Up and Steppin’ Out
By Mae G. Banner
Latin Dance Company
Little Theater, Nov. 9
Phyllis Latin has been training ballet and Broadway-style
dancers for nearly 40 years in Saratoga Springs, mostly out
of the limelight. She doesn’t do an annual Nutcracker
(a good thing, too, because we already have nine of them this
year), but she has sent her students on to regional ballet
troupes and international touring companies of shows like
In other words, Latin knows what mainstream audiences like,
and she delivers. Last Saturday at the Spa Little Theater
in Saratoga Springs, Latin presented her newly formed company
in a concert of two ballets and two tap suites, all of which
the 15 dancers will perform next month in Moscow, where they’ve
been invited to join a group of Russian dancers onstage.
To flesh out her young company of apprentice-level dancers,
Latin hired Emiko Miyamoto and Cesar Ortiz, both on loan from
the Joffrey Ballet, and Julie Pingel, who joined the troupe
last summer. Also, she’s hired Maxim Gerasimov, a tall and
winning dancer on loan from the Moscow Classical Ballet Company.
These four pros were at their best in Canzonetta, a
delicate tidbit to a violin-cello duet performed onstage by
Lamar and Ruth Alsop. The Alsops—he is the former concertmaster
of the New York City Ballet Orchestra and she is a NYCB cellist—played
vibrantly, giving depth to this brief vignette of crossings
and meetings. Canzonetta, choreographed by the dancers
themselves, was an effortless conversation between the two
couples and the musicians that left me wishing for more.
Latin choreographed Partners, the opening ballet, to
show off what three couples could do. Set to bland new-age
music by Jim Chappell, the dance was a series of gymnastic
tricks and poses that might have served for an ice-skating
program. The women—Miyamoto with Ortiz, Pingel with Gerasimov,
and sweet-faced Rachel Rodriguez with Ian Morris—jumped up
and draped themselves over the men’s shoulders. A man somersaulted
over a woman, then held her high overhead in a horizontal
We saw odd-angled and risky lifts, fast spins, men swinging
women out like lassos at a rodeo, all neatly done by well-rehearsed
dancers who were up for anything the choreographer handed
Gerasimov was captivating. He has a genuine smile and a true
musicality. He uses his arms dynamically to define phrases,
making even mundane choreography tell a story.
Tap took over the midsection of the evening. Company member
and teacher Lesa Hayward choreographed Happy Feet,
a suite of spangly dances to Broadway show tunes. She made
good use of the stage space, setting up a chorus line that
swung into a circle and then into a V shape. Nice segues between
dances led the tappers from Fosse-influenced high kicks and
finger snaps to fast and loose hiphop numbers.
Hayward and curly-haired Shaila Bora were featured in an ensemble
of 11 dancers, all with big smiles and precise technique.
The finale, One, from A Chorus Line, was high-octane
razzle with all-American energy, glitter, and youthful appeal.
The printed program didn’t name a choreographer for Hey
Benny, set to fine jazz classics by Benny Goodman, but
the moves included some of Latin’s favorites: somersaults,
splits and swingouts.
A couple of sections performed in black light sported tricky
patterns of white-gloved hands and white-shod feet. A jitterbug
section in sequined flapper dresses had tight dancing by couples,
Savoy Ballroom aerials, and so many fun moves that you had
to like it.
Big bubbles floated up from a 6-foot-high cardboard champagne
glass for the finale, Sing, Sing, Sing. By now, the
costumes were wall-to-wall glitz: gold, red, blue, green,
silver and copper sequins and fringe. Still, the dancers’
wholesome exuberance managed to shine through all the trappings.
Morris showed his stuff with some well-placed jumps and spins,
and Bora won the audience with a flirty, effervescent smile
that never quit.
All the dancers—apprentices and professionals—were confident
and vivacious. Such fine stage presence and technical skill
means they are ready for the next level. Latin has a sure
hand for the tried-and-true. Now that she’s got this good-looking
company together, I’d like to see her take a few more choreographic