With New York’s Great South Bay as a breathtaking backdrop, an eclectic lineup of world-class dancers joyously led the unforgettable in-person return of Fire Island Dance Festival, the charitable and cultural event of the Fire Island summer.
The festival, held July 15-17, 2022, raised $655,090 to help ensure those across the country living with HIV/AIDS, COVID-19 and other debilitating illnesses have access to lifesaving medications, counseling, healthy meals, housing and more.
This year’s captivating performances included four world premieres by choreographers Joshua Beamish, Adriana Pierce, Caleb Teicher and Abdiel, and Akira Uchida, featuring two pas de deux, the festival’s first nonbinary duet and a high-energy ensemble number.
Acclaimed American Ballet Theatre principal dancer James Whiteside, who’s also an accomplished author, entertainer and podcaster, hosted the festival’s triumphant return and effortlessly guided the audience through nine memorable performances.
In a touching tribute originally created in honor of 9/11 and now embracing those suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic and other world crises, Buglisi Dance Theatre transformed the stage into a pantheon of angels. Choreographed by Jacqulyn Buglisi, the excerpt from Requiem featured five ethereal dancers wearing draped gowns in muted shades of white. They performed partly on pedestals that elevated the luminous, statuesque nature of the number. The performance was made possible through the generous support of Titanium Sponsor Jim Heslin.
Gibney Company’s artistic associate Jake Tribus delivered a masterful performance of Colors, featuring choreography and spoken word by Micaela Taylor. The agile dancer juxtaposed fierce contractions and limbs pulsing to the beat with a graceful swagger to create a truly unique performance. This performance was made possible with generous support from Titanium Sponsor Christian Zimmerman in memory of Richard M. Kielar.
Lay Your Love on Me by #QueerTheBallet founder and choreographer Adriana Pierce was the evening’s first pas de deux premiere, featuring soft and supple movement by New York City Ballet soloist Miriam Miller and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens corps de ballet member Kiara DeNae Felder. The dancers complimented each other as they fell in and out of each other’s arms, exhibiting an undying devotion through dance. This piece was created with generous support from Legacy Sponsors Rockefeller Brothers Fund and The SHS Foundation in memory of Tom Morgan.
Soloist Chalvar Monteiro left the audience laughing out loud at the whimsical moments in Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s composition of Ella. Ailey artistic director Robert Battle choreographed the piece with complex, lightning-fast sequences of movement, which Monteiro delivered with a clever and jubilant panache. This performance was made possible through the generous support of Titanium Sponsors Elliott Sernel & Larry Falconio.
Joshua Beamish’s sentimental, romantic composition Softening featured National Ballet of Canada principal dancers Harrison James and Ben Rudisin. The real-life couple enchanted the audience with a story of two men building a life with each other told through ballet. This piece was created with generous support from Legacy Sponsor Marta Heflin Foundation.
Catherine Hurlin has grown much since her Fire Island Dance Festival debut at age 10 in 2006. Now, just days after being promoted to principal at American Ballet Theatre and following rave reviews for her season at the Met, Hurlin took flight across the festival stage in her elegant homecoming in Kitri’s Third Act Variation from Don Quixote. This performance was made possible through the generous support of Titanium Sponsors Roger Hyde & Mark Gibson.
Festival favorite Caleb Teicher and Abdiel, former principal of the Martha Graham Dance Company, created All of the Above, None of the Above, the festival’s first non-binary duet. Lindy-Hopper Teicher and “Hustle Evangelist” Abdiel shed the restrictions of traditional suits to reveal colorful sundresses before ultimately unveiling glittering, skin-tight jumpsuits, a visual metaphor for casting out barriers that keep their inner light from shining. In costumes meticulously engineered by designer Eric Winterling, the duo wowed with a social hustle number that amplified its gender-expansive disco roots. All of the Above, None of the Above was created with generous support from Legacy Sponsor The Charles & Lucille King Family Foundation in memory of Diana King.
In his Fire Island Dance Festival debut, Akira Uchida premiered And On…, an eclectic melange of danceable beats and ambient sounds made more vibrant by an ensemble of nine electric dancers swathed in red costumes created by Barbara Delo. The contemporary dance celebrated life as a continuity rather than as a series of separate moments in time. This work was created with generous support from Legacy Sponsors Peter McKown & Kenneth Heng and Omomuki Foundation.
The Verdon Fosse Legacy delivered a crowd-pleasing finale with Sweet Gwen Suite. Georgina Pazcoguin, “Rogue Ballerina” and soloist with New York City Ballet, led Tyler Eisenreich and Sam Faulkner in summoning the 1960s with expertly executed choreography originally created by legends Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon for performances on Bob Hope’s television specials and The Ed Sullivan Show. This performance of Sweet Gwen Suite was made possible with generous support from Titanium Sponsor Bill Butler and Titanium Sponsor Andy Tobias.
The festival started Friday night with an exclusive performance for Leadership Supporters at the Albert Lepage Outdoor Pavilion at Whyte Hall. Parsons Dance presented The Road, which featured choreography by David Parsons and iconic songs by Yusuf/Cat Stevens. The number powerfully evoked a spirit of camaraderie and community. The Road was made possible through the generous support of Legacy Sponsors Peter McKown & Kenneth Heng.
Since its premiere in 1995, Fire Island Dance Festival has raised more than $7.7 million to help provide lifesaving medication, nutritious meals, counseling and emergency financial assistance to those in need in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.
That support also includes a $25,000 grant again in 2022 to the Pines Care Center in recognition and support of the Fire Island Pines’ community.
Photos by Nina Wurtzel and Evan Zimmerman
Video by Mo Brady and Víctor Rodríguez
This Year’s Program