24 Oct 2005
That's Entertainment! Career Transition for Dancers 20th Anniversary Jubilee
Career Transition for Dancers 20th Anniversary Jubilee
Honoring: The Harkness Foundation for Dance
The Joffrey Ballet and Artistic Director, Gerald Arpino
Lewis S. Ranieri
City Center, NYC
Presented by Rolex
Produced and Directed by Anne Marie DeAngelo
Executive Producer, Alexander J. Dubé
Script by Deborah Grace Winer
Music Director, Robert Mikulski
Lighting Designer, Brad Fields
Production Stage Manager, Lori Rosecrans Wekselblatt
Press Representatives, KPM Associates,
Kevin P. McAnarney and Grant Lindsey
Gala Coordinator, Gary Tigner
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 24, 2005
(See Shall We Dance? Review, October 21, 2002, Gotta Dance! Review, October 27, 2003, and Dancing on Air Review, October 25, 2004.)
Rolex and the passionate and sometimes overly casual Liza Minnelli hosted this always ravishing, always unpredictable annual event that benefits Career Transition for Dancers, and the accolades for this organization, that assists dancers during illness, retirement, or career change, were abundant. Guest speakers and honorees included Donald Saddler, Jerry Mitchell, Lewis S. Ranieri (financier and arts paton), Sandy Duncan, Marge Champion (for Harkness Foundation for Dance Award), Mercedes Ellington, Cynthia Gregory, Ben Vereen, Karen Ziemba, Patricia J. Kennedy, Malcolm McDowell, and Gerald Arpino, Artistic Director of the Joffrey Ballet (for Joffrey Ballet Award). Some speakers seemed better prepared for the scripted or unscripted remarks, and in future events I would recommend keeping these speeches to a rapid minimum. Perhaps bringing them out in small groups to each read or recite something brief would be one option.
For the opening number, music by Yanni, the World Cup Shooting Stars All Star Cheerleading and then Jessica Howard of ABT Studio Company entertained with gravity-defying acrobatics, bodies tossing and twirling and somersaulting, and the City Center Gala audience in fall eveningwear seemed energized and enthused. My least favorite of tonight's repertoire was the second work, a mockery of Martha Graham in drag, with Richard Move listing Ms. Graham's technical and stylistic hallmarks, aided by BalletNY, Mary Thomas, Tom Forster, and Denise Vale. I have personally reviewed and interviewed Graham leaders and dancers and found this drag concept offensive and ill-conceived.
However, the cynical mood shifted significantly with Petipa's Paquita Pas de Deux, performed by the ever charismatic and virtuosic ABT duo of Paloma Herrera and Jose Manuel Carreño. Their interpretation of this pas de deux has been reviewed previously in this magazine, and tonight they were even outsized in the male bravura leaps and spins and his carrying and twisting of Ms. Herrera en air, while rapidly moving about the stage. Irving Berlin's Stepping Out with My Baby never looked or sounded better, as Broadway dancers, Sean Martin Hingston partnering Nancy Lemenager, and Andy Blankenbuehler partnering Mary Ann Lamb, were joined onstage by vocalist Will Chase. This ballroom flourish satisfied everyone, with grace, elegance, and pizzazz.
Next, there were three duo performances of athleticism and breathless entertainment. First, switching to Godfather's Theme, Virgile Peyramaure and Andrey Mantchev of Big Apple Circus performed some head stands and feats of strength with Mafia-styled suits and attitude. Fling, the second daredevil drama, was danced by Sara Joel and Kevin Gibbs of Cirque du Soleil, in scant apparel, to music by Jean-Francois Blais. But, it was the third duo dynamos, Yasmine Lee and Steven Marshall of MOMIX, in Millenium Skiva, who brought City Center to attention. On skis, in silver bodysuits, both dancers lean forward, back, and even jump and spin, never losing balance or timing. This work must be experienced first hand.
An ensemble of young tap dancers, Jason Samuels Smith & Friends, further enhanced the energy in the hall, and in solos, duos, and full ensemble, they tapped away to All the Things You Are. Urban Anatomy then created some hip-hop hype, choreographed by Stephan "Mr. Wiggles" Clemente and Robin Dunn, danced by Clemente, Crazy Legs, Jazzy J. Stretch, and the Ensemble. It's not often that a ballet crowd gets to see live hip-hop, except in the park, and this segment was actually riveting. Desmond Richardson was a natural next event, as he danced Showman's Groove, choreographed by Dwight Rhoden, to represent his company, Complexions.
Rightfully, it was the Joffrey Ballet that seemed to highlight the evening, following Gerald Arpino's reverie about the Joffrey's former days in this same City Center and about Robert Joffrey, himself, and Maia Wilkins and Willy Shives danced the romantic and rapturous Ruth, Ricordi per Due, choreographed just one year ago by Mr. Arpino. Albioni's Adagio in G minor for organ and strings generated a nurturing and nuanced ambiance. Just as the evening seemed to wind down, Bebe Neuwirth and Company from Chicago arrived in dark, smoky lighting for Kander and Ebb's All That Jazz, choreographed by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse.
Finally, The Last Mambo, choreographed by Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin, music by Celia Cruz and Tito Puente, brought an ensemble of dancers in clavé rhythm for a rousing, rambunctious finale. Kudos to Career Transitions for Dancers and the team of the best of the best, who contributed to this 20th Anniversary Jubilee.
Dr. Roberta E. Ziokower