By Ronald B. Hellman
I have always admired those who move well on the dance floor, not being very good at it myself (although I have been known to fake it on occasion). Back in 1963 when my first wife and I took our vows at the Bayside Jewish Center, I did manage an adequate waltz to the music of “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” (Rodgers & Hart). I was obligated to do my best, not only because the former Lois Abramowitz was a whiz — you should have seen her do the twist — but my in-laws had paid extra for a violin or two in the band.
When it comes to dancing, what can compare to the elegance and creativity of Fred Astaire, the athleticism and charm of Gene Kelly, or the power and grace of Mikhail Baryshnikov? Broadway musicals are at their best with their big dance numbers. Good current examples are “West Side Story,” “Billy Elliot” and “FELA!” And for that most romantic and sensuous of dances, check out the scene (see it on YouTube) in “Scent of A Woman” where Al Pacino and Gabrielle Anwar do the tango.
Or better yet, and closer to home, get over to the intimate Thalia Spanish Theatre in Sunnyside and see the world premiere of the musical “Borges & Piazzolla Tango.” Based on a collaboration between two masters from Argentina, poet and writer Jorge Luis Borges and composer Astor Piazzolla, it will look, sound and feel like a classic film noir in the style of gangster films. Musical arrangements were done by Latin Grammy winner Raul Jaurena, and the production is adapted and directed by Thalia’s maestro Angel Gil Orrios.
The tango, most often associated with Argentina and Uruguay, has been widely popular around the world, and Thalia in its 30-year history has done a number of crowd-pleasing tango shows. This latest one opens Friday and performs for the next eight weekends, promising to be one of its best. It’s a bilingual story of love, conflict and reconciliation, but even if you don’t understand Spanish or English, when the tango dancers take the stage, you’ll get the message. Call (718) 729-3880 for information and tickets.
On the other side of the Queens border in Elmont, a short distance from my favorite racetrack, Belmont — those thoroughbred horses are beautiful, but don’t bet on long shots — is the BroadHollow Theatre at the Elmont Memorial Library (700 Hempstead Turnpike). You still have this weekend to see the marvelous Sonya Tannenbaum heading an excellent cast in “The Trip to Bountiful,” the classic drama by Horton Foote. Tickets at (516) 775-4420.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (“The Young Man from Atlanta”) and an Oscar-winning screenwriter (“To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Tender Mercies”), Foote wrote about the human condition, surviving tragedies and longing for home. Active for more than 60 years, he died last March just a few days shy of 93.
On the other side of the borough, close by the East River in trendy Hunter’s Point, are the last couple of performances of “Loyalties,” a 1922 Broadway hit by John Galsworthy, a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and best known for “The Forsyte Saga.” Presented by the brand new Unity Stage Company, under the guidance of the outstanding Sofia Landon Geier (who directed “Yellow Face” for The Outrageous Fortune Company), “Loyalties” is an Equity Showcase production. Find it at the Parlor at Cassino Restaurant (47-18 Vernon Boulevard). To get hooked up, call (917) 548-1086.
Meanwhile, I’ll be checking out the nearest dance studios — there may be hope for me yet.
Contact Ron Hellman at RBH24@Columbia.edu.