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Rock 'N Soul: Dance Times Square Fall Student Showcase

by Tonya Plank
October 22, 2007
Kaye Playhouse
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
(212) 772-4448
www.TonyaPlank.com

See Robert Abrams' review
The theme of this fall's Dance Times Square student showcase, which the Latin Ballroom studio puts on biannually, was "Rock 'N Soul," that is, Latin and Ballroom dance set to classic rock music and Motown soul. Eighteen brave, enthusiastic, hard-working students, of all ages and at various levels of training, took to the stage in a series of duets danced with their professional instructors to pop music from the past 50 years by artists ranging from Marvin Gaye to Tina Turner to Queen.

It is impossible to judge students, since many are new and learning to dance as adults – a very difficult endeavor, but one highlight to me was the pre-professional duo, Austin Joson and Liza Lakovitsky. Mr. Joson, age 11, and Ms. Lakovitsky, 12, are coached at the studio by former Latin champion Vibeke Toft, have won pre-teen championships in both Latin and Standard Ballroom, and have been featured in the PBS special, "America's Ballroom Challenge." They danced a lovely Foxtrot, an adorable Rumba, to the Beatles' "Come Together" (adorable because of their youth), and a cute little Jive to Jim Croce's "Don't Mess Around With Jim." The two, both technically excellent dancers for their ages, are beginning to develop better performance skills, honing their acting and artistry. Mr. Joson in particular, who seems rather shy, did very well with a sweet hip-swaying solo he was given at the beginning of their Rumba and some rolling-up-the-sleeves bravado posturing at the start of their jive. Ms. Lakovitsky is quite a bit taller than Mr. Joson, leading to a slight bit of awkwardness in his ability to lead properly, but as they both mature, Mr. Joson will surely catch up. This is a couple to be watching for as they blossom into the junior competitive division.

Also standing out to me among the amateurs was advanced student Susan Washburn's dance with instructor Michael Choi to "You'll Lose a Good Thing." Washburn danced barefoot, in a light, lyrical style that did not fit within any of the basic ballroom dances but which the program notes describe as "Modern Ballroom." It was lovely and balletic (though Ms. Washburn needs to remember to keep her feet slightly turned out – the only flaw I noticed), and it is nice to see something a little out of the ordinary once in a while. Kudos to Ms. Washburn for trying something new and to Mr. Choi for letting her.

As always, sprinkled throughout the amateur / professional showcases are spotlights by professional couples. Highlights in this category were most definitely Jose DeCamps and Joanna Zacharewics, the recently crowned national American Rhythm champions. They danced twice: first a fast fun Swing, and second a wild and crazy Cha Cha. Another professional high point was a Samba by long-time Dance Times Square instructor Jacob Jason and his new partner, Tess Murphy, who recently turned professional. Ms. Murphy has been a ballet dancer for several years, studying with the Joffrey Ballet, and shifted over to Latin about a year ago. Her ballet background enables her to be a beautiful mover, with a lot of grace, flexibility, and precision. She has been doing very well in amateur competitions, with Mr. Jason as her partner; it will be interesting to see now where the pair goes professionally.

Overall it was a fun evening full of flavorful routines choreographed specifically for each student's strengths and level of ability. These performances are unique to Dance Times Square. While other studios hold student showcases inside their studios during weekend parties, Dance Times Square actually organizes them into a full, two-hour show, and puts them on a stage, in a several-hundred-seat theater, before an actual audience. This allows adult students the fulfilling experience of being able to perform in a real theater, one they otherwise may not be able to have. Obviously, the student performances are not the same polished and technically superb quality as those of the professionals, and those who go with that expectation will be disappointed. Rather, the value of being a spectator at these showcases is akin to that of watching the hit television show "Dancing With the Stars": you, as an audience member applaud the concerted efforts of those who have a serious goal and are working very hard to achieve it, creating fun and beauty in the meantime. Plus, you get to see excellent professional dancing! For more information on the studio or their future showcases, visit their website, at www.dancetimessquare.com, or call 212-994-9500.
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