First Virtual Festival Features World Premieres and Festival Favorites

The charitable event of the Fire Island summer went digital when the Virtual Fire Island Dance Festival presented an evening of celebrated dance on July 17, 2020. The stream raised $295,366 for Dancers Responding to AIDS, a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

The first stream in the event’s 26-year history, prompted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, featured three world premiere pieces and three festival favorites.

The world premieres transported viewers to unique, socially distanced settings. Ayodele Casel performed her effervescent and virtuosic solo Oscar Joy from the Original Tap House, her home dance studio in the Bronx, NY.

Larry Kiegwin, artistic director of KEIGWIN + COMPANY, enlisted the help of a trove of isolated Fire Islanders to perform a joyful dance celebrating the community, propelled by the singing of Seth Sikes. The piece featured dancers Jovan Dansberry, Yukiko Kashiki, Christopher Mai, Jerry Mitchell, Ricky Schroeder and Vernon Scott, longtime Fire Island Dance Festival supporters Hal Hayes, Nicole LaFountaine, Matthew Markoff, Eng Kian Ooi, Norman Simon and Kendra Verderosa, and Dancers Responding to AIDS staff members Adam Rei Siegel and Beau Speer.

And surrounded by nature at his residency center in Round Top, NY, artistic director Stephen Petronio shared his poignant and emotional Are You Lonesome Tonight. The piece featured Lloyd Knight, guest artist from Martha Graham Dance Company, and Nicholas Sciscione, a Stephen Petronio Company member.

The evening also included three festival favorites. An excerpt from MacArthur “Genius” Grant fellow Kyle Abraham’s evening-length work in progress An Untitled Love, was first seen on the picturesque waterfront stage at the 2019 edition of the festival. The piece, which rhythmically explored culture, family and community, was performed by American Ballet Theatre soloist Calvin Royal III and A.I.M dancer Tamisha Guy.

Emmy Award nominee Al Blackstone reshared his blissful Weekend ’76, a group number set to disco hits celebrating Fire Island as an inclusive enclave for the LGBTQ community. And Garrett Smith’s elegant and ethereal Continuum, performed by Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet member Christopher D’Ariano and principal dancer Lucien Postlewaite, included a special introduction from Postlewaite.

FIDF 2020 PosterThe presenting sponsors of the Virtual Fire Island Dance Festival were Paul Austin & Dalip Girdhar.

Fire Island Dance Festival, including this year’s virtual edition, has raised more than $6.9 million since the festival began in 1995. Through their support, Fire Island Dance Festival attendees have helped ensure that those living with HIV/AIDS, COVID-19 and other critical illnesses in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., receive lifesaving medications, nutritious meals, counseling and emergency financial assistance. The generosity also supports organizations working toward social justice and anti-racism.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS also continues its annual support of the Pines Care Center, helping to provide a wide range of medical-related services to the residents and visitors of the Fire Island Pines and neighboring communities.