Career Transition for Dancers Gala 2003
A Dance Tribute to Hollywood
Honoring Cyd Charisse, Fayard Nicholas, Donald O'Connor,
And Turner Entertainment Company
City Center, NYC
Presented by Movado
Directed by Randy Skinner
Executive Producer, Alexander J. Dubé
Produced by Caitlin Carter
Script by Deborah Grace Winer
Music Director, Robert Mikulski
Lighting Designer, Brad Fields
Event Management, Weiss Creative Group
Press Representatives, KPM Associates,
Kevin P. McAnarney and Grant Lindsey
October 27, 2003
Career Transition for Dancers (CTFD) has helped over two thousand six hundred dancers since its founding. Dance, as a profession, can be all consuming. People who have given their all to their art can find themselves facing an uncertain future when they can no longer perform full time. CTFD offers services such as workshops and counseling that help people channel their talents into the next phase of their working lives. These dancers have gone on to become respected members of many professions, including teaching and journalism. Tonight was CTFD's annual fundraiser. The audience got to hear about CTFD's work, stroll down memory lane as major contributors to the field of dance were honored, and see several great performances in a wide range of dance styles. All of the performers donated their time. City Center was sold out at least to the back of the rear mezzanine.
Herewith are a few short notes on the performances.
The National Dance Institute Celebration Team, a troupe of 23 energetic kids, performed a chorus line number. They may have been kids, but they definitely knew how to get a show started on the right foot.
The Lar Lubovitch Dance Company performed an excerpt from The Red
Shoes. The movements of each of a pair of dancers seemed to follow one after the other at times, as relationships often do. They portrayed longing using a reaching balance on one foot that was clearly readable from the rear mezzanine, as were the broad strokes of character, even if you didn't know the full story of the dance. While I would strongly recommend buying your tickets early next year to get orchestra seats, there are some advantages to being in the mezzanine, such as being able to clearly see the broad circular patterns of movement that you might miss from the orchestra, although the front of the mezanine would have been better. The excerpt ended with a ballet with ethnic dance roots that created the atmosphere of a party not to be missed.
Dancers from the New York City Ballet performed America from West Side Story. In a rare treat, the audience got to hear the NYCB dancers sing as well as dance. I thought their singing was compelling. It certainly carried to the rear mezzanine. Their singing wasn't quite as loud as in some of the other numbers this evening. This, as I found out from a reliable source, was due to technical difficulties. The dancers were supposed to have been supported by a chorus of singers in the orchestra pit, and as a result, the dancers themselves were not miked directly. The chorus' mikes didn't work properly, so the dancers had to sing unassisted. Considering that no one expects a ballet dancer to be able to project to the rear of a theatre as large as City Center, they did a great job. For that matter, no one these days expects a Broadway singer to project to the rear of a theatre without amplification either. They danced with verve and great ensemble work, as always.
Dancers from the American Ballet Theater presented the Balcony Scene from Act I of Romeo and Juliet. They were very graceful. The partnering support was emblematic of the forces drawing the characters together yet restraining them from giving in to their passion. Before the show, I had wandered around the lobby looking at the dance photos on the walls. During this number, I was glad I had done so. There was a moment in the dance where Juliet arches her back, with her hand reaching, nearly touching the floor while Romeo stands above her, providing support. I saw this moment clearly because, even though it was fleeting, it was exactly the same as that shown in a particularly striking photo.
Les Ballets Grandiva performed a comic dance in tribute to Carmen Miranda complete with bright yellow and green costumes and oversize bananas. It required willing suspension of disbelief, but as they say, that's Hollywood. And you gotta love the glitter (I'm a ballroom person myself, so as far as I am concerned, you can never have too much glitter.)
The National Dance Institute Celebration Team then performed an uninhibited Appalachian Clog Dance. They filled the space in all three dimensions.
This was followed by a Saturday Night Fever dance number with genuine hustle, great energy and impressive lifts.
The Williams Brothers performed tap dance in tails. They were elegant and upright. They performed a series of jumps to splits all the way down stage, and lived to tell the tale.
Fayard Nicholas, one of the honorees, danced The Chatanooga Choo Choo with his wife, Katherine Hopkins-Nicholas. The Nicholas Brothers invented the splits that the Williams Brothers dance today. Fayard may not jump into a split anymore, but his voice was full bodied and his ability to move his whole body belies the notion that dancers must stop dancing.
Next up was a Waltz with elegant pivot turns. One couple had the casual grace of Gene Kelly and the other had the formality of Fred Astaire. Both couples were very smooth and had great musicality. The lighting for this number was suggestive of the sound stage sequence in Singing in the Rain, possibly my favorite motion picture sequence bar none.
Cyd Charisse, one of the honorees, recounted how she had had polio as a child. Her doctor recommended exercise. She took a dance lesson, fell in love with it and the rest is a rich movie legacy. Everyone knows that Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire were contemporaries with very different dance styles. Cyd Charisse danced with them both. She recounted how if she came home from rehearsal with black and blue marks, her husband knew she had been working with Gene Kelly, but if she came home with no bruises, she had been working with Fred Astaire.
Bebe Nuewirth and Ann Reinking and supporting cast performed Big Spender in quintessential Broadway style. There was power in their stillness. Isolated movements, such as of just a hand, were punctuated by full body explosiveness.
Esther Williams presented an award to Turner Entertainment for their work preserving old films.
Lynn Redgrave introduced dancers from the Royal Ballet, who danced The Black Swan. They had precise transitions between movements and extremely graceful port de bra. They both had great balance. Alina Cojocaru performed a series of what seemed like a nearly infinite number of spins one after the other. They made demanding choreography look easy.
The finale, Hooray for Hollywood, was a brassy ensemble number with lots of tap and showy arms. The dancers were dressed in bright Technicolor outfits. It was a great ending to a talent packed evening.
More on the CTFD Gala 2003
(See CTFD Gala Reviews from 2002 by Robert Abrams and Roberta Zlokower)