The Seaside Dance Festival draws world-class talent to Seaside by Lori Leath Smith
Guest artist and director Davis Robertson returns to Seaside this year and is bringing with him world-class talent from professional dance companies throughout the United States — the first time all of these guest artists from around the globe perform together in the Seaside Amphitheater. A weekend of dance-themed excitement, May 5-7, showcases the latest dance trends as well as the beloved classics.
A tap segment from Jumaane Taylor, assistant director of M.A.D.D. Rhythms in Chicago, a returning favorite, Daniel White of the Richmond Ballet, Natia and Clifford Williams from Complexions Contemporary Dance, Chyrstyn Fentroy and Jorge Velez of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and from Miami City Ballet, Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra are just a few of the highlights sure to amaze this year’s audience.
White is a member of an elite group of 10 professional dancers in the State Ballet of Virginia’s Ballet II Company whose mission is to use the art of dance to awaken and uplift the human spirit. Jason E. Bernard has danced alongside Gregory Hines in The Showtime Original Movie
“Bojangles” and has also toured the world with the popular international dance show Riverdance. Taylor was featured in Dance Spirit magazine as “One of the Top 20 Hoofers under 2.” Clifford Williams has assisted Director/Choreographer Dwight Rhoden on the television show “So You Think You Can Dance.” Longtime Miami City Ballet principal dancers and husband and wife Kronenberg and Guerra have brought chemistry as a couple to romantic ballets such as “Giselle” and “Romeo and Juliet” and have been extremely popular with South Florida audiences.
Robertson is this year’s festival director, but his formal titles include international program director of Bolshoi Ballet Academy of Moscow, and repetiteur for the Robert Joffrey & Gerald Arpino Foundation. He also travels the world and teaches in countries such as Russia, Australia and Italy.
Throughout his celebrated dance career, Robertson has also been able to land a few acting parts, appearing in the movies “Save the Last Dance” and “The Company,” in the TV show “Law and Order,” and on Broadway in “Movin’ Out” and “Dirty Dancing.” He says he has especially rich memories of his role in “The Company,” a movie which featured a backstage, fictionalized look at life with the Joffrey Ballet. He says the basic takeaway was a concept that Director Robert Altman taught him about the subtlety of physical communication — “The ability to not do anything, just embody what you are.”
A Performing Arts high school graduate, Robertson became a student at Jacksonville’s Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in the mid-’80s, and was leaning toward an acting career. His only dance background at that time was break dancing. But his mother recognized his strong dance talent and persuaded him to study dance instead.
Robertson went on to study at the Joffrey Ballet School, the School of American Ballet, danced for the Miami City Ballet and the Joffrey Ballet. During his tenure with the Joffrey Ballet, Robertson absorbed Joffrey’s influence including Joffrey’s insistence that dancers should be versatile in their technique and their choice of material. This drives Robertson’s passion and influence, accompanied by the desire to produce a show with diversity for the audience, yet synergy when various performers and dance genres are grouped together.
And versatility is just what he brings to the Seaside Dance Festival, one of Seaside’s most exciting times of the year, featuring professional performances, demonstrations and open discussion from members of professional dance companies. A weekend celebration of exceptional artistry accompanies Robertson’s new and returning artists who both demonstrate and perform choreographed works in a variety of dance style performances including ballet, contemporary, tap, hip hop, jazz, modern, neo-classical and more.
“This unusual and unique gathering is special every year,” says Robertson. “There is almost nowhere else in the country where you can attend a show that includes top-notch dance company performers involved in a plethora of different types of dance numbers all in one program. It’s basically a dance platter full of professionalism and variety brought directly to the people of Seaside, Fla. The only other place I can think of where this happens is at New York City’s ‘Fall for Dance Festival.’ But, here in Seaside, you can come for no fee to enjoy the diversity, the quality and the level of dance professionalism.”
Seaside Dance Festival offers three exciting, variety-packed dance-themed evenings for the serious dance aficionado and those who simply enjoy the performing arts. Seleta Hayes Howard, Seaside Nutcracker ballet mistress and special projects director, says the dance weekend is designed to engage the community in all forms of dance. “The Dance Festival is a wonderful way to ignite a passion for dance in our community and connect through the beautiful art form of dance,” she says.
This year’s festival features guest artists from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Repertory Ballet, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Miami City Ballet, New York City Ballet, Patrick O’Brien Company, Richmond Ballet, Seán Curran Company, Subtle Changes New York and more. In addition, Joffrey Ballet Concert Group alumni, who have mesmerized audiences the past two years with their performances in Seaside, will return to perform “Light Rain” choreographed by Joffrey Ballet Company’s co-founder Gerald Arpino.
On opening night, audience members join the conversation during a lecture performance and demonstration all about dance, from modern and jazz to classical ballet. World-class, professional dance artists demonstrate technique and are available to answer questions during a warm-up expo and open discussion at the Seaside Amphitheater.
“This is an opportunity for curious dancers, members of the community and visitors to get to know more about the arts, and for a young audience to get to know the “stars” — the artists themselves,” says Robertson. “Audience participants are exposed to different forms and different types of dance for an incredible, unique opportunity to get to know the dance stars as well as receive a wonderful introduction to the dance world.”
Saturday evening is the main energy-packed performance showcase that pops with dance variety and delights all ages from 1 to 100.
“This performance is much like a show you would see in one of New York’s finest venues — but in the magical setting under the stars in Seaside,” says Howard. “After a magnificent performance last year, we’re excited to see another incredible show that appeals to all tastes in dance.”
