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In the News > Dance Benefit Leaves Crowd Speechless

Fund-raiser for hoofers facing career transitions crackled with skill, enthusiasm, diversity
27 Oct 2005

Dance Benefit Leaves Crowd Speechless Fund-raiser for hoofers facing career transitions crackled with skill, enthusiasm, diversity By MICHAEL J. FRESSOLA Published: October 27, 2005 Put the fearfully flexible World Cup Shooting Star cheerleaders into a production number with American Ballet Theater apprentices and hip-hop soloist Mr. Wiggles, and what do you get? The other night at City Center, you got an acrobatic, streetwise, semi-classical free-for-all that crackled with skill and enthusiasm. It was the perfect opening for the annual Career Transition for Dancers (CTFD) gala. Even Liza Minnelli, not often speechless, was awestuck. Miss Minnelli hosted the gala, a fund-raiser for CTFD, a bi-coastal non-profit service agency that helps retired dancers develop new livelihoods. Now in its 20th year, CTFD has assisted thousands of ex-dancers with millions of dollars worth of counseling and scholarships. Of course, with such an unimpeachable mission, CTFD has no trouble getting high-profile performers and presenters. ABT's Paloma Herrera and Jose Manuel Carreno danced their "Paquita" pas de deux. Bebe Neuwirth brought down the house with an "All That Jazz" turn. Cirque de Soleil and Momix had moments, as did soloist Desmond Richardson, Crazy Legs and Rock Steady (a hip hop collective). Even the unsinkable Sandy Duncan got laughs when she recalled growing up in rural Texas, where traveling carnivals were the only dance venues. Curiously, dancer/impersonator Richard Move, who impersonates Martha Graham, didn't get the delerious reaction he usually scores from industry insiders. "Apparently," observed a longtime intimate of Miss Graham's during Move's routine, "some people think this is sacrilege. But Martha probably would have roared!" The evening's honorees were ABT board chairman Lew Raineri, the Harkness Foundation for Dance and Gerald Arpino, the ex-West Brighton resident who co-founded the Joffrey Ballet. It had to be a bittersweet occasion for the 80-year-old choreographer. The Joffrey was once headquarted in New York City at City Center. But fiscal restraints and the city's inability to sustain three big ballet companies (ABT and New York City Ballet being the other two) sent the company out West years ago. It has been happily ensconced in Chicago for more than a decade. Still, Arpino seemed touched. "I cannot tell you how good it is to be here with all of you," he said, beaming. For the occasion, two of his dancers, Maia Wilkins and Willy Shives, danced "Ruth, Ricordi Per Due," a duet he made two years ago. Soft and romantic, it's done to Albioni's religiously resonant Adagio in G minor for organ and strings. New York dance fans will probably get another look at it when Arpino and company fly in next year for a long-awaited homecoming run at City Center. Michael J. Fressola is the arts editor for the Advance. He may be reached at fressola@siadvance.com. Reprinted in its entirety from the Staten Island Advance.

Micheal J. Fressola