Roberta on the Arts
Dance Rocks - Career Transition for Dancers 22nd Anniversary Jubilee
Contact Roberta
Jazz and Cabaret Corner
On Location with Roberta
In the Galleries: Artists and Photographers
Backstage with the Playwrights and Filmmakers
Classical and Cultural Connections
New CDs
Arts and Education
Onstage with the Dancers
Offstage with the Dancers
Upcoming Events
Special Events
Memorable Misadventures
Our Sponsors

Dance Rocks - Career Transition for Dancers 22nd Anniversary Jubilee

- Onstage with the Dancers

Dance Rocks
Career Transition for Dancers 22nd Anniversary Jubilee
Honoring: Bebe Neuwirth
(Bebe Neuwirth Bio)
Anka K. Palitz
The Jerome Robbins Foundation
(Jerome Robbins Foundation Website)
City Center, NYC

Presented by Rolex
Produced and Directed by Anne Marie DeAngelo
Executive Producer, Alexander J. Dubé
Script by Deborah Grace Winer
Lighting Designer, Brad Fields
Production Stage Manager, Lori Wekselblatt
Press: KPM Associates, Kevin P. McAnarney
Gala Coordinator, Dana McCaw
Honorary Jubilee Chair, Priscilla Presley

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 29, 2007

(See One World Review, October 23, 2006)

Tonight’s 22nd anniversary Career Transition for Dancers Gala again featured dance stars, new and seasoned, who perform and speak in honor of their colleagues and protégées, in order to benefit a worthy cause for dancers who reach ripe middle age, suffer injuries or layoff, or retire to a new career. Each year, an elegant Gala, with a theme that strongly connects the performances and loosely connects the speeches, is held at City Center. Tonight’s honorees for the ROLEX awards were: Bebe Neuwirth, who originally won a TONY for starring in Chicago as Velma, and who returned to the same show as Roxie; Anka K. Palitz, a CTFD and ABT Board member and philanthropist; and The Jerome Robbins Foundation, which sent Trustee, Allen Greenberg, to receive its award. Tommy Tune was on hand to present Ms. Neuwirth her award, Charlotte d’Amboise was on hand for Allen Greenberg’s award, and Allen Brill of ROLEX presented Ms. Palitz her award. Opening remarks were effusively and emotionally given by Christine Ebersole, star of Grey Gardens.

Tonight’s dynamic and high-powered dances included the opening number, “Dance Rocks”, choreographed by Marie DeAngelo, an excerpt of “In the Mix”. The World Cup All Stars New Jersey Cheerleading and Steve “Mr. Wiggles” Clemente were high points, as drums and rock sent vibrations through City Center. KR3T’s danced an interlude, and Benji Schwimmer and Heidi Groskretuz joined together effectively to James Brown’s music in “Get Up Offa That Thing”. Ballet San Jose was represented in “Blue Suede Shoes”, with the music of Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender”, one of my all-time favorite songs. Preston Dugger danced this solo with energy and emotion. The Williams/Henry Dance Company also sent a sensual, solo performer, DeeAnna Hiett, for “Change of Heart”, to Peggy Lee’s “Fever”. “Mother Popcorn”, presented by the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Dancing through Barriers Ensemble, featured Paunika Jones and Xzavier Cave, plus an ensemble of ten. The scores were from music of James Brown, Alfred Ellis, Aretha Franklin, and Carolyn Franklin. This Ensemble should be seen more often.

Anthony Bryant danced a couple of Interludes, and Nicole Graniero and John Selya danced to Bette Midler’s “Stay with Me”, in Anne Marie DeAngelo’s striking choreography. This was a riveting dance, although quite similar to Twyla Tharp’s Movin’ Out, excerpted in a later performance. Ms. Graniero slid up and down Mr. Selya, wearing textured black tights, and her energy enhanced the power of the work. They tossed about effortlessly. Twyla Tharp was represented first tonight in excerpts from her “Sinatra Suite”, danced by ABT’s Jose Manuel Carreño and Misty Copeland, a warm-up to their current ABT Fall Season at City Center. (Check this Column soon for a review of Ms. Copeland and Mr. Carreño in the full “Sinatra Suite”.) Ms. Copeland is a rising star, and Mr. Carreño was a strong lead and attentive partner in this rapturous fantasy to Sinatra’s torch songs.

