A gleaming white stage sitting directly on the water; visible rays of sunlight streaming through the clouds; a hugely talented group of performers from various corners of the dance universe, all united in one cause—in a word, the Fire Island Dance Festival is idyllic. We were lucky enough to be guests at last weekend's festival, and a great time was had by all.
From opening number—Broadway Dance Lab in founder Josh Prince's crowd-pleasing In Defense, which through simple yet evocative gesture celebrated the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy—to closing—an excerpt of Ron K. Brown's glorious Torch, with a movingly understated performance by Brown himself—the program had the audience cheering nonstop. Of special note were Robert Battle's wild Strange Humors, performed by Ailey dancers—and newlyweds—Kirven Douthit-Boyd and Antonio Douthit-Boyd; BODYTRAFFIC (a 2013 "25 to Watch") in an excerpt from Richard Siegal's high-spirited o2Joy (co-director Tina Finkelman Berkett, who appeared, is an incredibly generous dancer and a great actress); and Lar Lubovitch's iconic Duet from Concerto Six Twenty-Two, danced by Clifton Brown and Attila Joey Csiki. Even hilarious host Mo Rocca got a chance to strut his stuff in Turkey-Lurkey Time (choreographed by Al Blackstone with some diligence due to Michael Bennett).
Broadway Dance Lab in Josh Prince's In Defense. Photo by Danny Roberts, Courtesy DRA.
But our two favorite performances came from Abraham.in.Motion in Kyle Abraham's premiere When We Take Flight, another display of his genius at melding modern dance rigor with pedestrian vernacular, and Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild of New York City Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon's A Place for Us. The latter looked like a completely different piece from the one we saw at the NYCB spring gala. Perhaps the intimacy of the venue and the picturesque backdrop (or even the much improved costumes) helped us see this ballet for what it really is—a charming work that allows Fairchild's charismatic flair and Peck's truly remarkable facility—she makes tricky transitions and musical idiosyncrasies look as natural as breathing—to shine.
Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild in Wheeldon's A Place for Us.
Photo by Danny Roberts, Courtesy DRA.
The three performances raised an astounding $393,647, for Dancers Responding to AIDS, a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a record in FIDF's nearly 20-year history. The funds benefit more than 450 national AIDS and family service organizations, as well as health and other services for performers provided by The Actors Fund. (DRA also provides some artistic support for its commissions.) We applaud the generosity of all involved in this wonderful cause. See www.dradance.org for upcoming benefit performances, including the inaugural Hudson Valley Dance Festival this fall.
And if you haven't seen this video of Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith of San Francisco Ballet performing Wheeldon's After the Rain at FIDF 2010, you need to stop what you're doing and watch it now: