AMERICAN DANCE MACHINE
December 25, 2015
Let us all bow to the late Lee Theodore who had the gumption to establish American Dance Machine (ADM) in 1976 to not only preserve the steps of American musical theatre dance, but more importantly, their original intent and style. We almost lost ADM when Theodore died in the late 80s, but Nikki Feirt Atkins, a dancer and MD, revived the idea in 2012. She brings it to The Joyce with live music and terrific media (titles and projections by Nel Shelby) that keep this thrilling show of short classics flowing (a hot lava flow at that).
Opening with Jack Cole’s Beale Street Blues from The Sid Caesar Show, taking a breather after Jerome Robbins’ Cool from West Side Story and closing with Michael Bennett’s One from A Chorus Line, this program makes you feel proud to be American, free and spirited with no more agenda than nailing every moment with a kick or a bump. Certainly Tommy Tune’s Our Favorite Son from the Will Rogers Follies, could be a Fourth of July staple. This wholesome hand-game dance puts one man in the center of a row of seated ladies wearing one red and one blue leg, white gloves and a straw, red-white-and-blue ribboned hat.
Shonica Gooden, who made her Broadway debut with Bring It On: The Musical in 2012, sang and sashayed her way through Sweet Georgia Brown from Bubbling Brown Sugar with an ease and feminine charm that the late Gwen Verdon would have loved. Paloma Garcia-Lee held our attention whenever she danced, particularly in Gotta Dance from Gene Kelly’s Singin’ In the Rain. Lori Ann Ferreri, a full bodied dancer/singer known for her Broadway performances in Wicked, and On the Town got hysterical shouts after her performance of “The Music and The Mirror from A Chorus Line.
The prime stars of this company are the choreographers, half of whom have passed: Jack Cole, Gene Kelly, Billy Wilson, Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse and Michael Bennett, and the other half still kicking: Mia Michaels, Wayne Cilento, Donald McKayle, Warren Carlyle, Tommy Tune, and Susan Stroman. McKayle re-staged his own brilliant Fight from Golden Boy, and Mia Michaels re-staged her own Calling You from So You Think You Can Dance. The other eighteen dances were restaged by dancers who had worked with the choreographers: Ed Kresley, Lars Rosager, Niki Harris, Gemze de Lappe, (going strong at age 94!), Carla “Twirl” Earle, Angelique Llo, Jason Sparks, Robert La Fosse, Adam Murray, Donna McKechnie, Patti D’Beck, and Pamela Sousa.
Not every dance in this show is perfect, but most are! I left the theatre remembering my childhood experiences of musicals, re-charged, focused, harnessed! Jazzed...
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers