Dance Up Close to DANCES FOR A VARIABLE POPULATION

Dance Up Close to DANCES FOR A VARIABLE POPULATION
Christine Jowers/Follow @christinejowers on Twitter

By Christine Jowers/Follow @christinejowers on Twitter
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Published on June 17, 2014
professional photos by Meg Goldman

BEHIND THE SCENES OF SOLSTICE STEPS - A MULTI-GENERATIONAL DANCE EXPERIENCE

Solstice Steps 2014

Where: West Harlem Piers Park part of Riverside Park's Summer on the Hudson series “Harlem Dances”for more information click DVP's Website

What: Three Performances with World Premieres by Six Choreographers
When: June 20 at 6:00 p.m.
            June 21 at 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Choreographers: DVP's Founder and Artistic Director Naomi Goldberg Haas, with TONY award winning choreographer, George Faison, and dancemakers: Sandra Genter, Walter Rutledge, Robin Williams and Dyane Harvey.
Guest Dancers: Dudley Williams,76 years old, and dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for four decades; Stage Performer, Bruce Heath; and Loretta Abbot, a founding member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and an accomplished Broadway performer.



With a cast of 50 dancers spanning ages 25-85, the Solstice Step performances highlight Dances for Variable Population's mission to promote strong, creative movement among adults of all ages and abilities.
 

New Luminaries to Solstice Steps:

This year, for the first time, the Solstice roster of performers and choreographers includes older leaders from the dance world, Tony Award winning choreographer, George Faison will be sharing a work, as well as dancemakers Sandra Genter, Professor Emeriti and former Chair of the Barnard Dance Department; Dyane Harvey, dancer, and choreographer of film and stage and  founding member of the Forces of Nature dance company; Walter Rutledge,a teacher, community leader, author and former associate director of the Nannette Bearden Dance Company; Robin Williams, director if the Uptown Dance Academy in Harlem; Dudley Williams, principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for four decades; Loretta Abbot, another AAADT artist and Broadway performer; and Bruce Heath, a stage dancer in New York City and Los Angeles whose passion is to bring his peers together to share their dance "war"stories.

 

"Solstice is the longest day of the year, and an opportunity to take in the past, sit with our thoughts, and celebrate. It is a pause before embarking on the second half of the year," explains Naomi Goldberg Haas, artistic director of the group, who began her career as a ballerina with Pacific Northwest Ballet.  She describes Dances for a Variable Population as her second life.

"I was at the School of American Ballet from 8 to 16 and I think I still hold to the rigor of what it means to perform. Everyone has to know their stuff. That precision is important. But the idea is, ‘let’s all particpate in this art work.'  When I left ballet and started to create, that became very important for me.”
 

Naomi Goldberg Haas "Dance is for Everyone."



Says passionate Harlem Senior Center dancer and performer, Eleanor Dennis, “ We have a tagline here, ‘Do what you can do, move what you can move.’ Whatever we bring to this is a success. From week to week we’re thrilled.”

Dennis, who studied dance in college but didn’t pursue a career, appreciates that here she’s not a bystander, but a fully immersed participant. She also enjoys being able to take little pieces of what she learns home, “like a to go bag,” to share with her grandaughter. Every so often she says that she catches herself at home improvising. “Dance is an expression." Dennis emphasizes, "You feel it, and you just have to do something about it.”
 

Eleanor Dennis and Dyane Harvey, Choreographer/ Founding Member of Forces of Nature


“Naomi has deposited so much love, ability, and professionalism to us dancers that we are  inspired. What we do is a drawing card for the community, and we are a part of it. We’ve made friends. This work has become a connecting point to other events. We are a big family.”

When we leave here you often hear, ‘I was a little tired when I came in,’ but we’re so energized when we leave, and that just grows and grows and grows,” she laughs. “We really don’t need to take vitamins!”
 

Seasoned Performers Dudley Williams and Loretta Abbot (seated) Dyane Harvey and Bruce Heath ( standing)

 

 

The Dance Enthusiast

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