It all begins with the drum circle. At first it’s just a few folks sitting behind their drums, striking the beat ever so softly. But the scene is being set at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs and quickly it begins to build as the audience streams in, no need for money or tickets, not on this night.

The drums pick up the tempo, the sound deepens and begins to fill the space. Dancers who were casually stretching, talking and moving about the floor, begin to converge on the circle. The energy quickens, the balcony is filled now. Others watch from the wings or listen from the steps outside.

The drums get louder, the beat faster; the dancers stomp their feet, raise their hands, and the sound pushes past the ears, past the head, to that place deep inside where music and movement live, no matter how young or old or fresh or tired. It is as if a new set of batteries have been acquired, and suddenly you are about to stand and dance and drum and sing when, poof!, it all stops.

Then the show really starts: Built on Stilts, summer of 2012.

Beginning in 1997 and not missing a summer, Built on Stilts resuscitates August on the Vineyard by arriving free-of-charge for a two-week dance free-for-all at Union Chapel. The show is dedicated to dance in all forms, from tap to tango to modern to hula hooping. It features a mix of Islanders and professionals, and every night is a different performance. And, once again, it is free.

The festival started last night and continues tonight, Saturday and Sunday and resumes next week on August 18 to 21.

For more information, visit Better yet, head out to the show. Union Chapel is located, oh, never mind, just cast an ear to the wind, listen for the drums and follow the crowd through the streets of Oak Bluffs. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m.