7/28/15 O&A REVIEW: The 2015 Fire Island Dance Festival

By Walter Rutledge


The Fire Island Dance Festival 2015 took place July 17- 19 in Fire Island Pines. The three-day dance event has become Fire Island’s premiere summer dance showcase; spotlighting the talents of new, emerging and established choreographers, dancers and dance companies. This year the festival presented ten works by nine choreographers, and featuring forty-three performing artists.

Due to the high level of artistry and the picturesque setting (overlooking the bay) the entertainment element is the festival’s focal point; but the purpose and mission should always be reinforced and reiterated at every opportunity. The Fire Island Dance Festival is the successful result of two communities that have been greatly impacted by HIV/AIDS coming together to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable. Dancer Responding To AIDS (DRA) was founded in 1991 during the bleakest days for the AIDS pandemic.

The Fire Island Dance Festival achieves its goal through the very essence of the art form- by sharing. The response and generosity of the dance and Fire Island communities has allowed DRA to surpass the previous year’s financial accomplishments. This year the festival raised $544,555 that will assist in their year round support for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Due to the freelance nature of the “no business like show business”, many artists living with HIV/AIDS lack adequate health services, emergency financial assistance and contingency funds, lifesaving medications, counseling, healthy meals, and vital support systems. Through various programs including The Actors Fund, the HIV/AIDS Initiative and The Dancers’ Resource, artists and the community at large receive assistance.


Festival host Desmond Richardson is quickly becoming dance’s eloquent elder statesmen. Richardson (who participated in the very first festival) is also co-founder of Complexions Contemporary Ballet; and along with Artistic Director Dwight Rhoden remain a staple throughout the festival’s 21-year history. This year Rhoden offered a solo set two Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, and performed by his present muse Clifford Williams. Williams gave an articulate and impassioned performance.

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The ten works ranged from lighthearted dance theatre to ballet bravura, which epitomized the range, scope and inclusiveness of the event and the mission. Choreographers: Joshua Beamish, Al Blackstone, Pontus Lidberg, Duncan Lyle, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Stephen Petronio, Jules Perrot, Dwight Rhoden, Manuel Vignoulle, and Charlie Williams.

Dance Companies: Ailey II, Ballet Hispanico, Intermezzo Dance Company, Joshua Beamish/Move: the company, Manuel Vignoulle Dance– M/motions, and Pontus Lidberg Dance.

And dancers: Paulo Arrais, Alex Biegelson, Biscuit, Shay Bland, Christopher Bloom, Mary Carmen Catoya, Chloe Cambelll, Marc Cardarelli, Mario Ismael Espinoza, Mark Gieringer, Jacob Guzman, Christopher Hernandez, Jakob Karr, Justin Keats, Dimitri Kleioris, Lindsay Janisse, Adrian Lee, Pontus Lidberg, Kourtni Lind, Reed Luplau, Chase Madigan, Raymond Matasamura, Johan Rivera Mendez, Adam Perry, Karine Plantadit, Kleber Rebello, Isaies Santamaria, Logan Schyvynck, Nicholas Sciscione, Corey Snide, Terrell Spence, Manuel Vignoulle Clifford Williams, Stephanie Williams, and Joshua Winzeler should all be commended for donating their time and sharing their artistry.  

The Fire Island Dance Festival is a once a year event that take place on the third Saturday of July, but the services provided by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS are year round. DRA supports more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations in all 50 states.To find out more about the programs and service provide or to make a donation visit dradance.org.

