Dd Response: American Dance Machine for the 21st Century at City Center

 In Dd Response

In the ever-evolving world of technology, the language of dance is still passed on through the generations from person to person. However, with so many new works being created, and so little of it lasting very long on the Great White Way these days, how are we to keep track of all of the classic works?

From 1976 into the late 1980s, Lee Theodore created a company called The American Dance Machine (ADM) as a living  archive of musical theater dance in order to preserve the choreography. After her passing, ADM folded. But, thanks to Executive Director Nikki Feirt Atkins and Artistic Director Margo Sappington, it has been revived into what is now called The American Dance Machine for the 21st Century.

On November 11th, the studio performance was packed at New York City Center as ADM21 performed five show-stopping numbers. Each work was a masterpiece in itself, and the energy and excitement of the performers was answered by the grateful response of the audience. Clearly, there is a mutual hunger for solid choreography between dancers and theatergoers.

Naomi Kakuk’s cool styling in “Simply Irresistible” from Susan Stroman‘s Contact brought a level of vulnerability on top of technique that I had never seen before in her portrayal as “A Girl in a Yellow Dress.”

The raw emotion of “Music and the Mirror” from Michael Bennett‘s A Chorus Line rang as true as ever through Jessica Lee Goldyn‘s interpretation of Cassie. Coached by the role’s originator and Tony Award-winner Donna McKechnie, Goldyn executed every step, line, and note with an exactness that was reminiscent of the true triple threat, which is rare on current Broadway stages. Her moving performance was made even more touching by McKechnie’s presence in the mirror, beaming with pride.

Randy Skinner shared how he came to work for and with the late Gower Champion, the original director/choreographer of 42nd Street. He explained how only twelve years after the original’s closing, he revived 42nd Street in a way that both preserved and paid homage to Champion’s production.

He then invited the audience to “Go Into Your Dance,” through jubilant execution of precise and traditional tap and theater jazz, which Skinner has thankfully preserved and continues to teach.

Starting smoothly and coolly, Amra-Faye Wright sang “Mr. Monotony” from Jerome Robbins Broadway. While her blow-the-back-off-of-the-house performance could have stood alone, the tale of which she sang was then danced sexily and humorously by Georgina Pazcoguin, Amar Ramasar, and Daniel Ulbricht of the New York City Ballet as coached by Robert La Fosse.

“Turkey Lurkey Time” from Bennett’s Promises Promises was an excellent choice to close the show. So excellent in fact, that an excited Sappington, one of the three originals to re-stage the number — along with Baayork Lee and McKechnie — jumped up and demanded an encore. The dancers performed with even more abandonment than before, bringing the audience to their feet.

On top of the sheer excellence that the dancers, women especially, brought to this evening. the satisfactory sensation that only truly lasting choreography can bring permeated the air. Much musical theater dance has evolved into an easily attainable, flash in the pan, love it-then-leave-it mess these days. The precision and technicality required of each of these dancers proved that well-crafted choreography can indeed tell a story, entertain, and be impressive without the need for a random tumbling pass across the stage.

Atkins announced that ADM21 will perform a week-long residency at The Joyce in 2014. Performers and theatergoers have been given a gift in the rebirth of American Dance Machine for the 21st Century. Thank you directors and performers for bringing back these amazing pieces.

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