Dancer's Over 40 presented their tribute to choreographer / director Ron Field this evening at the St. Luke's Theatre in NYC. It was an incredible slice of dance and theatre history that left me sad for a generation of dancers who probably aren't aware of the amazing body of work created by Mr. Field and the dancers who brought his visions to life.
As a dancer, Ron Field appeared in Gentleman Prefer Blondes, Kismet and The Boy Friend. Switching over to choreography his debut was Nowhere to Go But Up and then Cafe Crown. In 1966, he won his first Tony Award for the choreography of the Broadway Musical Cabaret. If you've never seen the Ron Field production, here is a link to the opening number starring Joel Grey from the
Tonight's tribute started with many of the original cast members of that performance dancing part of the opening number in front of a projection of themselves in the original production. The cast members were: Steve Boockvor, Carol Hanzel, Bert Michaels, Patricia Michaels, Rita O'Connor, Marianne Selbert and Bonnie Walker. The dancers were then joined by Joel Grey, Harvey Evans and Lawrence Merritt for a panel discussion about the evolution of Cabaret and working with Ron Field.
Next we were treated to a video of the D'honau Sisters followed by all 3 of them appearing onstage to talk about their experiences with Ron Field, performing acrobatic in high heels and the incredibly well synchronized turn sequence in their filmed performance. Marilyn, Lillian and Dorothy D'honau joined in with the performers already on stage for the Act 1 Finale - Applause.
This Perry Como Show Clip shows Ron dancing with his mentor Jack Cole joined by Jim Hutchinson and Tom Osteen in Jack Cole's Sing, Sing Sing. Other video clips, including a wonderful trio with Liza Minelli were shown and then this great tribute to the ladies of musicals was used to introduce the next guest, Marge Champion.
Sandy Duncan and Don Correia were the next guests on stage to talk about their work with Ron. Great stories about how they were basically set up to meet through Ron were shared. A beautiful pas de deux danced by Duncan and Correia and choreographed by Field for the Richard Rodgers special was shown. This was followed by a great period piece based on Vernon and Irene Castle also danced by Duncan and Correia.
Marianne Selbert then talked about working as Ron Field's assistant on many projects including Baryshnikov on Broadway where she had the 3 month job of teaching Baryshinkov how to move like a broadway dancer. Rehearsal footage of Selbert and Baryshnikov was mixed in with the final footage of Baryshnikov and Liza Minnelli including the charleston which appears at about 4 minutes into the clip that linked to above.
Next was an amazing duet from Ben Vereen: His Roots in which Debbie Allen made her debut. Ben Vereen took the stage and spoke not just about Ron Field, but also about the history and culture of dance which is getting lost with all of the focus on the unreal focus of reality tv shows. He brought up the valid point that we as audience members have a responsibility to ask for quality performances and preservation of our history.
At this point in the evening (about 3 hours into the event) I realized how many of the great performances being presented were parts of televised specials. A discussion amongst the panelists and audience brought out a universal question in the room, where is all of this wonderful footage and how can we get it out of the vault and either screened or put onto dvd so that we can enjoy the amazing dancing and choreography and share it with future generations.
The last video was of Donna McKechnie. She was also present and and came up on stage to talk about her memories of working with Ron and what she learned from him. Ms McKechnie sang Some Other Time and then was joined by all of the other performers in singing Cabaret.
A little bit over 3 hours and we barely scratched the surface of the legend of Ron Field. In addition to the work mentioned above, Mr Field's credits include -
Applause (Tony Awards for direction, choreography and best musical)
King of Hearts
On the Town (revival)
1972 Academy Awards
5,6,7,8 Dance (Bette Midler Special)
1984 Olympic Opening Ceremonies
Kiss Me Kate (London Revival)
Martin Scorsese's New York New York
And many other specials and star studded nightclub acts
A great night spent learning about the man who made great dance and theatre.