By Walter Rutledge
The Fire Island Dance Festival held their 22nd annual fundraiser July 15 through 17, 2016. The three-day four-performance festival presented emerging and established choreographers and companies in a stunning outdoor setting framed by the Great South Bay. In the last few of years the festival has felt more like a traditional summer outdoor choreographers showcase. This year the well-curated and focused concert series returned to its roots offering 8 provocative, sensitive and thought-provoking works.
Many of the works revolved around the theme of love and relationship. Glenn Sims and Linda Celeste Sims opened the program with MATCH- The First Installment by Abdul Latif. The set, which resembled of an oversized two-tiered revolving “Lazy Susan”, provided a panoramic perspective of the top-tier duet. It also highlighted the artistic intensity of the two Ailey veterans and real life husband and wife. During the three sections the dance evolved from seated floor work to energetic, but cool jazz that framed the set. Dancers Eury German, Nik Owens, Jillian Roberts and Valentina Strokopytova assisted the couple on stage.
Lasting Embrace choreographed by Ballet Contemporaneo De Camaguey’s Associate Artistic Director Pedro Ruiz had a profound affect on the audience. The adagio demonstrated a good use of theme and development that created a movement based love letter. Armando Gomez Brydson and Jesus Arias Pagues danced the thoughtful and well-crafted duet with strong emotional and technical prowess. Masculine, yet tender the supported partnering switched between the two dancers establishing a feeling of equality and camaraderie.
Wendy Whelan performed the third duet First Fall with choreographer Brian Brooks. The work used momentum and shared body weight to develop a conversation with a distinct voice. Brooks’ designed a sophisticated work with visual innuendoes that clearly expressed his intent through subtlety and repetition than overt movement passages
Larry Keigwin’s fun romp Episodes was set to a lively version of Leonard Bernstein’s On The Town. Members of Keigwin + Company performed the sextet with a good sense of athleticism and solid theatricality. Dancers Kacie Boblitt, Brandon Cournay, Benjamin Freedman, Kile Hotchkiss, Emily Schoen and Jaclyn Walsh danced the upbeat work with the proper amount of verve and playfulness.
For Us by Madboots Dance, choreographed and performed by Jonathan Campbell and Austin Diaz became an immediate audience favorite. Choreographed in response to the Orlando Tragedy the work began with an eerily rendition of Judy Garland’s Somewhere Over The Rainbow and segued into a dialogue on love. Here the choreographer’s intent was so clear that the overall composition became more important than any isolated movement passages. The message of love and acceptance culminated with a protracted lip lock, titillating the audience and creating a theatrical crescendo.
Choreographer Andrea Miller, in collaboration with Gallim Dance, presented a personal elegy entitled Mike and Harvey. A loving tribute to Miller’s close friends and long time Fire Island residents Harvey Alter and Mike Young. Set to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings the trio reflected loss and separation. Shroud in a black cloche Gwyn Mackenzie seemed to mourn and reminisce Austin Tyson and Paul Vickers, who moved with a special tenderness. At the end the men simply sat on the upstage edge of the stage, legs dandling over, and looking out on the bay as if at home enjoying the sunset.
Dance Theatre of Harlem
Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Equillibrium (BROTHERHOOD) setto a contemporary jazz score by Kenji Bunch displayed a good use of counterpoint. The choreographer’s musicality could be seen through his use of cannon, and sculptural geometric and asymmetric groupings. Dance Theatre of Harlem dancers Dylan Santos, Anthony Javier Savoy and Jorge Andres Villarini danced with a technical ease, effortlessly jumping, turning and kicking throughout the abstract work.
Gay Paree (inspired by Freddie Falls in Love) ended the evening with an uproarious vacation for two male travelers to Paris. Choreographed by Al Blackstone with Billy Griffin the ensemble dance narrative moved with the fast paced unexpectedness of a vacation gone awry. This jazzy theatrical excursion into movement mischief added a different take on Americans in Paris.
The Fire Island Dance Festival is the most prestigious cultural and charitable event on the Fire Island Pines. For the last six consecutive years the festival has surpassed the previous year’s fundraising efforts; this year the festival raised a record-breaking $560,133. The funds assist the efforts of Dancers Responding to AIDS (DRA), a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. As a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, DRA supports more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations in all 50 states as well as the essential programs of The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative and The Dancers’ Resource.
Fire Island Dance Festival 2016 Highlights
Over its 22 year history the Fire Island Dance Festival has raised more than 4.8 million dollars to help those in need living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, individuals with other debilitating illnesses in New York and across the country have access to lifesaving medications, counseling, healthy meals and emergency financial assistance. For more information, or to make a donation please visit Dancers Responding to AIDS at dradance.org, on Facebook at facebook.com/DRAdance, on Twitter at twitter.com/DRAdance, on YouTube at youtube.com/DRAdance and on Instagram at instagram.com/DRAdance.