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The Fire Island Dance Festival 

Now in its 20th Year 

Shatters Fundraising Record with $533,860

Produced by and benefiting Dancers Responding to AIDS a program of Broadway Cares/equity Fights AIDS


                                                      By Jeannie Lieberman


                                                                            Photos provided by DRA


Despite years of progress in preventing and treating H.I.V.  the number of new infections nationwide remains stubbornly stuck at 50,000 a year. Most of them men under 30 who did not experience the scourge that inspired Denise Roberts Hurlin and Hernando Cortez, former Paul Taylor Dance Company members,  to found this extraordinary organization, Dancers Responding to AIDS in 1991.  It is gratifying to know that Hurlin’s and Cortez’s dream continues to deliver the message the funding is still necessary.


Indeed the gorgeous event into which it has morphed, now in its 20th year, has exceeded its own fundraising totals. I doubt there is a more sublime setting than the one performed July 1820, 2014  outdoors  in a private home on the shores of the Great South Bay in Fire Island Pines . Stadium seating was provided for the hundreds who attended each performance, their view a stage around a pool, with the Great South Bay behind it, even a sunset  included for a couple of performances.


“At moment’s like this, we must take time to remember all the talent, creativity and friendships we’ve lost, while celebrating the progress we’ve made and the opportunities we have to make a difference for those who need our help the most” said Ms. Hurlin, “We could not have achieved as much as we have without the unwavering support of the Fire Island Pines community, our generous donors and sponsors, the immensely talented dancers and choreographers and our committed core of tireless volunteers”. 


The event was not without drama as one of the world’s principal dancers, Desmond Richardson, injured his knee just before the performance but, in true show biz tradition, Jon Eden from MOMIX delivered a show stopper that brought the audience to its feet (see below).


During the festival’s 20 years, 48 new works have had their world premieres. In its 20 editions, Fire Island Dance Festival has raised more than $3.8 million to help  those who need it receive lifesaving medications and health care, nutritious meals, counseling and emergency financial assistance. This year’s festival featured 48 professional dancers entertaining soldout crowds with ballet, modern, Broadway and even traditional Hawaiian dance



Critically acclaimed choreographers Jerry Mitchell and Larry Keigwin shared hosting duties. Both have had distinguished careers as performers and choreographers. Mitchell is the two time Tony winning director and choreographer of the 2013 Tonywinning Best Musical, Kinky BootsKeigwin is artistic director of one of the country’s most electrifying dance companies, KEIGWIN + COMPANY, and this year made his Broadway choreographic debut with the hit musical If/Then


In the romantic pas de deux from Romeo and JulietMarcelo Gomes, renowned principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre, charmed Luciana Paris, a member of the corps de ballet, from her secondstory balcony. The lovestruck couple melted into each other, avoiding for as long as they could the sweet sorrow of parting.


Sara Mearns, principal dancer for New York City Ballet, traded her pointe shoes for sassy heels, lighting up the stage in a slinky, sexy Broadway showstopper. Mearns was supported by eight spectacular male dancers, who lifted, tossed and twirled the bright eyed ingénue. “Stairway to Paradise,” set to a jazzy Gershwin song, was created by Emmy Awardwinning choreographer Joshua Bergasse, who will make his Broadway choreographic debut with this fall’s revival of On the Town.


Nick Kenkel, a gifted Broadway gypsyturnedchoreographer and director, premiered “Good in Goodbye,” an Afropopinfused group number that affectionately paid tribute to a friend lost too soon and celebrated the gifts left behind.   


Four members of Complexions Contemporary Ballet performed the intricate choreography that showcased their masterful technique and stamina. The number included an original score by Ian Ng, the first time a composition for a ballet has premiered at Fire Island Dance Festival.

BalletCollective premiered an excerpt from “Dear and Blackbirds,” a new work that explores the complicated inner workings of relationships as two people struggle to eventually find their common path. The piece was choreographed by Troy Schumacher, a rising talent and member of the corps de ballet for New York City Ballet


Jon Bond, a member of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, performed his solo piece “My Move,” displaying an iridescent personality outshined only by his ability to effortlessly spring across the stage with a ferocity that’s both fluid and controlled

 Kristine Bendul, David Elder and Kurt Froman recreated “Secret Garden: Adam, Eve & Steve," an elegant, passionate pas de trois originally choreographed and performed in1997 for Broadway Bares by the late Arte Phillips



,Marcelo Gomes, renowned principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre,

Jon Eden from MOMIX mesmerized the standing-room-only audience with the stunning “Man Fan.” Eden masterfully manipulated a 22-foot-tall fan of silk to create dramatic, rippling effects in a magical duet with the wind. He was a spectacular replacement for Desmond Richardson who injured his knee in the storm.


 Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu brought the flavor of the Hawaiian islands to Fire Island in a new hypnotizing allmale hula dance punctuated by the music of puili bamboo dance sticks and an ipu, a drumlike instrument made from gourds. Innovative hula choreographer Patrick Makuakāne leads the San Franciscobased company


Ailey II concluded each show with its soulstirring “Wade in the Water” from Revelations. With the rhythmically energizing traditional spiritual as the musical background, a devotional leader brings a young couple to the water’s edge, baptizing them in a rousing number that frees body and spirit.   


Dancers Responding to AIDS relies on the extraordinary compassion and efforts of the performing arts community to fund a safety net of social services for those in need. As a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, DRA supports more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations nationwide as well as the essential programs of The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative and The Dancers' Resource.  For more information, please visit Dancers Responding to AIDS at, on Facebook at, on Twitter at, on YouTube at and on Instagram at