The annual Fire Island Dance Festival took place in New York last week and raised a record-breaking amount for its worthy cause: Dancers Responding to AIDS. This year also featured five new world-premiere works and more than 30 professional dancers.

Highlights included ballerina Wendy Whelan in choreographer Brian Brooks' piece First Fall, a MADBOOTS Dance piece in response to the Orlando tragedy titled For Us and the first U.S. performance of Cuba's Ballet Contemporáneo de Camagüey. Dance Theatre of Harlem also debuted Equilibrium (BROTHERHOOD) by Darrell Grand Moultrie and Dorrance Dance performed a jaw-dropping tap piece.

Wendy Whelan and Brian Brooks perform First Fall. (Photo by Daniel Roberts via Facebook, Dancers Responding to AIDS)

The fest's iconic stage, overlooking the water, makes for a pretty stunning venue. And thankfully, for those that missed out, some of the dances have made their way to YouTube. Check out the highlights video first, then scroll down for a full-length performance of Al Blackstone's upbeat "Gay Paree" (a re-imagined piece from his recent hit Freddie Falls in Love) and appearances by Dance Theatre of Harlem, MADBOOTS Dance and Gallim Dance.

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Al Blackstone is the king of so-happy-your-cheeks-hurt-from-smiling musical theater choreography. So it's fitting that the latest news from Blackstone is like a happiness piñata that just keeps raining candy: He has another NYC show coming up, yay! It stars some of our all-time favorite dancers, YAY! It's benefiting the fantastic Dancers Responding to AIDS, YAY!

That's right: Blackstone's Freddie Falls in Love, presented by Break the Floor, will run June 6 and June 13 at the Pershing Square Signature Center on 42nd St in NYC. In true Blackstone fashion, it's a charming, old-school dance narrative following the down-and-out Freddie on his quest for—of course—happiness. The fabulous cast of dance-actors bringing Freddie's journey to life includes Melanie Moore, Ricky Ubeda, Gaby Diaz, Jacob Guzman, Jess Le Protto and Chelsea Thedinga, to name just a few. And all ticket sales will benefit Dancers Responding to AIDS, which does such invaluable work in the dance community.

Even the show's poster is too cute for words. (via alblackstone.net)

"It's rare that a group of artists of this caliber can be in the same place at the same time to collaborate, and so when the opportunity came to bring Freddie to life, I seized it," Blackstone told Broadway World. "Not a word is spoken by the performers, but communication is what makes the show so magical."

The one piece of sad news? There are only two performances of Freddie Falls in Love. Which means you should probably get your tickets, oh, RIGHT NOW.

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NYCDA's Scholarship Program Grows

New York City Dance Alliance’s college scholarship program is growing by leaps and bounds. Two years ago, it began by offering $350,000 in scholarships to one college. This year, the competition plans to give away $1 million in scholarships to at least three colleges.

Nineteen-year-old Richard Villaverde of Miami, FL, received a full four-year scholarship to University of the Arts (UARTS) in Philadelphia in 2009. When Richard snagged the award, he had already been accepted into the Boston Conservatory but couldn’t afford to attend. “My dream was to go to college after high school and I couldn’t have done it without NYCDA and this program,” says Richard, currently a sophomore at UARTS.

Though NYCDA began the program through a partnership with UARTS, Marymount Manhattan and Point Park University have since joined the effort as well. Joe Lanteri, the executive director of NYCDA, says he expects to partner with even more schools in the future.

NYCDA also launched a new nonprofit organization called The New York City Dance Alliance Foundation so that student dancers can help increase the scholarship pool even more. Plus, according to Lanteri, students who help raise money for the campaign will be eligible for an extra shot at a scholarship! Want to get involved? For more information, visit nycdance.com/college_scholarships.htm. —Colleen Bohen

Dancing to Conquer AIDS

Dancers from more than 10 studios in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will perform in the Stars of Tomorrow…Giving Back Today fundraiser at Purchase College this month. Dancers Responding to AIDS, a division of Broadway Cares, has been producing the event annually for the past eight years as part of its Dance Student Outreach Project. Proceeds are used to provide services for AIDS patients and support a variety of healthcare programs for performers.

This year’s show, taking place February 27, will feature a guest performance by the Chase Brock Experience. Additionally, Chase Brock (DS November 2009), the company’s artistic director, and Jon Bond, from Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, will teach master classes for the student performers earlier that day.

Students from all participating studios are required to sell tickets to help raise money for the cause. The dancers pay entrance fees for the master classes as a way to bring in additional funds. Last year’s event raised approximately $30,000, and DRA founding director Denise Roberts Hurlin expects to match or exceed that amount this year. Want to make your own contribution? Visit dradance.org.  —CB

Walnut Hill Hosts Male Dance Competition

High-school-aged male dancers are invited to enter for a chance to win a scholarship to the dance program at Walnut Hill School for the Arts. Dancers have until February 15, 2011, to submit a 15-minute filmed audition, along with two dance photographs (see “Picture Perfect,” p. 52, for advice) and a completed application. Go to walnuthillarts.org/ballet/index.html for more information.  —CB

Spring Artist Residencies at Goucher College

Goucher College in Baltimore, MD, welcomes prestigious guest artists to its dance department this month.

From February 4–13, a small cast from Goucher’s repertory ensemble will work with Zippora Karz, a former New York City Ballet soloist, on a new piece. Outside of the studio, Karz, who is also a diabetes spokesperson, will give a lecture about living—and dancing—with diabetes, and sign copies of her memoir, The Sugarless Plum.

From February 18–27, former Paul Taylor dancer Constance Dinapoli will restage the classic Taylor work Aureole on selected ensemble members in honor of Taylor’s 80th birthday. Additionally, Karz and Dinapoli will teach the department’s ballet and modern technique classes during their stays. Both guest artists’ pieces will be featured in Goucher’s Repertory Dance Ensemble Concert April 15–16.—Sarah Badger

Not sure which college dance program is right for you? Head to DanceU101.com, the one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the college dance world. The site has up-to-date info on more than 600 college dance programs, plus application strategies and interactive forums. Check it out!

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