1) 2015 Fire Island Dance Festival 2) Desmond Richardson

Daniel Roberts Photographer

On Carousel  1) Pontus Lidberg Dance 2) Mary Carmen Catoya and Kleber Rebello 3) Manuel  Vignoulle Dance M/motions 4) Joshua Beamish/Move: the company 5) Charlie Williams 6) Ballet Hispanico 7) Al Blackstone 8) Ailey II 9) 10 Hairy Legs

Whitney Browne Photographer


3/21/15 O&A Dance- REVIEW: Ailey II- Breakthrough

By Walter Rutledge


Ailey II opened the 2015 New York City season at the Joyce Theater with the world premiere of Breakthrough by French-born choreographer Manuel Vignoulle. The full company work takes us to a dark world where emotions and relationship are forbidden. Vignoulle’s abstract narrative was the highlight of the company’s first independent season.

Good choreographic structure and strong use of imagery assist to immediately establish his environment/altered reality. Moving in a mechanized uniformity the performers convey a sense of conformity. Vignoulle uses patterns, and isolated movements (such as heads swaying from side to side as the dancers “zombie” walk upstage) to enhance the automaton-like precision.

Occasionally individuals emerge, only to submit back to the group dynamic. These departures are manifested in almost spastic, abrupt movements that exude a sense of anxiety and then suppression. Throughout the opening section there is an underlying and deliberate tension that smolders, instead of explodes; that produced a kind of visual foreplay.

The duet that followed, featuring Shay Bland and Terrell Spence, released the pent-up tension from the preceding section. The costume of pants and turtleneck tops were striped away on stage revealing black briefs and a bra. The ensuing duet was a continuous ribbon of movement. Intertwining, cascading and caressing, at one point Bland walked up Terrell’s back and the stood on his shoulders as he rose from kneeling to standing.

The section that followed is best described as the running section. The ensemble returned clad in briefs and bras and literally ran for their lives. One of the most impressive devises was reversing the stage perspective. Vignoulle removed the ensemble who were running behind Deidre Rogan, but when she yelled, “Wait…. wait”, it became clear she was the one left behind; and soon captured by David Adrian Freeland Jr.

Freeland covered her head under his shirt, and both danced blind under the garment. The duet evoked a feeling of blind terror and victimization. It ended with Freeland exiting leaving Rogan left spent and discarded.

The ensemble returned in their opening attire for a finale section, which served as a combination of a resolution and epilog. The focused physicality built to a coda-like climax, ending with a gravity/momentum induced closing statement. Vignoulle successfully presented a complete statement that balanced unadorned economy with rich, yet directed imagery; the true benchmark of storytelling. Breakthrough is a breakout.

To see an interview with Choreographer Manuel Vignoulle and Ailey II dancer Shay Bland click below:

Shay Bland

3/16/15 O&A Ailey II Presents The World Premiere Of Breakthrough

By Walter Rutledge


Ailey II will begin their New York City season with the world premiere of Breakthrough by French-born choreographer Manuel Vignoulle. The full company modern dance based work, set to the music of Swedish composer Mikael Karlsson, takes place in a world where emotion and personal interaction is forbidden. O&A NYC Magazine had the opportunity to speak to Vignoulle and performer Shay Bland following a rehearsal.

Shay Bland

A conversation with choreographer Manuel Vignoulle and Ailey II dancer Shay Bland

ailey II

Breakthrough  (excerpt)  Manuel Vignoulle choreographer

The season runs from Tuesday, March 17 through Sunday 22 at the Joyce Theater. For the complete schedule and tickets visit joyce.org.


In Photo: 1) Ailey II 2) Shay Bland and Nathaniel Hunt 3) Chalvar Monteiro and company

Photo Credit: 1) Eduardo Patino 2&3) Adewale Adekanbi

Ailey II: The Legacy Continues- New York Season 2014

By Walter Rutledge


The Ailey II New York season, April 2 through April 13, marked the fortieth anniversary of the company. Founded in 1974 by Alvin Ailey the then titled Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble was one of the first “junior companies” to provide a pre-professional performance environment for aspiring young artists. Under the 37 year stewardship of Sylvia Waters Ailey II grew into an internationally recognized dance company. It has built a solid reputation and a loyal following, now rivaling many professional companies. Continue reading