Entries Tagged 'Dance' ↓

A Dancer’s Life

While it is easy to appreciate the beauty and artistry of dance, what often gets overlooked is the hard life they face as performers. Modest income, physical injuries and uncertain career paths all come with the territory. Now, a group with experience helping members of the show business profession is lending a hand.

The Actors Fund has a program specifically geared toward the dance community, called The Dancers’ Resource. The program addresses the unique situations dancers face because of the physically demanding nature of their work coupled with the significant financial challenges of earning a living in dance.

The Dancers’ Resource has seminars specifically designed for dancers, serves as a “support system” and offers groups for dancers dealing with injuries or other health concerns. The Dancers’ Resource will have an online component, to link dancers’ to additional resources and create an online community. The program will also address mental health issues including eating disorders, substance abuse, depression and other clinical areas.

The Dancers’ Resource program was founded by Actors Fund Trustee Bebe Neuwirth and grew out of her personal experience as a dancer.

“Last year I had hip replacement surgery,” said Neuwirth. “It came after several years of physical therapy, arthroscopic surgery, and excruciating pain. Add to that the emotional stress of not being able to dance and not wanting people to know about my condition – and I think you understand what that prison is like. After the replacement I recognized how extremely lucky I was to have a great doctor and great support from the few people with whom I shared my secret. And so I’d like to create a support system for other dancers.”

The Dancers’ Resource is just one of dozens of lifesaving programs provided by The Actors Fund. (Years ago, when I needed to make the transition out of a full-time acting career, I was helped tremendously by the Fund’s Actors Work Program.) From the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic, AIDS services and the Health Insurance Resource Center to employment training, healthcare and housing, The Actors Fund is meeting the very real needs of the performing arts and entertainment community.

Dancing with the Future Stars

Some of the finest up and coming talent from three of America’s best-known dance companies are getting their chance to shine over the next two weeks. The Joyce Theater here in New York is hosting its 1.2.3. Festival through May 11, featuring on alternate nights ABT II, Taylor 2 and Ailey II, the second companies, respectively, of the American Ballet Theater, Paul Taylor Dance Company and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

While the dancers in these junior companies are younger and less well-known—at least for now—their enthusiasm and near boundless energy more than compensates for a lack of experience.

Last Wednesday night, Ailey II presented four new works that collectively centered around connections: individuals to groups, two people to each other and connections we make to ourselves.

External Knot, choreographed by Ailey II Associate Artistic Director Troy Powell, plays upon themes any New Yorker can relate to, that feeling of alienation from others. While four couples dance together, one man dances alone, in and out of synch with the others. In smaller groupings and pairs, the couples also seem less than harmonious, suggesting the ways in which we all accommodate each other. The piece culminates at a furious and frenetic pace with the man joining and unjoining, seemingly to meet his own needs. Jermaine Terry was the principal performer as the lone dancer.

Mind and body connections were played out in the next two pieces. Fragile, by French choreographer Stephane Boko, explored the essential relationship between our mental and physical being, while Korean choreographer Chang Yong Sung’s Requiem, centered around the concept of two minds being merged in one body. Ephraim M. Sykes and Josh Johnson danced a duet in the latter, as mirror images or Siamese twins as they merged, thrashing about as if disoriented and lost when they danced solo.

When Dawn Comes…, by former AAADT member Christopher L. Huggins, posits an uncertain tomorrow, as viewed through the eyes of four women. Paired with four indifferent male counterparts, they are desperate to cling to someone until this dependence proves unwise. Towards the end, their dancing is fluid, smooth and confident. Rosita Adamo, Aisha Mitchell, Rachael McLaren and Dominique O. Rosales bring in the dawn with brilliant sunlight.

Ailey II will have three more performances as part of the festival, Sunday, May 4 at 2 pm; Wednesday, May 7 at 7:30 pm and Thursday, May 8 at 8 pm. A post-performance discussion with company members follows the Wednesday night show.

My Favorite Dance Company

The Garth Fagan Dance company is in New York this week, performing two different programs at The Joyce Theater in Chelsea now through November 11. Thursday night, they performed four pieces, including a world premiere, and true to form, they didn’t disappoint.

An unexplained technical difficulty caused re-ordering of the night’s scheduled program. The second piece, an excerpt from Senku called Talking Drums, was performed first and highlighted the many, delightful talents of the always impressive Guy Thorne who danced alone accompanied by a piano solo. Senku is a Ghanian word for a keyboard instrument and Thorne put his ballet and modern dance skills to use reaching physical heights to match the musical highs and lows.

The world premiere, Edge/Joy, put the full 12 member company on display against music composed by Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon and performed live by the Eastman School of Music Ensemble. Moving fluidly in and out of small and larger groups, they exhibited moments of calm interrupted by sudden intensity.

Technical problems resolved, the opening piece was performed third. It was easy to see why they wanted to start off the evening with it. Earth Eagle First Circle was rooted in a Native American theme, with movements called Cultural Warrior, River Song, Spirit Seakers/Reservation Blues and Rest on the Run. Steve Humphrey was featured along with the full company in dances reminiscent of Indian tribal ceremonies set to a jazz/Indian score, composed and performed by Don Pullen.

