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"A Halloween Thriller" - Career Transition for Dancers 26th Anniversary Jubilee
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"A Halloween Thriller" - Career Transition for Dancers 26th Anniversary Jubilee

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A Halloween Thriller
Career Transition for Dancers 26th Anniversary Jubilee
A Dance Celebration of Ghosts, Ghouls, Vampires & Wilis
At New York City Center, NYC

Presented by Rolex

Hosted by Chita Rivera

With Appearances by: Carmen De Lavallade, Bebe Neuwirth,
Judith Jamison, Noah Racey, Donna McKechnie, Ne-Yo

Producer and Director: Ann Marie DeAngelo Executive Producer: Alexander J. Dubé
Lighting Designer: Brad Fields
Production Stage Manager:
Lori Rosecrans Wekselblatt
Announcer: Ron Young
Piano/Bandleader: Jim Morgan
Press: KPM Associates: Kevin P. McAnarney

Musical Director: Jim Morgan
26th Anniversary Chairs: Michele Herbert,
Anka K. Palitz, Stewart Wicht

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 31, 2011

(See A Star-Studded Retrospective Review, November 8, 2010)

I was joined for this “Halloween Thriller” Gala, an annual tradition to benefit Career Transition for Dancers (CTFD), by Ken and Sue, restaurant owners of China Sun and Ocean Dragon. They were amazed at the renovation features at City Center, the gorgeous seats, curtains, new lobby wall with inlaid dance company videos, and exquisite Moorish murals on walls and ceilings. They were also amazed at how great Chita Rivera looks, the host of tonight’s event, who dazzled and charmed the audience in several outfits.

Many in tonight’s audience wore Halloween costume attire, even those proceeding afterwards to the benefit dinner Gala, and everyone got to celebrate Halloween. Career Transition for Dancers is a wonderful organization that helps dancers when they are injured, or retire, or just need to move on. Tonight’s Rolex Award went to Nigel Lythgoe and was presented by Judith Jamison. Ms. Jamison is moving on, herself, as the Ailey Company has a new artistic Director, and she was quite a dynamic speaker. Nigel Lythgoe, a British television star these days, who produced “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance”, told entertaining anecdotes. Other Honorees were Nancy MacMillan, Victor Elmalen, Michele Riggi, and the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, NY. I’ve personally toured this museum many times, and it houses videos, photos, and costumes from dance performers and choreographers of Hollywood, Broadway, Modern Dance, Ballet, Tap, Jazz Dance, and much more.

It wouldn’t be a Career Transition Gala without Bebe Neuwirth, and she gets better and better each year. Tonight she led an ensemble in “Magic To Do” from the show, “Pippin”, which had been directed by Bob Fosse to a score by Stephen Schwartz. David Warren Gibson staged tonight’s dance. She and her ensemble knew much about Fosse’s style, and Ms. Neuwirth winked and wiggled and wowed her fans. This opening number immediately brought the house down, especially with its Halloween atmospherics. The National Dance Institute followed with a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, danced by over 100 children, all taught the choreography by Jacques d’Amboise, the Institute’s Founder. These students were amazing, all in sync and energized in Halloween orange and black. When Donna McKechnie and Carmen De Lavallade walked through, the audience gave them vocal accolades. Of course, Chita Rivera was buoyantly received, as well.

“Dracula” was performed by Carolina Ballet dancers, Marcelo Martinez and Lilyan Vigo, who rehearsed their biting and lunges on the City Center sidewalk, prior to the show. This piece was comically melodramatic and erotic (with an onstage bed), much like a silent film. Lynne Taylor-Corbett choreographed to a J. Mark Scearce score. When the Tap City Youth Ensemble arrived for “Tap Dancing Skeletons”, City Center’s new lighting system got a tryout, to huge success. The eight young dancers, in black costumes painted with white skeletons, melted into the darkness, the bones shining brightly as Tony Waag’s choreography picked up the beat. They soft-shoed, leaped, and kicked with delight. The Gala’s Producer and Director, Ann Marie DeAngelo, decided to appear in the show as “The Bell Witch”, which she choreographed herself. She was joined onstage by Lynn Cohen, Oriada Islami, and Adam Hundt. Ms. DeAngelo had originally choreographed this piece for the Nashville Ballet in 2003. Tonight she threw herself into this campy role.

