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"A Helluva Town", Career Transition for Dancers 29th Anniversary Jubilee at New York City Center
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"A Helluva Town", Career Transition for Dancers 29th Anniversary Jubilee at New York City Center

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A Helluva Town
Career Transition for Dancers (CTFD) 29th Anniversary Jubilee

At New York City Center

Presented by Rolex

Angela Lansbury – Rolex Dance Award
Janice Galli Bekker / Fe Saracino Fendi /
Joe Tremaine & Tremaine Dance – CTFD Awards

With Appearances by:
James Earl Jones, Chita Rivera,
Chuck Scarborough, Karen Ziemba

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

29th Anniversary Chairs:
Anka K. Palitz, Susan & Stewart Wicht

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 6, 2014

Tonight’s annual Career Transition for Dancers (CTFD) event, like the more recent of these productions, was largely filled with rock-infused hip hop, street dance, and high volume sound systems. Yet, the crowd loved this worthy benefit, a fund-raiser to help dancers find new careers, when their early stage retirements begin to loom. In addition to the more boisterous numbers, sublime performances by an American Ballet Theatre duo and by Karen Ziemba, with retired Rockettes, showcased the high talent always found in CTFD Galas, produced and directed by Ann Marie DeAngelo. Chuck Scarborough gave the opening remarks, welcoming the crowd. Each year, Rolex, the event’s corporate producer, gives a luxurious watch to one worthy luminary, and this year the Rolex went to Angela Lansbury, for her seventy year career in films, on stage, and in television. Ms. Lansbury is a frequent presence on this City Center stage for the CTFD awards and speeches. James Earl Jones, who’s now appearing again on Broadway, introduced Ms. Lansbury, with some humor and much warmth. Other CTFD awardees, for Outstanding Contributions To the World of Dance, were Janice Galli Becker, a Board member and fundraiser, Fe Saracino Fendi, an architect and also a Board member and fundraiser, and Joe Tremaine, the founder of Tremaine Dance Conventions and Competitions. These awardees were introduced by none other than Chita Rivera, in fine form and fashion. A former Rockette, Ann Murphy, presented a personal CTFD testimonial, as well.

The four highlights of tonight’s stage performances were Dance Theatre of Harlem, New York Church of Mambo, American Ballet Theatre, and the Rockette Alumnae. All four dances were classy and truly entertaining. An ensemble of twelve, from Dance Theatre of Harlem, presented “Mother Popcorn” from Robert Garland’s Return. The score is mixed, including music of James Brown and Aretha Franklin. Jenelle Figgins and Da’Von Doane led the ensemble in remarkable, sophisticated imagery, poise, and luscious partnering. The women’s bikini skirts and the men’s leotards are in darkly colored hues, but the choreography is energized and sensual. The “New York Church of Mambo” was a world premiere by Alex Sanchez, music by Steven Jamail, who also wrote lyrics with Kirsten Guenther. This work brought the house down with its voluminous, tropical Latin beat. Veronika Part and Blaine Hoven, of American Ballet Theatre, danced a Pas de Deux from Alexei Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas. Music is by Scarlatti, costumes and lighting, respectively by Holly Hynes and Brad Fields. This is a languorous, liquid, shimmering Pas de Deux, with sumptuous partnering and refined gestures. Barbara Bilach’s piano recording of the Scarlatti “Sonata in F minor” was gorgeous. But, the pièce de résistance of the evening was “I Wanna Be a Rockette”, with Karen Ziemba high-kicking in the chorus line with fourteen retired Rockettes, all about the same height and shape. Ms. Ziemba sang and held her own, when she squeezed into the middle of the line, with just one opposite-direction kick that the audience loved.

The remaining works left much to be desired, in terms of lasting affectionate memories. The American Tap Dance Foundation was the best of these additional performances, in “Shim Sham X 3”, but this is not the fault of Tony Waag, as the tappers had followed a nonsensical hoop street artist, and only speeches followed the tappers. They deserve a better showcase. To note, that street “hoop artist”, whom Ann Marie DeAngelo told the crowd she’d found on 42nd St., kept appearing in tonight’s intermission-less, very rushed show. With the house dark throughout, the audience couldn’t read the program’s list of performers and numbers. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre sent one lone dancer, Kirven Douthit-Boyd, one of their best, to perform Robert Battle’s “Takademe”, my least favorite of the Ailey repertory works. One man twitches and grabs his body and jumps about to spoken, guttural sounds by Sheila Chandra. I look forward to seeing this Company in full display of its repertory in December, on this very stage. Ballet Hispanico brought “El Beso” tonight, by Gustavo Ramirez Sansano. It’s abstract and atonal. This Company has fantastic Cuban genre pieces in its repertory, and I was disappointed with this choice for a Gala event.

Much hype was made in introductory remarks, about Michael Dameski, a young You Tube sensation, who won Australia's "So You Think You Can Dance". His brief dance to some "whatever" (unlisted in the program) was mixed street dance and balletic fouettés, with Dameski falling flat on the floor as a finale. Jonah Bokaer choreographed "Trophy", with Bokaer standing in front of the curtain, shaking his pointing finger for minutes at a time, in rhythm to Lil' Kim's "Who's Number One?" A duo from Silva Dance Company performed “Pe de Samba”, by Leandro Silva, and four dancers from Industrial Rhythm performed a piece by Zoilo Ruiz. The name of this year’s Gala is “a helluva town”. Maybe it’s in lower case for the outdoor, street motif. Too bad, with On the Town in previews and rehearsals now for its Broadway revival, a few sailors catapulting about would have added some needed pizzazz. Lloyd G. Miller’s opening and closing music was a tease, as it barely resembled tonight’s, mostly electronic fare. Kudos to Angela Lansbury, for her sophisticated presence, generosity, and humility.

Dance Theatre of Harlem
"Mother Popcorn"
Excerpt from "Return"
Choreography by Robert Garland
Courtesy of Richard Termine

New York Church of Mambo
Choreography by Alex Sanchez
Courtesy of Richard Termine

American Ballet Theatre
Veronika Part and Blaine Hoven in
"Seven Sonatas" Pas de Deux
Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky
Courtesy of Richard Termine

"I Wanna Be a Rockette"
With Rockette Alumnae
and Karen Ziemba
Courtesy of Richard Termine

Angela Lansbury
Rolex Dance Award Honoree
Courtesy of Richard Termine

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