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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
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The Danny Kaye Playhouse
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Joffrey Ballet School - 50th Anniversary Celebration (1953-2003)

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 24, 2003
The Danny Kaye Playhouse
East 68th Street between Park & Lexington Avenues
New York, NY 10021
(212) 772-4448

About the Author:

Joffrey Ballet School - 50th Anniversary Celebration (1953-2003)


Gerald Arpino, Artistic Director
Edith D'Addario, Director

Featuring: Ann Reinking, Cady Huffman, Carissa Massaro, Elizabeth Parkinson and David Gomez,
Michele Wiles and David Hallberg, Rasta Thomas,
Alix Korey and David Friedman, Davis Robertson,
Valerie Madonia, Suzanne Lopez and Willy Shives,
Joffrey Ensemble Dancers,
and Joffrey Trainee Program

Special Guest: Patrick Swayze

Presented at The Kaye Playhouse
Directed by Maurice Brandon Curry

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 24, 2003

(See Interview of Elie Lazar and Review of Joffrey Ensemble).

The School: A Video produced by Michael Palermo. This was a very lovely and sophisticated film, set to Vivaldi, depicting the students practicing in the studios of the renowned Joffrey Ballet School.

Where the Movement and the Music Meet: Choreography by Maurice Brandon Curry; Music and Lyrics by David Friedman; Arranged by Douglas Coates; Piano: Douglas Coates; Cello: Caroline Stinson; Violin: Victoria Paterson; Costumes Designed and Provided by Danskin; Performed by members of The Joffrey Ballet School, Cady Huffman, and Carissa Massaro. This piece showcased the exquisite Danskin outfits and the dance skills of the students of the school. Choreography was contemporary, and I found the students to be poised, balanced, and focused. This work was an excellent beginning to a Gala event.

Welcome: Ann Reinking (See Career Transitions for Dancers October 27, 2003 Gala Review with Ann Reinking). What happens at many Galas is that the speakers are not always given time limits, and Ms. Reinking's reminiscence seemed to fit into the category of too long. However, she allowed the audience to feel intertwined with the School and with Robert Joffrey. As it happened, Mr. Joffrey was apparently her Broadway inspiration, and Ms. Reinking has enjoyed a prolific career, as a result. Ms. Reinking frequently appeared tonight as speaker and host. She remains elegant and charismatic.

Capriccios: Choreography by Trinette Singleton; Music by Shostakovich; Costumes Courtesy of Repertory Dance; Performed by members of The Joffrey Ballet School. Shostakovich has always been one of my favorite composers, and this work drew forth the talent and potential of this remarkable School.

Unequilibrium: Choreography by Davis Robertson; Music by Bela Bartok; Performed by Valerie Madonia and Davis Robertson. Ms. Madonia and Mr. Robertson have both been members of the Joffrey Ballet Company and have been affiliated with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Ms. Madonia is on The Joffrey Ballet School faculty. Mr. Robertson, the choreographer of this work, is famous for his role as The Faun in Nijinsky's ballet, recreated by the Joffrey Ballet, for which he danced for the past ten years. I found this work contemporary, electric, connected, and charismatic. Both dancers were well partnered and virtuosic.

My Simple Wish: Music and Lyrics by David Friedman; Piano: David Friedman; Performed by Alix Korey. This was a refreshing piece, sung and acted by an adorable performer from the Off-Broadway show, Listen to My Heart. It was a very New York tale sung for swinging singles and lonely hearts. The audience responded with warmth and adoration.

Grand Pas Classique: Choreography by Victor Gsovsky; Music by Oleg Brianski; Costumes by Daniel Francois Auber; Performed by Michele Wiles and David Hallberg. Michele Wiles and David Hallberg have been reviewed and featured in this journal on numerous occasions (See American Ballet Reviews and Photos). Ms. Wiles has a stately and youthful presence, with an elegantly long neck and torso, and Mr. Hallberg has bravura skills in partnering, leaping, spinning, and theatricality. Together they created fireworks on this stage at the Kaye Playhouse, a signature ABT performance for this amazing duo.

The Faculty: A Video produced by Michael Palermo. The audience of students and families of The Joffrey Ballet School were quite vocal in their appreciation of their teachers, as face after face of familiar dance coaches appeared on screen. This video was a nice effect.

Remembrances: Gerald Arpino. Mr. Arpino, Artistic Director, reminisced about founding The Joffrey Ballet School with Robert Joffrey, about the physical and logistical demands of the tiny new school in New York City, and about the joys of knowing and collaborating with Mr. Joffrey.