The final number, Life: Dark/Light was danced in three segments, Life, Kiama (for killed in action, missing in action) and Light, had a strong Southeast Asian theme in music, dance and costume. The middle part, performed by Norwood Pennewell and Bill Ferguson, had the two in combat fatigues, in a dance of resistance to war and death. Nicolette Depass, Micha Scott, Annique Roberts and Kaori Otani were the highlights in the very colorful and graceful final movement.

Costumers Linda King, Rebecca Hodgson and Mary Nemecek Peterson, provided beautiful wardrobe that accentuated each dance throughout the evening.

Garth Fagan Dance LINK
The Joyce Theater LINK
Dance Class (November 23, 2003) LINK



The Philadelphia Dance Company, Philadanco, has swept into town for an eight show stay at The Joyce Theater, and boy do they know how to make an entrance. Donald and I took in Wednesday nights performance, which showcased a company full of highly athletic and artistic dancers, but which also specifically highlighted the talents of their Black male members.

The troupe performed six works in all, focusing on pieces choreographed and/or performed by members past and present. Notable among the performances was a solo piece, Sweet in the Morning, danced that evening by alumni guest dancer Antonio Sisk. With a bare stage except for a single wooden bench, and a lighting design to evoke an early morning glow, Sisk used his long, agile frame to twist, turn, dance with, on, over, around and under the bench as if to rise to meet the new day.

But the major focus of the evening came after intermission with three works collectively titled, WE TOO DANCEAfrican American Men in Dance. Part one, Back to Bach, featured seven of the men displaying strong and vivid ballet movements to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. A Place of Peace featured guest artist Christopher L. Huggins alone with three lit candles in a more modern dance representative of a search for calm and comfort amidst turbulence.

The best was saved for last however when nine of the men performed a piece choreographed by Huggins, called Blue (depicted above). Symbolizing both power and grace, beauty and masculinity and more than a little bit of eroticism, each dancer was given opportunity to display his strengths individually and collectively in moves drawn from modern, ballet, and African influences. Initially dressed in tight-fitting blue body suits with matching flowing skirts, as the piece wore on, they wore less and less, ending in mere boxer-briefs. The popular Black male fear-fantasy imagery was working to full effect, but in this context drove home the point clearly that, we too dance.

Philadanco will be at The Joyce Theater through May 23.

Dance Class

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Reading about dance is never quite as satisfying as seeing it in person. I can tell you what I saw and how impressed I was, but trust me, you really had to be there.

That is even more accurate when attempting to describe the virtuoso performances of the Garth Fagan Dance company, who just concluded a fourteen show run at the Joyce Theater in New York City.

The internationally renowned Rochester, New York-based company, now in its 33rd season, danced pieces from their illustrious past and treated audiences to the World Premiere of a new work, DanceCollageForRomie, in tribute to visual artist Romare Bearden.

Members of the Fagan troupe include dancers who were there at the beginning as well as young up-and-comers just a year into their tenure. But all of them are extraordinarily gifted and grounded in the technical aspects of various dance forms, while able to translate the singularly unique and innovative style of Garth Fagan in profound and breathtaking ways.

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Fagan draws heavily on Afro-Caribbean influences, in addition to ballet and modern, to create his own idiom, and it is a style that delights the senses.

The opening piece on the evening I saw them was from their repertory, Griot New York, which debuted in 1991 and has the company dancing to original music composed and arranged by Wynton Marsalis. The first of three segments to that piece, City Court Dance, was delightful and upbeat, colorful and rhythmic, featuring veteran member Norwood Pennewell and Nicolette Depass paired in a sort of recital-meets-dance-club set to a jazz beat, before being joined by the rest of the company. The two returned in the third set, Spring Yaounde, which was more subtle, graceful and physically demonstrative of traditional ballet.

DanceCollageForRomie evoked the feel and tone of the artist himself. Bearden worked mostly in collage and this dance was a patchwork of various images, sounds, and dance styles. In colorful costumes highlighted with quilt-like bits of fabric that collectively accented the lighting and dancers’ skin tones, they moved to music equally diverse, ranging from Dmitri Shostakovich to Villa-Lobos to “Jelly Roll” Morton. Tall and physically graceful Chris Morrison was memorable in Conjur Man, the third of three sets to the Bearden series.

The final dance, Translation Transition, first performed a year ago, gave several company members opportunity to shine. In the first of three sets to that piece, Guy Thorne, Pennewell and Depass dance. Against music by the Jazz Jamaica All Stars, Thorne, who is one of the newest members, is all swagger, sexiness and youthful bravado in modern movements. Pennewell follows with limber hips, shoulders, arms and legs that stretch in ways no one should be able but which he does with amazing dexterity. Lanky and supple Depass stretches her long arms and legs in fluid moves, reaching for the sky and holding positions for ungodly lengths of time. They were all amazing.

Garth Fagan Dance will continue to tour through the end of the year and into 2004.