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Flash Report, 8-30: Dancers Responding to Life and Death
DRA Kicks off the Fall Season

By Darrah Carr
Copyright 2002 Darrah Carr

NEW YORK -- Featuring companies ranging from Jazz Dance America to the International Ballet Project to nicholasleichterdance, Monday's Dancing for Life concert more than fulfilled its stated mission of demonstrating the diversity of dance in New York City and promoting its continued development. The free performance was held outdoors at Bryant Park, an oasis of green behind the public library in midtown. Produced by Dancers Responding to AIDS (DRA), the performance, along with its sister show at noontime, kicked off the second annual NYC Festival of Dance. Through September 14, master classes will be held at ten studios around New York City, with proceeds benefiting DRA, a vital arm of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, one of the nation's largest industry-based AIDS fundraising organizations.

The upcoming month also sees performances around town, including those of Dancenow/NYC and Evening Stars 2002 (formerly held at the World Trade Center Plaza, now moved to Battery Park). Taken as a whole, the extremely talented performers and multitude of planned activities are a strong testament to the vibrancy and dedication of New York's dance community.

For Monday's kick-off, diversity was expressed not only in the forms of dance presented, but also in the range of performers' experience and age. Former Paul Taylor dancer Rachel Berman, a seasoned performer and audience favorite, presented Ernest Morgan's "Ku'u Home O Kahalu'u," a smooth, sensous solo referencing her native Hawaii. Berman danced beneath the festival banner on which her own image was captured in a joyous, flying grand jete. The contrasting styles were interesting and both produced equally stunning images. The program also featured Creative Outlet Dance Theatre of Brooklyn's Young Artists. Trained by choreographer Jamel Gaines, the teenagers are incredibly mature, beautiful movers. They devoured the space with piercing extensions and powerful, athletic leaps.

Moving further across the age spectrum, David Sanders Dance Dynamics, an enormous group of 48 tappers -- teenagers, pre-teens and even younger -- absolutely stole the show. From East Islip Long Island, the troupe was named DRA Studio of the Year 2002, for raising more money for the DRA fund than any studio across the country. The performers moved with complete precision and in perfect unison. An initial group of 30 opened the show with "Because We Can," while halfway through the evening, a second group breezed through "Jumpin' Jack." Sanders' s entire crew joined together to wrap up the concert, proving that no stage is too small and no smile is too big. It was truly uplifting to watch the young performers dance their hearts out, with the sun beginning to set and the lights of Broadway (where many will no doubt end up) glowing behind them. It gave credence to emcee Joe Lanteri's final exhortation that during these several weeks, dancers should "Take a second to realize how lucky you are that dance is in your life. Kick ball change, whatever, just dance!"

The 6 p.m. performance also included Henning Rubsam's Sensedance, excerpts from Rock Stars NYC choreographed by Skip Costa, a piece by Chase Brock, and the Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company. The noon show featured several of the same performers, as well as the Sean Curran Company, MOMIX, Alpha-Omega Theatrical Dance Company, Sara Joel, 8 & AH1 Productions with choreography by Chet Walker, and Wes Veldink Movement.

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