One of my favorite pieces of the night was Peter Pucci’s “Surfing”, danced to The Beach Boys’ “Wipe Out”. Five dancers used a surf board, with Elena Valls on the board and the “boys” careening about with the board soaring and swooping over imaginary waves. Following this madcap dance was the serene “Pathways” excerpt, a World Premiere by New Jersey’s American Repertory Ballet. The score was Gary Stadler’s “Dream Spell”, and an ensemble of twelve danced Douglas Martins’ choreographed motif of “Fairy in the Woods”. It was about “shadowy recesses, oblivion,…pathways”. I’m not familiar with this Company, and the performance was quite impressive. The costumes were formal and retro, and there was a film noir quality to the ambiance. Hexentanz introduced “Witch Dance”, based on the 1926 Mary Wigman work, with enhancements by Betsy Fisher. Ms. Fisher was the solo dancer, wearing a mask and costume, and she performed in a seated floor position under Claudia Jeschke’s direction. This was an iconic image of a witch brewing evil spells.

Another favorite piece was “The Raven”, choreographed by David Hernandez. It helped to have three City Ballet dancers, the recently retired Charles Askegard, plus Daniel Ulbricht and Savannah Lowery. The ballet is based on the Poe poem, and the score was by Eliot Goldenthal. Mr. Askegard pursued Ms. Lowery, while Mr. Ulbricht entertained with his iconic circular leaps, spins, and fouettés, turning himself into a human top. Everything about this piece was precise and professional, and I look forward to Mr. Askegard’s new Company, “Ballet Next”. On the heels of this virtuosic piece, Noah Racey arrived with the New York Song and Dance Company. Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” was the score for Mr. Racey’s choreography, and he tap danced with three other young men, while Melinda Sullivan crooned the ballad with a bit of stage drama to boot. Michael Deane and Patricia Cody gave this year’s CTFD testimonial speeches, and it’s obvious that CTFD comes through for its clients and its donors, a true charitable organization.

Lypsinka strode through in drag, followed by Houston Ballet in “Giselle Pas de Deux” from Act II. This is the dance in which Albrecht pursues Giselle, looking for forgiveness, and Karina Gonzalez and Connor Walsh were outstanding. Their style was low on dramatics, serene, focused. This was another favorite moment from this year’s Gala show, and what could be more appropriate for Halloween than a Wili in the moonlit woods, dancing near her grave. Ai-Gul Gaisina staged this piece from the original choreography, set to the Adolphe Adam score. In a change of mood, the Mark Stuart Dance Theatre presented a world premiere of “Interference” to Ne-Yo’s “Beautiful Monster”, with lively results, and MOMIX appeared with “Halloween Delight” excerpted from “Botanica”. Moses Pendleton choreographed to an electronic score from Waveform Records for four dancers.

Now it was time for Les Ballets Trockadero’s “The Dying Swan”, danced by Ida Nevasayneva (Paul Ghiselin). Ida was superb, with feathers falling off her costume, arms in undulating waves, and tears seeming to stream down her face. I’ve never understood how a man can dance so well on pointe, as the Trockadero dancers always do, but here was Ida, and this Halloween audience went wild. The Street Beats Group finished the show, in high energy hip hop, and the entire roster of artists were all onstage for the finale. Kudos to the entire team that produced and performed on this show, kudos to ROLEX, kudos to Arlene Schuler for the fantastic revitalization of City Center, and kudos to Career Transition for Dancers.

American Repertory Ballet's
"Pathways", Choreog. Douglas Martin
Courtesy of Richard Termine

Charles Askegard, Daniel Ulbricht,
Savannah Lowery, in
David Fernandez' "The Raven"
Courtesy of Richard Termine

Courtesy of Richard Termine

Mark Stuart Dance Theatre
in Mark Stuart's "Interference"
Courtesy of Richard Termine

Les Ballet Trockadero's
Ida Nevasayneva
in "The Dying Swan"
after Michel Fokine
Courtesy of Richard Termine

Oliver Tickets > Dirty Dancing Tickets > Musical Tickets > Jimmy Carr Tickets >
Peter Kay Tickets > Ricky Gervais Tickets > Theatre Tickets

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