Rondo Brillante: Choreography by Elie Lazar; Music by Felix Mendelssohn; Costumes by Paul H. McRae; Performed by Joffrey Ensemble Dancers. Mr. Lazar is a creative and warm teacher and choreographer. He brings out the best in his pre-professional students, and tonight was no exception. Music of Mendelssohn was well chosen, as it is joyous and uplifting, and The Joffrey Ensemble seemed to be in celebratory form.

Here and Now: Michael Brandon Curry. Mr. Curry, Director of tonight's event was humorous and effective in thanking his team and honoring the students and faculty of The Joffrey Ballet School.

Michael H. Roberts, PhD: Dean, Dyson College of Arts & Sciences, Pace University. Dr. Roberts was an esoteric addition to tonight's program.

Shameless (from Movin' Out, See Reviews by Roberta Zlokower and Robert Abrams): Choreography by Twyla Tharp; Music and Lyrics by Billy Joel; Vocals by Michael Cavenaugh; Costumes by Suzy Benzinger; Performed by Elizabeth Parkinson and David Gomez. When I last saw Ms. Parkinson dance this role to the very dynamic songs of Billy Joel, I was positioned extremely close to the stage and speakers. From the vantage point of the balcony, where I sat tonight with my guest, I enjoyed this piece somewhat more, although, I must admit, this is not my favorite work on any level. Ms. Parkinson and Mr. Gomez, however, have athletic skills and stage presence.

L'Air D'Esprit: Choreography by Gerald Arpino; Music by Adolphe Adam; Costumes by A. Christina Giannini, Performed by Suzanne Lopez and Willy Shives of Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. By far, this performance was one of the highlights of the evening. This piece was so ethereal and soft, it took one's breath away. Ms. Lopez and Mr. Shives are artists to watch. At times Ms. Lopez was miraculously lifted onto Mr. Lopez' back, and they slowly glided across the stage within the misty, dim lighting. The memory of this ballet remains etched in my mind's eye. Kudos to Mr. Arpino for creating this work.

Bumblebee: Choreography by Milton Myers; Music by Rimsky-Korsakov; Music Arranged and Performed by Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma (See Fiddlefest Review); Performed by Rasta Thomas of Dance Theatre of Harlem. A human bumblebee, a joke, a characterization of an insect, a fantasy, a cartoon - these are the images that come to mind, when one re-configures this dance. Rasta Thomas has a body that seems not to have joints or bones, when he twists and bends and spins in incredible shapes with instantaneous changes. Rimsky-Korsakov never looked better.

L'Esprit de Joie: Choreography by John Magnus; Music by Gounod; Ladies Costumes Courtesy of Joffrey Midwest Workshop, Men's Costumes Courtesy of Art Stone; Performed by members of The Joffrey Ballet School. This final piece, in shades of lavender, had a scintillating and positive appearance and style, as it showcased these energetic and eager students, all of whom aspire to greatness and all of whom had been inspired by greatness during the course of this Gala evening of ballet, contemporary dance, song, and spoken memories.

Additional hosts were Patrick Swayze, in rare form, who has been involved with The Joffrey Ballet School, Cady Huffman, a sensational singer and raconteur, and various officials of The Joffrey Ballet School. Photos below were taken at S. Wyler, Inc., an elegant antiques shop at 941 Lexington Avenue at 69th Street, NYC, NY, where patrons of The Joffrey Ballet School, guest artists and special guests gathered for champagne and fine hors d'oeuvres, anniversary cake, and warm conversation. Congratulations to The Joffrey Ballet School, to Gerald Arpino, to Edith D'Addario, to Elie Lazar, and to all the guest speakers, hosts, and performers of tonight's 50th Anniversary Gala.

Maurice Curry and Elie Lazar, See Lazar Interview

Phil LaDuca and Cady Huffman

Gala Reception

Cecilia Saia and Ronen Khayat, DanceSport Tango

Gala Buffet

Elizabeth Parkinson, See Review Movin' Out

Gala Reception

S. Wyler, Inc. Antiques

Elie Lazar, Joffrey Ensemble

Ilona Copen and Husband, NYIBC

Gerald Arpino and Guest, Joffrey Ballet

Gerald Arpino Cuts the Cake

S. Wyler, Inc. Antiques

Elie Lazar and Guest

Ronen and Cecilia

Gala Reception

Suzanne Lopez and Guest

Willy Shives and Guest

Cecilia, Ronen, and Suzanne Lopez

Suzanne and Roberta

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