Career Transitions Gala Is All About Stage Animals

October 29, 2008

Every year this high-powered gala gets better and better. This year the theme was On Broadway, which was introduced by a wonderful collage of film clips recalling Robbins, de Mille, Fosse, Bennet and more, and the duration was kept to a crisp two hours.


The Rolex Award went to that quintessential Broadway dancer, Tommy Tune. When the lights came up on him toward the end of the show, and he sauntered toward us, I was struck with how totally at ease he is onstage. With that long and lanky walk, easy swing in his hips and pleasantly smiling face, he welcomed us into his home—the stage. He proceeded to sing “S’Wonderful, S’Marvelous, that you should care for me.” He told stories of how young he was when he started dancing, every once in a while leaving the podium to shuffle ball change. And then, what was also s’wonderful was that he mock-directed the whole company of about 40 dancers onstage for a finale—including Brooke Shields, who had gushingly introduced him.

One of the other gems of the evening was the Corsaire pas de deux with Herman Cornejo and Ziomara Reyes of ABT (though I don’t think either has been “on Broadway”). The magnificent Cornejo pulled out a gasp-inducing tour jeté that slowed down in the air, and turns à la seconde that spiraled into a whizzing ice-skating turn. All the while he extended his fingers in that crazy flat hand shape that the slave is supposed to have.

But two other magnificent dancers were almost hidden. One was Bebe Neuwirth, who, along with Pam Sousa, danced partly behind David Warren Gibson in a short (too short) trio from Fosse’s Pippin. From where I sat in the mezzanine, every inward bend of the knee, every shrug of the shoulder, every scoop of the pelvis was as visible as if they were rays from some very sexy sun. Of course, everyone watches Neuwirth anyway, no matter where she is placed in a number.

And in “Two Lost Souls” from Fosse’s Damn Yankees, way upstage was Karine Plantadit, among 10 other members of the ensemble. With cigarette in hand, she oozed over a table, a chair, and some guy’s behind while he was lying down. She wantonly stood on a chair, teetering as though she would fall, but was of course in full control. A kind of extreme sensual consciousness went into each movement. Even though she was just one of a group playing backup to two main dancers too—she just sucked your attention toward her.

What a treat it was to see these sublime dancers within the context of honoring our past on Broadway!

The evening, which was produced and directed by Ann Marie DeAngelo, had many other gems too. The renditon of Robbins’ “Cool” from West Side Story was powerfully danced, but undercut by the costumes that were wrong wRoNg WRONG.  With the guys wearing ties and the girls (what were they doing in this number anyway) wearing prom dresses, they looked more like the clean-cut kids of Grease or Cry-Baby than the street gangs of West Side Story.

Baryshnikov presented the CTFD Award to Sono Osato, and Angela Lansbury presented one to Bian Heidtke. This year there were live musicians in City Center’s pit:  the Jubilee Orchestra directed by Jim Morgan.

And the best part if that Career Transition For Dancers raised $1,085,000 to help dancers to transition to a second career.