Portrait of Zena - A Birthday party and benefit for Zena Rommett and her Floor-Barre Technique
Report and photos by Robert Abrams
May 19, 2002 was a special day, at least if you were lucky enough to attend the birthday party for Zena Rommett. The evening was a benefit for the Zena Rommett Dance Foundation, which promotes Zena's Floor-Barre Technique.
The floor-barre technique is designed to improve ballet dancers' turnout by using the floor to properly position the hip in its socket. This works partly by using the floor as support, in contrast to traditional exercises done standing at the barre. The technique is not just for dancers. Even pharmacists can use the technique to improve their strength. To find out more about the technique, go to www.floor-barre.org or call 212-633-0352. They have recently released several instructional videos you might want to consider purchasing.
The event took place at Steps on Broadway. The space was light and airy, with a view of one of New York's finer old-style apartment buildings out of the window.
The initial reception, and some of the performances, were accompanied by the swinging sounds of the Frank Owens Trio. The evening's MC was Mercedes Ellington.
Glen A. Sims and Linda Celeste Sims performed Latisse, a dance choreographed by Max Luna III. Glen and Linda dance with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Their performance was slow and smoldering, yet accented.
Venus Hall, also a professional dancer, gave a moving tribute to Zena. She talked about how Zena's teaching added quality to her existing passion as a dancer, and how, with Zena's help, she was able to recover from an injury much faster than she thought would be possible.
Donlin Foreman of Buglisi/Foreman Dance performed The Place in Question. This dance was choreographed by Donlin Forman with music by Johannes Brahms and costumes by A. Christina Gianinni. I thought Mr. Foreman presented a superb portrayal of a person with an anxiety disorder who is trying to get through the day with grace. As with most non-narrative dance, what one sees in the performance is as much a reflection of the viewer's experience as of the dancer's experience. To me, the bouts of shaking followed by smooth passages seemed to be an accurate representation of a person wracked by doubt who at the same time knows that he is capable of finding a way through it. Even if Mr. Foreman were to tell me the piece was about epilepsy, or the crisis of the British Railtrack system, or about nothing at all, I would stand by my interpretation.
Kent Drake sang two songs with smooth Sinatra-like vocals.
Gabrielle Takacs and Andrew Winett presented a Rumba. Here I thought I was coming to a ballet and modern dance-centric event only to find myself right at home not only with ballroom, but with ballroom people I know. Andrew and Gabrielle were as passionate as the last time I saw them (See our previous article on Dance Times Square.).
Dana Moore and Eugene Fleming performed "Dancing Dan, Me and My Shadow" from Bob Fosse's 1986 musical "Big Deal", with music by Dave Dreyer and Al Jolson and lyrics by Billy Rose. Dana and Eugene were mu suave broadway style.
Bill McKinley sang two songs, including some pretty good scat - or as Mercedes Ellington complimented, "Not bad for a white boy."
Vicktoriya Drubetskaya and Jose DeCamps performed the Mambo. They recently have become world champions in Mambo. Their performance was proof enough. It also demonstrated that when ballroom is done at a high enough level, and when the performance plays to ballroom's strength of partnership, ballroom dance can hold its own against other forms of dance as performance.
All in all, it was an inspiring show for a worthwhile cause. Here's wishing Zena another candle and another satisfied student.