Friday, November 13, 2009

Nov. 2, 2009 - City Center, New York City
Produced and Directed by Ann Marie DeAngelo
A 90 min. show

Since 2002 (except 2003) with the evening called "Shall We Dance!" - A Tribute to Richard Rodgers, I have put together the eclectic dance shows that annually raise money for Career Transition For Dancers (approx. $1 Million for this one-time event). In my role as producer and director, I choose the theme, and subsequent works to represent that theme. This year we had AMERICA DANCES! - to not only honor all aspects of dance in our culture, but to a new sense of political optimism. The press paragraph was:
America Dances! celebrates a variety of entertainment that defines our American culture – Past, Present, and Future. The diverse evening is an eclectic assimilation and fusion of styles that move from theater to concert dance, to television and film, in a vibrant homage to an array of dance genres. A film montage will present crazes and evolution of American dance. America – a mover and shaker of all times.

The evening ended up being a reflection of dance in our culture today. It opened with a Film montage to the tongue-in-cheek first song called "Everybody is Doing It", and representing a broad spectrum of our American dance through time. Produced by JoAnn Young (Ex. Producer of the upcoming Liza Minnelli PBS special) and myself, and edited by her daughter Laura Young (who edits for PBS), the montage provided an upbeat and humorous start to the show. Then Jacques D’Amboise burst out onto the stage as our first speaker, who introduced the evening with an improvised dialogue about where choreography comes from. He used the example of Balanchine creating “Stars and Stripes” for Melissa Hayden and himself in 1956. Being injured at the time he had to do steps with a flexed foot - and those steps later became the actual choreography still danced today. His intro led into Ashley Bouder and James Veyette from New York City Ballet performing a fierce version of the pas de deux from “Stars and Stripes”. This kicked-off the multi-genre collection of dances for the evening - representing roots of neo-classicism. But an even older work followed, created in 1904 by Isadora Duncan called Dance of the Furies. It was performed by Lori Bellilove and the Isadora Dance Company. With this piece - tormented and not lyric, one could see the roots of modern dance - and every creator that followed. And so, the rich theme took off delivering what it promised - diverse cross-genres styles from old roots to new innovations. Benefits mind you, are assembled based on availability of talent and those wanting to donate their time in support of a cause. The process is not at all like how an artistic director would typically put a show together creatively or production-wise.

Other pieces and excerpts of works included: an African gum boot dance choreographed by Molutsi Mogami for the by Tap City Youth Ensemble followed by the one-of-a-kind sensational Lombard Twins, tap-dancing their own inventions; Mercedes Ellington in a tongue-in-cheek number to "Dream Dancer" from Sophisticated Ladies as a tribute to Duke Ellington's 110th Anniversary; a dissonant but intriguing duet called "Cold Song" by Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and choreographed by Benoit-Swan Pouffer was an audience favorite (danced by dance artists Jason Kittelberger and Acacia Schachte). This work is characteristic of a style of what contemporary choreographers are doing today that I refer to as "fragmented acro-dance deconstructionism".
A duet from Carousel to music from the song 'If I Loved You" created by me, was danced by Tony Award nominee John Selya and ABT soloist Nicole Graniero, and captured not romantic dance (that is centuries old) but the idea of romance in dance - which seeks but does not find. To music of Richard Rodgers, the duets visceral movements and classical athleticism, was a softer moment in the midst of the swift program momentum. The work was introduced by Broadway director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall, who then spoke a bit about the influence of dance on reality TV and visa versa. The impact that reality TV will have on dance as a performing art (because it is now on a mainstream channel in our homes, not PBS) remains to be seen. On a positive note, look what it did for sports!
The other duets that were on display to carry on the concept of "romance in dance", varied in feeling and styles from a duet called The Path We Left by "So You Think You Can Dance” choreographer Sonya Tayeh. Her dancers Melody Lecayanga and William Johnston embraced it with organic modernistically primal moves; a love-hate combative dance by Mark Ecktein of the Mark Stuart Dance Theatre (a new hybrid company), to music of The Red Rooster by Sam Cooke; and an act that no one expected would bring down the house - the Kids!
Ten year old Alexandra Gutkovitch and fourteen year old John Gaylan performed a Mambo with a precision and theatrical showmanship that not only comes with experience but with a presence that few performers have today. This was actually their first public performance, and a side-note is that Marvin Hamlisch called me the next day, wanting to use them on a program at Kennedy Center. The Urban segment of the evening though a bit raw and rough around the edges, featured a young Hip Hop B-girl group called Decadancetheatre in - The City Breathing - wearing costumes that mid-way turned into lights-in-the-dark visuals as they danced their acrobatics; and, Bullettrun - the first Parkour company to perform in a black-box theater setting/venue. The Street Beats Group banging on buckets a la Stomp, closed out that segment of the show. And there you go, from high- art to low-art of the streets (where much of American dance originated before being drawn into our theaters, or commercialized) and back again.
Last but not least was an excerpt from Bob Fosse’s DANCIN’ that paid tribute to America. It was recreated by Kathryn Doby and produced and directed by David Warren Gibson. Fun to have Nicole Fosse on hand to introduced the number. When will that show make its way back to Broadway? Dance is booming now, lets take advantage ot it!

Included in the evening entertainment was a “live” band conducted by Jim Morgan; two CTFD Awards given to individuals and foundations who support dance: Lawrence Herbert and The Lloyd E. Rigler - Lawrence E. Deutsch Foundation; and the Rolex Award to Patrick Swayze, accepted by his wife Lisa. Other speakers and presenters on the program were Tony Award winner Laura Benanti, 4 time Emmy winner Valerie Harper, Tony Award winner Kiril Kulish, the one and only Desmond Richardson, Metropolitan Opera star Samuel Ramey, and former New York City Ballet and CTFD client, Jock Soto. Former dancers and CTFD clients (and who have given advice and support to dancers) also made an appearance - acknowledged on behalf of CTFD by former dancer and client, Gayle Conran. They were: Mary Barnett, Hope Clarke, James Crescent, Hans Kriefall, Krisha Marcano, Dottie Belle Meymann, and Leo Schmidt.

By the way, I have to mention that I have gotten several calls from people wanting to book talent on this program, so it seems that CTFD not only supports dances as they move out of the field - but to get work within the field as well!

THANK YOU artists one and all who participated in this event, to our sponsors, to the Chairs and CTFD Staff, DeAngelo Productions Staff, Artistic Committee and especially David Warren Gibson, who tirelessly worked for a cause more-than-worthy of supporting.

BRAVO again!

For more information on the event and CTFD programs please go to:

Partial list of companies and works (several often new for the occasion) I've produced on these events 2002 - 2009:
American Ballet Theatre
ABT Studio Company
New York City Ballet The Joffrey Ballet
San Francisco Ballet
Miami City Ballet
Dance Theatre of Harlem
Atlanta Ballet
Ballet San Jose
Ohio Ballet
Ballet de Monterrey
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
David Parsons Dance
Dancing Wheels
Peter Pucci Plus Dancers
Jennifer Muller the Works
Wylliams/Henry Dance Company
Lori Belilove & Isadora Dance Company
Cirque du Soleil
Big Apple Circus
Mark Stuart Dance Theatre
Sonya Teyah Dance
DTH’s Dancing Thru Barriors Ensemble
Lar Lubovitch Dance Company
Luna Negra Dance Theatre
Dance Times Square
The Lombard Twins
Crazy Legs & Rock Steady Crew
Mr. Wiggles from the Electric Boogaloos
Jason Samuels Smith and Friends
Twyla Tharp: Sinatra Songs and Movin’ Out duets
Balam Dance Theatre
Drum Cafe NY
Sounds of Korea
Thunderbird American Indian Dancers
Sachiyo Ito
Donny Golden Irish Dancers
Parul Shah Dance Co.
World Cup Shooting Stars/All Star Cheerleading
Alvin Ailey school with Orfeh
National Dance Institute
Rosie’s Broadway Kids
Tap City Youth Ensemble
New Jersey Tap Ensemble

Several excerpts from Broadway including:
A Chorus Line
Crazy for You
Damn Yankees
Ghost Town
Pajama Game
Sophisticated Ladies
West Side Story
42nd Street

And artists:
Debbie Allen, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Toni Basil, Laura Benanti, Marge Champion. Sandy Duncan, Christine Ebersole, Sutton Foster, James Earl Jones, Jane Krakowski, Angela Lansbruy, Bebe Neuwirth, Melissa Manchester, Malcome McDowell, Richard Move, Liza Minnelli, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Phylicia Rashad, Chita Rivera, Donald Saddler, Brooke Shields, Tommy Tune, Ben Vereen, Karen Ziemba



Deciding to join my friend, the ever innovative Joanna Haigood to go see a Tere O’Conner performance at DTW, induced a kind of self-mutilation which often permeates the type of work that comes to that venue. I got there early to purchase my ticket and was thrilled to learn that the program was only 1 hour and without intermission - all performances now-a-days should be that (or 70 min.).

It is hard for me to describe the work - never having seen his particular “style” before, but it ended up being similar to other work of that nature, and I'm not sure what that means. Before the piece started, I noticed Tere had gotten a Guggenheim grant on a quick glance at the program. I asked Joanna why both she and he had received those grants, and not me. She quickly said “Well, did you ever apply?”. No, I hadn’t. Hummm....
So, as I tried to engage in the piece the first thought that came to my mind was that I could see why Joanna got the Guggenheim, but I could not see why Tere did. My next thought was how do you pronounced his name? Do you say “Tear” like in ripping something? Or “Terrrrrr” like a dog growling only not with a “G”? I know Joanna said Terry - but then why does he spell it Tere and not Terry or Teri or Terie or something easy for people who don’t know him?

Anyway, more minutes into the work there still was little dance vocabulary being executed by the 5 undancer-like-looking dancers. Movement there was - a good thing for a dance concert - just not dance vocabulary. Even so, I immediately liked the mind behind the work, because of the element of “insanity” ever-present in it, combined with pure non-sequiturism. He is nuts I decided and that is not a bad thing - not at all. The musical collage was dissonant yet at times engaging, or not, and varied.

The two men were noticeable un-masculine, yet moved with an innately wonderful plasticity that I liked.

Memorable moments: a manege of back somersaults, frenetic whirling-dervish spinning on half-point while looking up to pointed Yoga-arms/clasped hands (well, the blond guy looked up, the other one straight is hard to look up, spinning or not, because it requires risk and a leap of faith); and some other things that I can’t remember. Also notable, the blond guy was given the most movement vocabulary which included some visceral partnering with the girl in red who early on in the piece executed Martha Graham-like Jetes around the stage.

Even though it was not torture to be sitting in the audience, the best moment of the evening was when the piece ended - I was so happy!

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