver Caravan Dancers, choreographed by Livia Vanaver.

The evening, titled RUSSIAN CARAVAN, also including works by Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky, is part of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic’s (HVP) current subscription series. This concert celebrates the 40th anniversary of The Vanaver Caravan, a professional touring company and Hudson Valley cultural treasure. Preceding the concert is a gala dinner at 5:30 p.m. at Frank Guido’s and a pre-​​concert talk at UPAC at 7 p.m.

Both “The Earth Will Have its Own” and “The Ballad of Polly Vaughn” were commissioned by the HVP. “The Earth Will Have its Own” is an expanded orchestration of a former work by Bill Vanaver. It is based on a Georgian legend with music from the Caucasus region of south-​​eastern Russia. “The Ballad of Polly Vaughn” is a symphonic work inspired by the music of Appalachian Mountains. The choreography by Livia Vanaver features a circle of dancers around the 60-​​member orchestra, an artistic feat rarely-​​seen on any stage.

In addition to The Vanaver Caravan, the HVP will be joined on-​​stage by Bill Vanaver on banjo and vocalist Molly Andrews, as well as members of the Vassar Choir. Featured dancers include Ryoko Kudo (of the Jose Limon Dance company) and Gwyneth Larsen (of AiRealistic and currently in the cast of the off-​​Broadway production Fuerzabruta).

Sinhalese Devil Dance

Sinhalese Devil Dance (Photo © Lois Greenfield)

Founded by Bill and Livia Vanaver, The Vanaver Caravan synthesizes world cultural traditions with modern dance and music to foster peace and community. In celebration of the Caravan’s 40th year, a gala benefit dinner will take place at Frank Guido’s Little Italy at 5:30 p.m., prior to the HVP concert. The dinner will be chaired by world-​​renowned singer-​​songwriter Natalie Merchant. The Gala will honor the life work of Nora Guthrie, daughter of legendary American folk musician Woody Guthrie and the overseer of the Woody Guthrie Foundation in New York City.

Isabel Cottingham

Isabel Cottingham (Photos © Lois Greenfield)


Ms. Guthrie’s association with The Vanaver Caravan goes back exactly 40 years when, in 1972, Ms. Guthrie danced in the Caravan’s first public performance. Since then, Ms. Guthrie has not only been a staunch supporter of the Caravan but also an inspiration, making possible the production of one of the Caravan’s most successful works: Pastures of Plenty, a choreographic and musical tribute to Woody Guthrie.


Tchaikovsky, Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32

Bill Vanaver, The Earth Will Have its Own with The Vanaver Caravan Dancers and members of the Vassar Choir

Bill Vanaver, Ballad of Poly Vaughn with The Vanaver Caravan Dancers and members of the Vassar Choir

Prokofiev, Alexander Nevsky, Op. 78 with the Vassar Choir, Cappella Festiva, Kairos and members of Ulster Choral Society and Camerata Chorale

CONCERT TICKETS, $26 to $48, based upon seating location.
In person at the Bardavon Box Office, 35 Market Street, Poughkeepsie, 845.473.2072 or at the UPAC Box Office, 601 Broadway Kingston, 845.339.6088.

GALA TICKETS, $125 including dinner and concert (RSVP by March 24, 2012)
By phone available directly from Mark Sommers at 845 – 633-​​103, or online at www​.vanavercaravan​.org.

Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) is located at 601 Broadway in Kingston, NY

Frank Guido’s Little Italy is located at 14 Thomas St, Kingston, NY 12402 (2 blocks from UPAC)

Vigalante Man

Vigalante Man (Photo © Lois Greenfield)


BILL VANAVER, Well known musician and symphonic composer has been playing to audiences throughout the world for the past 50 years. He is known for his stellar instrumental work on 5 string banjo as well a myriad of other folk instruments. With his vast knowledge of traditional song and musical styles, he has enlivened audiences for over 50 years at such venues as the Newport and the Philadelphia Folk Festivals. Bill Vanaver has taught “World Dance and Music” at Bard and Skidmore Colleges.

Senegalese "Mama" Spirit Dance

Senegalese “Mama” Spirit Dance (Photo © Lois Greenfield)

, For the past 40 years Livia has been traveling throughout the U.S. and abroad with her musician/​composer husband Bill Vanaver and Company of dancers and musicians, collecting and performing traditional dance and music from many cultures utilizing traditional sources in the creation of original works and presenting them for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Ms. Vanaver holds a BFA in Dance from NYU School of the Arts (Tisch). From 1966 – 72 Livia was a member of Hebraica at the 92nd Street Y directed by her mentor, Fred Berk. She worked closely for many years with the late Jane Sherman, former Denishawn Dancer, recreating 10 of the dances of Ruth St Denis and Ted Shawn for The Vanaver Caravan. Livia currently performs 3 of Ruth St. Denis’ solos on a touring program, Mystic Immortals. She is also on the faculty of the Academy for the Love of Learning and teaches dance at Columbia University in the Graduate Theater Program.

Recently, Livia and Bill have been honored with several prestigious awards including: the Association of Teaching Artist Distinguished Service to the Arts in Education, 2008; The Eisteddfod Award, 2007, for years of dedication and service to the practice and dissemination of traditional folk song, music and dance; and the Art Times Cultural Achievement Award for enriching the quality of life through the arts. Livia and Bill are committed to creating community through the vehicle of dance and music.

Fode Sissoka with Kora

Fode Sissoka with Kora (Photo © Lois Greenfield)

THE VANAVER CARAVAN was established in 1972 by musician/​composer Bill Vanaver and dancer/​choreographer Livia Drapkin Vanaver. Their love for the world’s diverse cultures and commitment to their art as well as to peace among nations, continue to inspire artists, students, teachers and audiences daily. Their down-​​home, high-​​spirited performances have moved audiences throughout the U.S., Europe and North Africa. Over the years, The Vanaver Caravan has toured abroad extensively, performing at festivals, in theaters and arts centers in France, England, Scotland, Belgium and Germany and for the U.S. State Department in Greece, Italy, Tunisia and Cyprus.

Appearances at major festivals include: Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the Smithsonian American Folklife Festival, the Biennale de la Danse in Lyon, France; the Rudolfstadt Festival in Germany, Harbourfront in Toronto, and the Sidmouth International Festival in England.

From the percussive Appalachian clog dancing featured in their “Pastures of Plenty” tribute to songwriter Woody Guthrie, to the Caravan’s new world dance & music show, “EarthBeat!” to reconstructions of works by modern dance pioneers Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis, to original choreography by Livia, with full orchestral accompaniment composed by Bill, The Vanaver Caravan weaves tapestries of dance and music with effortless skill and precision.

The Caravan has worked on many socially oriented projects since their inception. Some of the more recent include a collaboration with Friendship Ambassador’s Foundation (FAF), which brought the Company to work at the Balkan Peace and Reconciliation Conference in Romania and Bulgaria. In 2002 the Caravan collaborated with FAF to create an arts and healing program for families of victims of 9/​11.

The Vanaver Caravan has also pioneered in-​​depth arts education programs throughout the U.S. for both public and private schools, often creating a curriculum in conjunction with teachers and administrators. They offer imaginative workshops, a Dance Institute and SummerDance! intensive program. Equally at home in a symphony hall, an outdoor festival, in the classroom, school assembly, or at a conference, The Vanaver Caravan has captivated audiences worldwide with its celebration of American and International dance and music.

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