BWW Review: CTFD Gala at City Center
Career Transition for Dancers celebrated its 30th anniversary with a gala this past Monday at New York's City Center. Presented by Rolex, the gala presented awards to Andrew Faas (Faas Foundation,) Irene and Fred Shen, Misty Widelitz, and gave its Rolex Dance Award to Shirley Maclaine. Brian Stokes Mitchell, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Douglas, and Bebe Neuwirth presented in this accurately titled "Star Studded Retrospective."
An expositional collage of dance history opened the gala. Ann Marie DeAngelo and Kathleen Fitzgerland's writing incorporated modern, hoe down, hip hop, and tap in an attempt to offer a complete canvas of dance culture in America. Thomas and Peter Campbell's rapping narrative accompanied performers from American Repertory Ballet, Ephret Asherie and Richard McQuine and Jazz Roots Dance Company. Perhaps the most infectious of all these opening performers were the young movers in The National Dance Institute, joyfully performing hip hop to "Rapper's Delight." While not seamless in its melding of whimsy and rebellion, this opening performance was at the very least a worthwhile overture to the stellar performances to come.
Starting the presentations were ballet phenomenons. ABT's Misty Copeland performed alongside violinist Charles Yang to Paganini's Caprice in A minor. Copeland's movement mirrored some contemporary styles such as hip hop which was fueled with a millennial candor. Emphasis was also put on the form of Yang as he conjured passionate music from his violin. The two performers presented a relaxed mix of high artistic form and unaffected collaboration between friends. This duo, a perfect representation of the ambition for progress in the dance community, was followed by Robert Fairchild performing "Ballin' the Jack" by Gene Kelly, with music by Jim Burris and Chris Smith. In black slacks, black t-shirt and a bowler hat, Robert Fairchild emphasized its legitimacy as American high art canon. Though Kelly is ultimately best served with a framework of spontaneity in place, Fairchild's reverence guided the dance to the cavernous hall of City Center.
New York Song and Dance Company, with choreography by Noah Racey, performed their electrifying performance off "I've Got You Under My Skin." Performer Nielah Bradley sang mostly a Capella, accompanied by the group's five tap dancers. She then joined her fellow dancers delivering perfect meticulous syncopated rhythm. Bradley's capability of proving herself an unqualified master of song and dance, as well as obvious equal collaboration with the Company, brought the house down. A more contemplative solo piece, David Parson's "Caught," as performed by Elena D'Amario, followed. David Parson uses brief flashes of strobe light to illuminate D'Amario while in midair. This effect created a nearly flawless illusion of continual flight.
Other performances included Bebe Neuwirth with a company of Chicago revival performers in "All That Jazz," Ballet Tech's Kids Dance's "KYDZNY," choreographed by Eliot Feld and music by Khaled Hadj Brahim, and Arthur Murray Dance Center's dancers Christopher Gerges and Alena Sentyabreva's sensual and vivacious duet.
The evening contained many statements regarding CTFD, its various members, and the dance art form. Perhaps the biggest announcement came from Bebe Neuwirth and Brian Stokes Mitchell as they stated that CTFD will be merging with The Actor's Fund. One speech shone in particular, that of the evening's Rolex Dance Award winner Shirley Maclaine. In her oration regarding the unique discipline required of a dancer, she evoked the evening's most repeated paradigm, "at first was the word but the word is only possible through movement." She expanded on this thought with Einstein's conclusion that "dancers are the athletes of God."
Photo Credit: Richard Termine