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Stars of the Dance World Help Fight Cancer | 4th Annual Dance Against Cancer…

May 17, 2014
Clifton Brown in Fredrick Earl Mosley’s 'Dedications (Except)' for the 4th Annual Dance Against Cancer. Photo: Christopher Duggan

Clifton Brown in Fredrick Earl Mosley’s ‘Dedications (Except)’ for the 4th Annual Dance Against Cancer. Photo: Christopher Duggan

For the last four years 150 dancers from 20 companies have been seen in sixty pieces and raised over $550,000 for the fight against Cancer. Produced by Erin Fogarty and Daniel Ulbricht who have partnered with the American Cancer Society, this year Dance Against Cancer bought together dancers from the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Miami City Ballet, Boston Ballet, Lar Lubovitch, Paul Taylor and a special performance by the legendary ballerina Alessandra Ferri.

The evening started with a moving audio collage of the dancers saying who they were, their company affiliation and how Cancer has affected their lifes. Mr. Ulbricht ‘s mother is currently battling uterine cancer, both the fathers of Ms. Fogarty and Christopher Wheeldon’s were taken all to soon because of cancer (and I, myself lost my Aunt Elaine from Breast Cancer)…it was a moving tribute to those who have survived or fighting their own private battles with cancer…

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Works by Balanchine, Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon, Paul Taylor and John Kobborg we performed as well world premieres given of works by Brian Reeder, Greg Graham and Gregory Porter.

Charles “Lil Buck” Riley, the Memphis Junkin’ sensation opened the evening with the help of the National Dance Institute that was founded by Jacques d’Amboise. The National Dance Institute gives the New York City public school children access to dance through weekly classes, short-term residencies, and public performances at no cost.

The National Dance Institute for the 4th Annual Dance Against Cancer. Photo: Christopher Duggan

The National Dance Institute for the 4th Annual Dance Against Cancer. Photo: Christopher Duggan

The piece, In Memory of (Excerpt) was conceived and staged by Damien Woetzel and it was a very lively opening with eighteen kids running down both aisles of the AXA Equitable Theater and then jumping on stage. Charles “Lil Buck” Riley soon joins them and improvs around and through the kids. But, It is one little mite of a girl wearing a yellow tee-shirt that stole the show….she danced with such verge and vigor, total commitment…she’s a natural dancer…I see a star in the making….

The evening was filled with stellar performances of unbelievable magnitude. Misa Kuranaga from the Boston Ballet and James Whiteside from ABT performed Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. The pas is a beautiful and grand piece that allowed Ms. Kurana’s lyricism and musicality to shine.

Robert Kleinendorst, Micheal Tusonevec, James Samson & Sean Mahoney in the ‘Men’s Quartet’ from Paul Taylor’s ‘Cloven Kingdom’. Photo: Christopher Duggan

Robert Kleinendorst, Micheal Tusonevec, James Samson & Sean Mahoney in the ‘Men’s Quartet’ from Paul Taylor’s ‘Cloven Kingdom’ for the 4th Annual Dance Against Cancer. Photo: Christopher Duggan

Clifton Brown from the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company gave an inspired and emotionally charged performance of an excerpt from Fredrick Earl Mosley’s Dedications. It was absolutely the best performance I have seen from Mr. Brown. Bravo Mr. Brown…

Paul Taylor dancers, Michael Tusonevec, Robert Kleinendorst, James Samson and Sean Mahoney performed the Men’s Quartet from Mr. Taylor’s Cloven Kingdom. Four men in tux and tails perform with such athleticism and bravura, this mixed with Paul Taylor’s unique brand of sardonic humor…how could one go wrong…

Violinist Karl Nikkanen with Daniel Ulbricht in Johan Kobborg’s ‘Les Lutin’ for the 4th Annual dance Against Cancer. Photo: Christopher Duggan

Violinist Karl Nikkanen with Daniel Ulbricht in Johan Kobborg’s ‘Les Lutin’ for the 4th Annual Dance Against Cancer. Photo: Christopher Duggan

Mr. Ulbricht and ABT’s Hernan Cornejo (two of my favorite male dancers in the world…) brought the house done performing Johan Kobborg’s Les Lutins. Mr. Ulbricht struts on stage wearing a shirt and tie with pants and suspenders, he seems very assured of himself. The work is set to Wieniawski’s Caprice and Bazzini’s Ronde des lutins and performed on stage by Michael Scales on piano and Kurt Nikkanen playing violin.

As the musicians begin to play Mr. Ulbricht responds to the rapidity of the music with a succession of petit allégro and quick double tours.  There is playful one-up-manship between the musicians and Mr. Ulbricht, each seems to be challenging the other to be bolder, to be better.

Hernan Cornejo & Daniel Ulbricht with violinist Karl Nikkanen in Johan Kobborg’s ‘Les Lutin’ for the 4th Annual dance Against Cancer. Photo: Christopher Duggan

Hernan Cornejo & Daniel Ulbricht with violinist Karl Nikkanen in Johan Kobborg’s ‘Les Lutin’ for the 4th Annual Dance Against Cancer. Photo: Christopher Duggan

Mr. Cornejo appears from the wings and Mr. Ulbricht surrenders the stage to him as if to say, “hey, think you can do better, give it a try”. Mr. Cornejo proceeds with quick pique turns, several double tours then the same petit allégro sequence as done by Mr. Ulbricht earlier, he then stops, looks at Mr. Ulbricht as if to say…”see, no big deal”…then comes a throw-down between the two of virtuosity and athleticism. Johan Kobborg’s Les Lutins is a well revered work…you have to be not good, but exceptional to do the work justice and Mr. Ulbricht and Mr. Cornejo did that then some…

American Ballet Theater’s Gillian Murphy and Jared Angle’s performance of the Don Quixote Pas de Deux was stellar. Mr. Murphy executed perhaps the most impressive set of fouettés I have yet  to see, with a Spanish fan a-flutter each fouetté was a double where it’s usually a single turn with a double thrown in for every other turn….brought the house down…….

The evening closed with a poignant performance of Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain, performed by the legendary Italian ballerina Alessandra Ferri and NYCB’s Craig Hall. Seeing Ms. Ferri in performance was a dream come true. Her artistry is such that I can only say that her performance was something I will remember for a lifetime

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