Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Halloween Thriller: Producing Art as Entertainment

Ann Marie DeAngelo & Peter Martins
     People kept asking me this year the question “Why was this the best gala/show ever”?  Then at the dinner, when Peter Martins said....”You do what no one else can do, how do you do it?” - that got me wondering....what exactly it is that I do?!

I think the show stayed true to its self-invented theme, and it had a typical DeAngelo fast-pace flow.  What I do each year in terms of eclectic programing remains the same.  My vision is a mix of styles and genres - in a marriage of the old and the new.  Because of such wide diversity and the best of the best in each form, the show is fresh. My formula takes variety to a new level by strategically arranging each piece and pinning them against each other.  Or, positioning them in an unexpected way, that creates an “element of surprise”.  The element of surprise is key to engaging audiences and to successful theater.  This formula I use whether in one of my own ballets, directing a show by someone else or in these single even evenings.  For gala shows, it starts In the selection process......the pieces are either excerpts from larger works (a Lynne Taylor-Corbett duet from Dracula); commissioned works (Mark Stuart’s to the Ne-Yo song); new innovative work (Noah Racey’s NY Song & Dance), evolutionary work (drumming and break-dance with The Street Beats Group); unexpected classics back-to-back such as National Dance Institute (NDI) in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” following a Bob Fosse number from Pippin with Bebe Neuwirth - “Magic To Do”.  Or placing the self-controlled classic of Giselle before an outrageous Lypsinka.  The novelty of Pucci's “Surfing” number was a non sequitur, after the creepy dramatic impact of Bell Witch.  And, ultimately the synthesis happens in less than 90 min. With 20 years of creating shows (as an artistic director and choreographer), it now takes place in my head (and on 100 drafts on paper).   I believe that 'amalgamation' is the choreographic voice of the future (distinct voices no longer exist).  Individual voices become more distinct when positioned together because the voice of the collective is always stronger.   My internal message stays the same: “it is only through our differences that we discover our sameness”.  

Ultimately, I CARE

Bebe Neuwirth (center)
A Halloween Thriller
Career Transition For Dancers
October 31, 2011 at City Center in NYC
Directed by Ann Marie DeAngelo

The show began with Bebe Neuwirth singing the lead in “Magic To Do” from Bob Fosse’s Pippin.  A perfect Fosse-esque opener, staged by David Warren Gibson.  This segued into NDI romping to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, choreographed by the Mary Kennedy, who did a fantastic job with 90 kids on and off stage.  

National Dance Institute
Then our illustrious host for the evening Chita Rivera, gave out the Career Transition For Dancers annual Awards, before she introduced an excerpt (last duet) from Lynne Taylor-Corbett's Dracula, that was performed by Carolina Ballet. It had just the right bite to it!   

By the way, Chita changed from the evening gown she wore in the beginning, to this costume for her last entrance and evenings "thank you's".

What would the evening be like without tap-dancing Skeletons -- who came as an interlude between Dracula and Bell Witch, in order to cover up the fact that the stage hands had to strike the bed used in Dracula!

Tap City Youth Ensemble
Bell Witch moments....           

Lynn Cohen
The next number was my Bell Witch that was a 4 1/2 min. theatrical re-creation based on my original one-act Bell Witch ghost story.   Starting with a wandering EYE projected on the upstage Cyc, Actress Lynn Cohen (as the ghost remembering), spewed venom with her words.....”Yes I killed John Bell....he buried me alive.....imagine what it feels like to wake up with dirt in your mouth!”.  Dancers Adam Hundt (as John Bell) being attacked by the ever-attacking Oriada Islami (as the ghost in action), was up for the kill.

Oriada Islami (as the Bell Witch) Adam Hundt as John Bell

The Kill....

So what do people in California do for Halloween” said the voice over.  Coming out of the stage left wing was Peter Pucci’s SURFING number (photo left) from his larger work called Pucci Sport.

It was great fun.  And Eric Dunlap who did our video projections rushed backstage between projections to be in the number!  Then came Douglas Martin's piece (right below) with "America Repertory Ballet" - a very story story-ballet....    


An old modern classic that suit the occasion - Mary’s Wigmans’ 1926 Hexentanz, was interpreted by Betsy Fisher (photo right) who came all the way from Hawaii to perform!

Another story-ballet followed called  “The Raven”  (photo below) by choreographer David Fernandez (edited from a longer version) that was very Poe. It was danced by members of New York City Ballet.  Well, Chuck Askegard just retired, but Daniel Ulbricht who was the Raven, with Savannah Lowery are still members.

New York Song & Dance Company
The hit of the evening was an innovative Tap number (above) with body-percussion by Noah Racey's New York Song and Dance Co. - performed to  Cole Porter's “Under My Skin” - and sung by Melinda Sullivan (former SYTYCD contestant).

By this point in the show I was feeling that the show was a bit “ballet top-heavy” and not because of my Joffrey Ballet background, but just because....people volunteer time and selections are based on availability.  This I told the audience when I was attempting to do a hip hop duet with a dancing Skeleton projection.  I thanked everyone for participating and introduced two former dancer/clients who spoke about their experience with Career Transition For Dancers and transition.  They were Michael Deane, and Pat Cody (now a Lawyer).

The dancers from the Houston Ballet Karina Gonzolas and Connor Walsh did a wonderfully polished version of Act II Giselle.  Bravo, hard to do out of context in an evening such as this.  

Mark Stuart Dance Theater
The one and only Lypsinka was next in her classic “telephone” number, flailing off-stage.  This was followed by a new piece by Mark Stuart's company to  Ne-Yo’s “Beautiful Monster”.  It was the perfect representation of a contemporary/modern-dance hybrid - with his trade-mark lifts - and positioned nicely on the program.

 Lastly came a very great "Dying Swan" that Paul (below) from the Ballet Trocadero performed - I had not seen it in a while, and it was so brilliantly funny. 

The Dying Swan


Judith Jamison presented the Rolex Award to Nigel Lythgoe, and closing the evening was The Street Beats Group aka Industrial Rhythm (above) providing great urban drumming, and new young phenomenal break-dancers that could spin on their heads and performed old-school/new-time break dancing - like the guys I used to work with in the '80's.  It was the perfect end to a wildly-fun evening! Not to mention a Congrats to Career Transition For Dancers for raising $1.1 Million!!!

Kudos when Nigel Lythgoe sent compliments during his acceptance speech - "Ann Marie DeAngelo put together a brilliant evening".......he didn't really have to say that!

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