By Robert Levine
Ballet luminaries, three remarkable world premiers, an excerpt of a seminal piece that changed the history of modern dance, and a rain storm marked this year’s sold out 24th Annual Fire Island Dance Festival, produced by Denise Roberts Hurlin and Adam Rei Siegel. The Festival is a fundraiser for Dancers Responding to AIDS, a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Since l995, when the Dance Festival first began, 64 works have premiered at this celebrated Fire Island Pines event.
The festival’s three premieres were choreographed by Jeffrey Cirio, artistic director of Cirio Collective; James Kinney, an accomplished theater choreographer; and Jamar Roberts, a celebrated member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It was hosted by the sassy and exotic Nathan Lee Graham, who has appeared on Broadway in “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” “The Wild Party,” and the iconic role of Todd in the “Zoolander” movies.
Nine companies in total performed:
• Tony Award winner Christopher Wheeldon presented “Us,” a heart-rending and moving duet featuring Tony Award nominee Robert Fairchild and Emmy Award winning choreographer Travis Wall.
• Paul Taylor Dance Company’s newly announced artistic director designate Michael Novak performed the seminal work “Aureole,” which debuted in 1962.
• Camille A. Brown and Dancers shared “New Second Line,” a piece celebrating the spirit and culture of New Orleans.
• Caleb Teicher and Company presented “Hullabaloo Today,” a tribute to the 1960s, which made its world premier at the Easter Bonnet last spring.
• American Ballet Theatre principal dancers Cory Stearns and Devon Teuscher performed Gemma Bond’s romantic and flowing pas de deux, “Depuis le jour.”
• Michael Francis McBride and Samuel Lee Roberts took a departure from their Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to perform James Kinney’s “Birth of the Blues,” paying homage to Sammy Davis Jr. and set to his classic song “Birth of the Blues.”
• The Chase Brock Experience presented “Splendor,” inspired by Patti Smith’s memoir, “Just Kids,” which premiered at Dancers Responding to AIDS Hudson Valley Dance Festival 2015.
• Jamar Roberts and Dancers premiered “Palance,” featuring five artists from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Eric Winterling designed the dynamic, bright patchwork costumes, which matched the strong bold energy of the choreography.
• The Cirio Collective premiered “Tornerai,”performed by Boston Ballet principal Paul Craig, and American Ballet Theatre soloist Blaine Hoven. Here sharp angles contrasted fluid motion in the engaging duet, which mirrored the varying speeds and tones of electric music by Musica Sequenza and Biosphere.
On Friday night at Whyte Hall, Josh Prince kicked off the festival. Choreographer of Broadway’s “The Carole King Musical,” he presented “Overture of Overtures,” a charming quartet of dance pieces set to the overtures from “Mack and Mabel,” “Candide,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” and “The Boyfriend.”
Sponsors for Fire Island Dance festival included Direct TV, Kikico Property Management, The New York Times, Sayville Ferry, United Airlines, and Walter Boss Custom Builder. Over the weekend a record-breaking $600,000 was raised for the cause.