A high point of the Gala was “Fly”, danced by Dancing Wheels. Broadway star, Ben Vereen, introduced Mary Verdi-Fletcher, in a “dancing wheelchair”, accompanied by Hoang Dang and Raymond Rodriguez. Keith Young was the choreographer and R. Kelly the composer. This was truly a mesmerizing piece, with Ms. Verdi-Fletcher spinning and letting her arms fly about, dressed in flowing chiffon, and occasionally lifted or spun about by her athletic, male partners. The lighting was dim, and the three dancers wore ivory white, glowing as if in moonlight, thanks to Brad Fields, Lighting Designer. Ms. Verdi-Fletcher was daring and effervescent, as she obviously enjoyed the experience, with flowing fantasy and flutter.

Kathleen Marshall offered a Testimonial segment, bringing CTFD Alumni onstage, all of whom have dazzling new careers: Nora Brennan, Michael Byars, Justin Greer, and Trish Reidy. When Elizabeth Parkinson and Keith Roberts next appeared for Twyla Tharp’s “Shameless”, from Movin’ Out, to Billy Joel’s music and Michael Cavanaugh’s vocals, the audience was primed and psyched. Ms. Parkinson and Mr. Roberts were among the best of tonight’s performers, in this classy work, now becoming timeless in annual, Gala events. This duo riveted and dazzled the audience with striking leaps, jumps, spins, inter-twining athleticism, and dramatic intensity. These are seasoned, sensational performers. Margo Sappington choreographed the next impassioned piece, “Ghost”, for Julianne Kepley and John Welker, from Atlanta Ballet, excerpted from “Shed Your Skin”, with music and lyrics by Emily Saliers.

David Parsons was represented in an excerpt from his “Shining Star”, with music by Earth, Wind, and Fire. He sent ten of his dancers, and the pulsating and percussive rhythms were contagious. Melissa Manchester, on piano, later accompanied Kurt Froman and Yuki Ogasawara in “Ruby and the Dancer”, choreographed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett, with Amy Ralske joining in on cello. Ms. Ogasawara is lithe and limber, and she literally flew about, well partnered by Mr. Froman. The final work of the Gala was an excerpt from Peter Pucci’s “Willing and Able”, brought to New York by The Joffrey Ballet’s Maia Wilkins and William Hillard, in “Question of U”, followed by The Joffrey Ballet School in “Willing and Able”. Ms. Wilkins, in red, was stunning and surreal, in upside-down and inside-out choreography. The Joffrey School was outstanding and explosive, as the final presentation sent the audience to the Gala or home with the gyrating genre of “Rock”. Kudos to Career Transition for Dancers for Dance Rocks, another creative and collaborative Gala event.

Benjamin Schwimmer
Photo Courtesy of Richard Termine

Melissa Manchester on Piano
Kurt Froman and Yuki Ogasawara
"Ruby and the Dancer"
Photo Courtesy of Richard Termine

Maia Wilkins and William Hillard
"Willing and Able"
Photo Courtesy of Richard Termine

Elizabeth Parkinson and Keith Roberts
"Shameless" from "Movin' Out"
Photo Courtesy of Richard Termine

Mary Verdi-Fletcher, Hoang Dang, Raymond Rodriguez
Photo Courtesy of Richard Termine

Anthony Bryant
Photo Courtesy of Richard Termine

Allen Brill, President, ROLEX, and Anka K. Palitz
Photo Courtesy of Richard Termine

Kathleen Marshall, Charlotte d'Amboise, Allen Greenberg,
Bebe Neuwirth, Allen Brill, Anka Palitz
Photo Courtesy of Richard Termine 

Allen Brill, Patricia Kennedy (22nd Anniversary Chairs)
Yolanda Santos Garza (CTFD Gala Chair), and Anka K. Palitz
Photo Courtesy of Linda Lenzi

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at