Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dance Against Cancer: A benefit for the American Cancer Society

By Mary Sheeran
It’s become commonplace to say that we all know someone who has cancer.
            If this were a sane world, we would stop all wars, oppression, persecution, discrimination, and the drive of certain among us to plunder the earth and our souls – and devote all those energies to defeating cancer.
            So it was a good and sane thing, in fact a wonderful thing, when New York City Ballet principal dancer Daniel Ulbricht got together with Erin Fogarty of the Carolina Ballet and, with a “let’s put on a show” mentality, partnered with the American Cancer Society to arrange a modest but powerful benefit called Dance Against Cancer, which I hope can be an annual event.
            Ulbricht and Fogarty put together a mouth-watering lineup of companies (NYCB, Alvin Ailey, Keigwin + Company, Lar Lubovitch, and the Carolina Ballet) and such dancers as Sterling Hyltin, Wendy Whelan, Amar Ramasar, Maria Kowroski, and Craig Hall of NYCB; Matthew Rushing from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; Krisina Hanna, Matt Baker, Liz Riga, and Aaron Carr (Keigwin + Company); Attila Joey Csiki (Lar Lubovitch Dance Company); Lara O’Brien and Attila Bongar (Carolina Ballet) as well as Alex Wong, Tara Jean Popowich, and Martin Harvey.
            The performing space had been donated by the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center, and the proximity between audience and performer in this intimate space was such that we could feel the sweat and hear the breathing of the performers – and marvel at subtleties in performances and execution too easy to miss in larger theaters.
           George Balanchine was splendidly represented: Kowroski danced the opening to Mozartiana, prayerfully evocative even without the four little girls; “The Man I Love“ from the contrasting Who Cares? featured Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar (pictured) and seemed more poignant close up. I enjoyed the sprightly excerpts from Larry Keigwin’s Love Songs that were interspersed throughout the program, and Daniel Ulbricht’s choreographed solo, Tatum Pole Boogie, showcased his high flying abilities and whimsy. Earl Mosley and Attila Bongar provided two enjoyable world premieres (That’s Alright featuring Matthew Rushing and A Memory featuring Lara O’Brien and Bongar, respectively), and Benjamin Millipied also contributed (On the Other Side, featuring Janie Taylor and Tyler Angle). The music was equally as diverse:  Georges Bizet, Dave Brubeck, Philip Glass, George Gershwin, Moloko, Roy Orbison, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Robert Schumann, and Peter Tschaikovsky.
            The program’s final offering was the last movement of Christopher Wheeldon’s near miraculous After the Rain. Most of the music for this program, understandably, was taped, with occasional piano accompaniment by Kathy Tagg, but when I saw the NYCB musicians Cameron Grant (piano) and Arturo Delmoni (violin) come onstage to perform Arvo Part’s exquisite music, I could not have been more thrilled; and Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall danced, too!  It would have been the closest we’ve come to the divine realm if two photographers had not been clicking their shutters without interruption (if you are taking pictures at every second of the dancing, do you actually see the dance?), my only quibble of this evening. Part’s music is too delicate and meditative to sustain the constant noise of the camera. Even so, it was lovely to watch this ballet under such circumstances.
            Before the program, a video captured all the participants’ own wars with cancer – mostly fathers, mothers, sisters. Maria Kowroski had shown her mother a tape of her dancing Mozartiana, the last ballet her mother saw her in, which lent her performance that evening a greater sense of prayerfulness than it already evokes. Having lost my mother to lung cancer some years ago, I prayed right along with her. I’m sure I had plenty of company.
            It’s become commonplace to say that we all know someone who has cancer.
Dance Against Cancer: An Evening to Benefit the American Cancer Society. Produced by Erin Fogarty and Daniel Ulbricht. Presented April 25, 2011 at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center, New York City.

Mary Sheeran is a singer and writer whose recent novel, Quest of the Sleeping Princess, takes place during a gala performance at the New York City Ballet ( Her CD recording, Through the Years, is available on CD Baby.

No comments: