Dance News

Brilliant dancer and choreographer Bob Fosse would have been 87 years old today. Say it with us:

(OK, OK—we stole these gifs from our friends over at Playbill. They're just so darn great!)

What better way to celebrate the nine-time Tony Award winner than by watching the full versions of the three incredible Fosse routines gif-ified above? First, there's Fosse himself dancing with muse Gwen Verdon in "Who's Got the Pain" from Damn Yankees, 1958:

Next up, we've got another Fosse favorite, Liza Minnelli, in the slinky "Bye Bye Blackbird" number from Liza with a Z, 1972:

And finally we have Fosse again, tearing it up with fellow dancer Tommy Rall in "Alley Dance" from My Sister Eileen, 1955:

We miss you, Fosse! Want to learn more about this groundbreaking artist? Click here for Dance Spirit's Fosse primer.

One of the best perks of being a DS editor is going to the annual Career Transition for Dancers gala. What could be better than a super-glittery event for a great organization, featuring performances by top dancers from all over?

The 2013 gala, themed "Broadway and Beyond" and honoring the inimitable Ann-Margret (who makes me want to rethink the way I spell my name), was held last night at New York City Center. As usual, it didn't disappoint. Here are my top 5 moments from the evening:

1) Kelly Bishop sang "At the Ballet." You probably know Bishop as Emily Gilmore from "Gilmore Girls," or tough teacher Fanny Flowers from "Bunheads" (RIP!). But before she became a Hollywood star, she was a true Broadway baby. She originated the part of Sheila in A Chorus Line, and if there's anything that gives me more goosebumps than listening to "At the Ballet," it's listening to Kelly Bishop tear her way through "At the Ballet." Her voice may not be what it once was, but she still packs a powerful dramatic punch.

2) Randy Skinner and Sara Brians channeled Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell. I love a good old-fashioned tap number. An elegant lady and a dashing gentleman breezing their way through a classic Broadway tune? Yes please. These two talented tappers performed an impressive routine set to Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine," and if you're wondering what it looked like, watch this.

3) Dulé Hill, Jason Samuels Smith and Jimmy Tate kicked things up a notch. After all that about loving classic tap, let's be honest: I'm also a sucker for a good hoofer—or three. This top-notch trio's tribute to Broadway tap veteran Danny Daniels (who choreographed) kept things classy, but still gave each dancer a few opportunities to get down.

4) Lynn Cohen played Agnes de Mille. (Don't know who Lynn Cohen is? Yes you do: She's Magda from "Sex and the City." Eee!) Though Agnes de Mille was one of the original brains behind CTFD, it's still a little unclear why Cohen was around to do her best de Mille for a few minutes between some of the dance acts. In the end, though, who cares? She was fabulous.

5) Liza Minnelli presented Ann-Margret with the Rolex Dance Award—and everyone in the audience died of happiness. Nothing compares to watching those two song-and-dance queens onstage together. Especially when they're dressed in the world's most sparkly confections and cracking jokes like, "Can you believe we're both still alive?" Amazing.

Speaking of amazing: I'll leave you with Ann-Margret doing her thing (with Elvis!) in 1964's Viva Las Vegas. Enjoy!

Quick! Think of a musical that epitomizes the Bob Fosse style.

Did you pick Cabaret? Odds are pretty good you did. Who doesn't associate Fosse with fishnet-clad girls vamping to "Mein Herr"?

But here's an interesting fact: The original Broadway production of the now-iconic show, which premiered in 1966, was actually choreographed by Ron Field, not Fosse. It wasn't until the 1972 movie version, which Fosse choreographed and directed, that the jazz legend was able to put his sultry stamp on the musical numbers—which became the perfect showcase for star Liza Minnelli and her gorgeous gams. (Here's another fun fact: Guess who played the Minnelli character, Sally Bowles, in the 1968 West End production of the show? None other than Judi Dench.)

The film won eight Oscars almost exactly 40 years ago. In celebration that anniversary, a high-definition Blu-ray version of Cabaret has just been released. You can get your copy here. (Warning, though: Like a lot of Fosse, it's a little risqué.)

Four members of the film's cast, including Minnelli and Joel Grey, made an appearance on "The Today Show" last week to talk about Cabaret's birthday and the awesomeness of Bob Fosse. They even treated Hoda and Kathie Lee to a little impromptu serenade. It's adorable. Take a look!

Why is Christina Applegate so amazing at everything? First, she was a total rockstar of a guest judge on "So You Think You Can Dance." Then, this weekend, she hosted "Saturday Night Live"—and proved she can (jazz) walk the walk as well as she can talk the talk in a glorious Fosse sketch.

In theory, I already knew Christina had moves. (She did headline the Broadway revival of Sweet Charity just a few years ago, after all.) But I didn't realize just how hardcore she was. Check out that to-the-nose battement!

This skit was a dance-nerd's paradise in more ways than one. I don't know why "SNL" loves crazy Fosse ladies and Tommy Tune references so much (remember Kristen Wiig doing her best Liza Minnelli last season?), but I, for one, am not complaining. And the whole premise, about kooky teachers using weird noises instead of counts? Pretty much spot-on. As Christina says: "This is Fosse, honey. We don't do 1-2-3s. We do 'ka-donks,' 'ka-doonks' and 'za-zas'!"

Check out the sketch below—then read about how to get Fosse-ified yourself.

Dance News

Last night I attended the second annual Bright Lights, Shining Stars gala benefiting the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation. We were told the event would be star-studded—and it sure was.

While DS managing editor Rachel Zar was positively giddy about standing in the lobby next to a Real Housewife (Ramona Singer), I was more excited to see some familiar faces in the crowd, like former Cover Model Search winner (and one of my favorite dancers of all-time) Ida Saki, Joey Dowling, Andy Blankenbuehler and Jakob Karr.

As always, I do my best thinking in list form, so here are 5 Reasons Bright Lights, Shining Stars Was a Hit:

1. It helped kids go to college. Since its inception just two years ago, the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation has awarded more than $5 million in college scholarships to more than 100 dancers. This is huge. Many dancers aren't sure if they want to go to college (do it!), and some aren't in a financial position to attend. NYCDAF helps with that, and it's so incredible to watch executive director Joe Lanteri bring a talented young dancer onstage and tell her she's getting a full ride into the life of higher education (hello, Montana Michniak). Lives change, and we get to watch it happen. It's awesome. (You heard me when I said go to college, right? Great.) It's especially fun for us because our sister publication, Dance Magazine, is one of the foundation's gold sponsors!

I only teared up once last night, and it was when Utah comp kid Mattie Love spoke to the audience, thanking everyone for coming and for helping her get to college. Thanks to the foundation, she just took her first class as a freshman at Marymount Manhattan College. Too cool. And congratulations, Mattie! We hope you have a rockin' first year.

2. It was like Dance Spirit's competition issue come to life! Logan Epstein! Noelle Meers! Alexia Meyer! Alyssa Ness! Hannah Seiden! Teeny tiny Kayla Mak! All the cool kids you read about after Nationals each year were onstage performing as NYCDAF scholarship recipients. They danced choreography by Andy Pellick and you could tell they were loving every minute of the stress-free performance. No judges! No scores! No pressure.

3. Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Natalia Alonso, will you be my best friend? The two pieces by Complexions—Testament and On Holiday—were so stunning and were definitely my favorites of the evening.

4. Julie Kent! Julie Kent is the epitome of a prima ballerina. She's lithe and lovely and sweet spoken in a way that makes me hold my breath a little while she's talking. The American Ballet Theatre principal delivered a wonderful speech about honoree Mikhail Baryshnikov, talking about how he hand-picked her to be in the film Dancers and, ultimately, to join ABT. I especially loved one quote that she shared with the crowd from Mr. Baryshnikov himself: "It's not what you did, but how you did it." Kind of makes you want to go do something really full-out doesn't it?

5. Misha and Liza. It's hard to imagine a cooler duo, isn't it? The standing ovation when these two got onstage lasted longer than Kim Kardashian's marriage (sorry, had to go there). So Mikhail Baryshnikov (affectionately known in the dance world as simply "Misha") was awarded NYCDAF's Ambassador of the Arts award, and Liza Minnelli got to hand it over to him. She was so sweet talking up her friend, and she referred to Misha as "my honey," which just about made me melt. She called him "the greatest ballet dancer the world has ever known." Misha, upon receiving the award, was humble and without a speech. He did, however, imply that he would like his next honor to be Czar of the Arts. We're on board.

All in all it was a fun, heartwarming night at NYU's Skirball Center for the Arts. Congratulations, Mikhail Baryshnikov, on your fancy new title and thank you for the endless inspiration.

Dance News

Every now and then, one of my non-dance friends will see a picture (or, better yet here in NYC: a real-life sighting) of Mikhail Baryshnikov, and she'll say, "It's the guy from Sex and the City!"

I mean yeah, OK. But also, it's Mikhail Baryshnikov! Only one of the greatest dancers of all-time. He did play a coolly seductive Aleksandr Petrovsky, though.

Whether people recognize him as Carrie Bradshaw's Paris-bound love on TV or they realize he's one of the dance world's major heavy-hitters, Baryshnikov is a legend worth knowing. I'll never forget the first time I saw him in person at a New York City Ballet gala. It was the first time I was ever starstruck and I just stood there staring at him, secretly hoping he'd burst into spontaneous choreography in the middle of the David Koch Theater lobby.

Now, you can get your own glimpse at stardom on Wednesday, September 5: I know exactly where Mikhail Baryshnikov will be that night—and where you should be, too.

Next Wednesday, the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation will feature two dance dynamos at its annual "Bright Lights Shining Stars" gala. Mikhail Baryshnikov is the night's guest of honor, and he'll be presented with the NYCDAF Ambassador for the Arts Award. Handing over the trophy? Baryshnikov's longtime friend Liza Minnelli!

The lineup for the rest of the night is star-studded and spectacular, including guest performances by American Ballet Theatre, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, New York City Ballet and more.

Like I said, I'll be there. Mikhail Baryshnikov will be there. Liza will be there. And you should make your way there, too.

Click here to snag a 25% off discount on your ticket. The show starts at 7:30 pm at NYU's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in NYC.

Hope to see you there!

Dance News

Last night I got all dressed up—er, stayed in my nicer-than-normal work attire, actually—to attend the 30th annual Fred and Adele Astaire Awards at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.

Now, awards shows are usually fun because you get little glimpses of dancers: those performing backup at the MTV Video Music Awards, the ones in the opening act at the Academy Awards, and maybe a dancer or two making moves at the Grammys. But the Astaire Awards are all about dancers and choreographers.

So naturally, between the people watching (Newsies choreographer Christopher Gattelli! New York City Dance Alliance executive director Joe Lanteri! "Smash" choreographer Josh Bergasse! A real housewife!) and the performances (oh, Fosse, Fosse, Fosse—which is fun to say, as presenter Chita Rivera pointed out), this evening was oh-so-entertaining.

Here are a few of my favorite moments from last night's Astaire Awards:

  • Luke Spring. This kid is dynamite, and you're going to see much more of him in upcoming issues of Dance Spirit. Promise. Little Luke is just 9 years old, but he's got a smile the size of Jupiter and the fastest tapping feet I've seen in a long time. Luke isn't just a good tap dancer for his age—Luke is good. Period. He opened the show with a solo performance and the crowd was in awe. Luke is going to be a star. In fact, he already kind of is.
  • The New York City Dance Alliance boys performing "Seize the Day" from Newsies. This season's huge Broadway hit scored a whopping 11 nominations last night (though, sadly, no wins). Naturally it would have been nice if the cast could be there to perform—but the show must go on, and Newsies had a show of its own last night. Leave it to choreographer Christopher Gattelli and NYCDA head honcho Joe Lanteri to save the day. Joe put out a call for young men and Christopher brought them in—a crew of 14–18 year olds from all over the country—for a two-day "Newsies bootcamp." The result? A show-stopping performance from the rising generation of dancers. Considering they had just learned the piece, these young men pulled it off exceptionally well.
  • The Fosse veterans swiveling their hips to "Dancin' Man," "I Gotcha" and "Bye Bye Blackbird." I will never get sick of that sultry style, and getting to see the iconic moves performed by dancers who trained directly under Bob Fosse is pretty special. Bravo!
  • Chita Rivera presenting the Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award to Liza Minnelli. It was so endearing hearing the wonderful stories everyone shared about the fabulous Ms. Minnelli. Close friends Tony Danza, Marvin Hamlisch and Mikhail Baryshnikov (!!!) joined Chita onstage to talk about what a wonderful performer and friend Liza is. It was heartwarming and, frankly, pretty awesome.

Here's the full list of last night's winners:

Outstanding Female Dancer in a Broadway Musical: Lisa Nicole Wilkerson (Porgy & Bess)

Outstanding Male Dancer in a Broadway Musical: Leslie Odom, Jr. (Leap of Faith)

Outstanding Choreographer for a Broadway Musical: Ron Brown (Leap of Faith)

Outstanding Feature Film Choreography: The Artist

Outstanding Dance Documentary: Pina

Congratulations to all!

Every once in a while, Saturday Night Live shocks me by being right on my dance-nerd wavelength. (Have you seen the classic sketch "Bad Ballet"? You should.) Last Saturday, the totally bizarro—and yet spot-on—"Liza Minnelli Tries to Turn Off a Lamp" skit had me on the floor. Not only does Kristen Wiig nail it as a whackadoo Liza, but her moves aren't half bad. And there are a bunch of legitimate dance references in there! A few choice samples:

"There's gotta be like a ball on the end of a chain, remember that? Chain, ball, kick, chain!"

"Will a Fosse neck do it?"

"Look how long this cord is—Ben Vereen, it's long!"

"I'm not getting anywhere with it—it's like Tommy Tune!"

Also, her dance-off at the end with Jonah Hill is priceless. Check it out:

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