They Could Have Danced All Night
They didn’t think they could dance, and they decided to take action. Many students at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Fayetteville have this in common. Some harbored a fear of unleashing their inner Elaine Benes on innocent family members, others simply wanted to replicate the flashy moves from So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With The Stars. Regardless of motive, dance is moving and it’s contagious.
Eventually, some move forward to a competitive floor, and on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 5 and 6, dancers from the Salt City showed their stuff at the New York/New Jersey Fred Astaire Dance Sport Challenge at Turning Stone Resort and Casino. More than 300 people sauntered in to dance in front of a judging panel that included Tony Dovolani NEWS from Dancing & BLUES With The Stars. At the end of the night, every dancer came out a winner, and silver and gold medals were passed around accordingly.
“The real competition is with yourself, here,” Fred Astaire Dance Studio regional director Armondo Martin said. “The idea isn’t to win a title. It’s to celebrate people who are working toward goals. These can be goals of improving technique, learning something new altogether, weight loss or any number of things.”
Martin noticed a significant boost in class size when reality television put several spot lights on dancing, but this hike in numbers has stabilized. 563478 Participants who SHORTS begin to dance tend to stay with it, and the wide age range at Turning Stone made that clear.
One of the night’s show-stoppers was Tao Porchon-Lynch. Her petite frame hit every mark with the dexterity and precision of a high-speed surgeon. Sporting themed outfits that included a 1950s leather-and-be-bop get-up, a neon ruffled gown and nearly half a dozen other daring ensembles—although HOPnot at the same time—Porchon-Lynch elicited loud cheers from the crowd as her dark rogue of a partner lifted her again and again. L Porchon-Lynch is 94 yearsP old.
Dances encompassed all styles taught at Fred Astaire Studios, from Latin to foxtrot, and each round of dancing meant a costume change. Never has Turning Stone held so many sequins or Swarovski crystals under one roof. Under the chandelier glow, the bits of sparkle accentuated the angles of each elbow and shoulder, making sure no muscle went unnoticed. Between rounds, children in the audience raced to the dance floor to collect shed rhinestones in plastic cups as though the crystals were treasures on the beach. Watching dance on television was less thrilling to them than getting close enough to the action to catch a stray Swarovski in the eye.
Being so close to the dancers betrayed more than the shelf life of sequins. Spectators could see the caked makeup, the hair nets around taut buns, and the thousands of bobby pins that go into stage readiness. Although from afar—and to the judges— dancers look flawless, the audience could see every crease, tuck and shortcut. The salsa dancers, for example, have their own way around the stiletto aesthetic without the instability: a clear, plastic cap that fits over the pointed heel of each shoe, widening the base to be four times more sound.
Dancers can lean all the way into a dip without losing their balance.
Lori Hajjar, event organizer and one of Martin’s first students, has seen the ballroom dance scene through ups and downs, but agreed that enrollment is up. Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Fayetteville is seeing so much young blood that the studio is opening a new, larger location in September, particularly because of its popularity among children. What these youngsters learn now they can carry with them throughout their lives.
John and Maureen Goodman agree that dance not only brought them together, it keeps them together. The couple came to Turning Stone with the Fayetteville studio to dance in the pro-am division, in which teachers dance with their students. “We met in a dance hall in England,” John said with a chuckle. “She picked me up, and that was it.” The two have been married for 57 years, and participating in dance has been a constant in their relationship. Neither one can imagine life without dancing.
Whether it was the tango or the chacha, the energy at Turning Stone didn’t miss a beat. There were no missteps at the New York/New Jersey Dance Sport Challenge, only dancers making strides in celebration of movement.
In Plein Sight
In the late 1800s, en plein air painting became the most popular way to create art—French-originated and translated as “in open air.” Open-air painting is as it sounds: sitting outside and painting. Now, it has turned into the canvas for a Plein Air Festival, held at Billsboro Winery in Geneva.
The fourth annual festival will be held Thursday, Aug. 11, through Sunday, Aug. 14, allowing artists to paint outside for the public and compete for cash prizes. Artists arriving on Thursday evening will be welcomed with a reception and wine tasting at Rose Hill Mansion on Seneca Lake; here, winery owners and event hosts Kim and Vincent Aliperti will present the rules, maps and details to the participants.
“The idea is to capture the light and the way it is playing on a landscape,” Kim Aliperti said in describing the plein air process. “Claude Monet did it in ‘Water Lilies.’” There’s just something about watching a work in progress under—let’s hope—a clear, blue sky that brings the art to life. Last year’s winners, Roland Stevens, Janet Russell and Tony Conner, are all returning to compete again.
Friday, the festival begins bright and early, at 7 a.m., when painters have 12 hours to set up a station anywhere they’d like in and around Geneva, on Seneca Lake. The public is welcome to come and observe artists while they create landscapes on canvas.
The festival picks up again Saturday; while some artists continue their plein air art, interested artists can compete in the “paint off.” All contestants are given a similar view to paint—this year it is a lakefront view from the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, 35 Lake Front Drive. “Each contestant has a little different take on the view in front of them,” Kim Aliperti said.
At 6 p.m., after the competition, the judging and silent auctions begin, during which artists and ticketed guests can listen to live music, and enjoy wine and hors d’oeuvres. Artists may submit only two pieces of work they had created the previous two days. “Many artists do up to five pieces over the weekend, but only two can be judged,” Aliperti continued. Cash prizes in many different categories are announced, as well as the winner of the Paint Off.
The festival wraps on Sunday with a public viewing and sale of the framed artwork from the weekend. The artists will be available to answer questions.
Event organizers seek volunteers to help out with every aspect of the festival—from working the reception or luncheon to offering their homes for artists to spend the weekend. “We have many volunteers who offer their homes for those artists who do not want to pay to get a hotel,” Aliperti noted.
While the public can watch the plein air art being created, tickets for the gala on Saturday, Aug. 13, are available in advance for $25 by calling Billsboro Winery, 4760 West Lake Road (Route 14), Geneva, at 789-9538 or at the door for $30.