BWW Review: LUIGI and Francis J. Roach Bring Out a Standing Room ONLY Crowd in NYC Celebrating Jazz Master LUIGI at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center
by: Marina Kamen
March 21, 2016
What an HONOR to have Performed with so many people on stage and in the audience to honor Luigi in our impromptu celebration. AND, to receive standing ovations for the performances was fantastic and heart warming!!!
Luigi's partner Francis J. Roach pulled together an audience with a "who's who" of Musical Theatre Performers spanning decades. The house was filled with joy and fabulous feelings for all who had the privilege to experience this great Master of Jazz Dance.
This particular evening was also filled with fresh young talent that will forever help to carry the torch paying forward the Luigi Jazz Dance technique.
I first started at Luigi's back in 1977 at 18 years old as a green song and dance girl with violin in hand. Studying at The Manhattan School of Music Majoring both in Voice & Violin, the only place that could match the level of training at that time was only with one teacher. LUIGI!
In those days of the 70s at the peak of A Chorus Line, the classes were visited by the top of industry on a daily basis. A thrill to be able to dance next to Robert Morse, Tony Roberts, Ben Vereen, Liza, Chita, Valerie Harper....the list goes on and on. An unknown Madonna often frequented those classes. Anyone who is anyone in Musical Theatre and Dance has learned and taken away the teachings of the one and only LUIGI!
In the mid 90s, myself and my husband Roy Kamen were responsible for Producing the music for the classic Luigi CD. What an experience to have been able to record Luigi LIVE in the Recording Studios at our company Kamen Entertainment Group, Inc. (www.kamen.com) while he actually performed the warmups together with the orchestra.
The performers who gave of their time, talent, and love for this incredible Luigi Tribute in NYC were, in order, Ashley Bell, Liz Mckendry, Roseanna Mineo, Renee Raiche, Martin Vincent Bonventre, Twyla Tharp, Manhattan Youth Ballet dancers Gabrielle Ayoub, Sophie Billinge, Bridget Scanlon, Ruby Stewart, Sophia Stefanopulos, Ryo Munakata, Bryan Rodrigieuz, Carl Smuth-Hudson, and Maleek Washington, Michelle Pawk for Lee Garrard, Marina Kamen and her son Tyler Kamen on Guitar, Company d founder/choreographer Darlene Poe Winters and her dancers Katharine Schaeffer, Kenny Thielemibr, and David Hardin, Freddy Crescente, Susan Stroman, Luigi dancers Yuka Notsuka, Connor Coughlin, Dorothy Sapyta, Lily Lewis, and Atsushi Eda, and then special guest Andy Handler-Hraur.
This showing of Luigi's work was lovingly produced by Rose Caiola along with her wonderful assistants Erin Fogarty Bittner, Beth Fried and the MMAC staff. A big thank you goes out to Darin May for his help with the DVD clips of Luigi and music, too.
With sincere gratitude, quotes Francis J. Roach," I will tell you what the Jazz Dance Technique Innovator Luigi would say to all that were there. With his knowing smile he'd simply say, "Many Thanks & Never Stop Moving!''
Much respect for everything Luigi has given to thousands of people around the world. Also, thank you to Francis J. Roach for his commitment, artistry and love for so many who's lives have been touched by this incredible man named LUIGI!
Photo Credit: Kamen Entertainment Group, Inc. NYC