Sunday evening, the Dance Festival culminates in a Roger Jeffrey short film and documentary that precedes a full-length movie screening of the timeless classic “Singin’ In The Rain.” Guests show up with lawn chairs, blankets and dinner, drinks or snacks to enjoy another relaxing evening under the stars.
This signature dance festival weekend is the result of perpetual success and overflowing audiences for past Seaside Dance Festival performances, and is the brainchild of Seaside co-founder and patron of the arts, Daryl Davis. It has now become an annual event, a new Seaside tradition. Davis was inspired originally to bring dance performers to Seaside to help cultivate more dance appreciation in South Walton communities as well as involve the local community.
All Seaside Dance Festival activities take place in the Seaside Amphitheater. The weekend is produced by the Merchants of Seaside and there is no admission to attend the performances. Guests can book accommodations by visiting seasidefl.com/vacation/rentals.
A Few Highlights...
DANIEL WHITE - Professional Dancer
Daniel White began his training under the tutelage of Yasmine Hassan and continued his advanced dance training under the direction of Sherri Davis of Georgia Academy of Dance & the Performing Arts. He was a Senior member of Georgia Dance Theatre and carried lead roles in productions of “The Nutcracker” ballet and “Sleeping Beauty.”
White has received additional training with Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre of New York. He danced alongside professional company members of Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre in such masterworks as Revelations. He later continued his training at The Joffrey Ballet School of New York and performed in ballets such as Gerald Arpino’s Kettentanz and Light Rain, among others.
White has worked with Robert Battle, Stacy Caddell, Davis Robertson, Desmond Richardson and many more. White is currently under professional contract with the Richmond Ballet II.
JASON E. BERNARD - Tap Dancer and Instructor
Jason Bernard is a native New Yorker from The Bronx, N.Y. He began experiencing theater at age four and began his Tap training at age six at The Ruth Williams Dance School and The Dance Theatre Of Harlem.
At age 17, Bernard made his Broadway debut in the Tony Award-Winning musical “Bring In Da’ Noise, Bring In Da’ Funk.” In 2000, he made his feature film debut in The Spike Lee Film “Bamboozled” as J. Bunny.
He has had the honor of dancing alongside Gregory Hines in The Showtime Original Movie “Bojangles.” He also toured the world for 10 years with the international dance show Riverdance in addition to briefly joining its Broadway cast.
Bernard was featured in two productions for Cois Ceim Dance Theatre, Dodgems, and Boxes, both in Ireland. Most recently, he was featured in the Broadway production “After Midnight” (Cotton Club Parade).
Utilizing his extensive knowledge of the theater, Bernard directed and was the wardrobe supervisor for Kris Johnson’s “Jim Crow’s Tears.” He has had the honor to learn from the masters of the art of Tap dance, and is truly privileged to teach the art all over the world.
JUMAANE TAYLOR - Tap Dancer, Assistant Director M.A.D.D. Rhythms
Jumaane Taylor, a Chicago native, has been tap dancing for 13 years. He began his training at the Sammy Dyer School of the Theatre, where he now teaches. He has had the esteemed opportunity to perform and study with Derick Grant, Idella Reed Davis, Jimmy Payne Jr., Jay Fagan, George Patterson III, Jason Samuels Smith, Sarah Savelli and Ted Levy.
Taylor made his professional debut with M.A.D.D Rhythms, where he now serves as assistant director and has performed and taught nationally and internationally. Some of his credits include the Chicago Tap Summit, St. Louis Tap Festival, Chicago Human Rhythm Project, L.A. Tap Fest and numerous shows with ETA Creative Arts Foundation. He was featured in Dance Spirit magazine as “One of the Top 20 Hoofers under 2,” in 2000 he won first place in the First Annual Chicago Tap Off and performed in the critically-acclaimed “Imagine Tap,” directed and choreographed by Derick Grant.
CLIFFORD WILLIAMS - Dancer
Clifford Williams began his dance training at F.H. LaGuardia High School of Art and the Performing Arts. He attended The Ailey School and The School of American Ballet, both on scholarship. He was a first-level recipient of a National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts award in 1998. In 1998, he attended The Juilliard School, where he danced works by many choreographers including Lar Lubovitch, Igal Perry, Hans Van Manen, Jose Limon and Mauricio Wainrot.
In 2001, he was invited to join Dance Theatre of Harlem, where he danced until 2003.
In 2004, Williams joined Complexions Contemporary Ballet (New York, NY). He has danced works by Dwight Rhoden, William Forsythe, Nicolo Fonte and Jae Man Joo. Williams has assisted Director/Choreographer Dwight Rhoden on numerous projects including ballets for North Carolina Dance Theater, Pittsburgh Ballet, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and The Diana Vishneva Project as well as for the television show “So You Think You Can Dance.” He has also set Dwight Rhoden’s works on schools such as The Ailey School and NYU Tisch School for the Arts.
In addition to setting works for Dwight Rhoden, Williams is certified in teaching the official Contemporary Ballet technique of Complexions Contemporary Ballet; and continues to be a part of educational outreach for Complexions. In 2008, Williams left Complexions to dance as a Principal dancer with Compañia Nacional De Danza under the Direction of Nacho Duato. During that time, he danced many principal parts and was featured in creations by Duato. Williams rejoined Complexions in 2009, where he danced as principal until 2012 before being appointed to artist in residence. Williams was featured as the title character in Debbie Allen’s “The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker” and had a role in the TV series “Flesh and Bone” for Starz Network.
CHYRSTYN MARIAH FENTROY - Dancer
Chyrstyn Mariah Fentroy was born and raised in Los Angeles, Calif., where she trained with her mother Ruth Fentroy until the age of 17. She then moved to New York City after being offered a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet School trainee program. During her first year there, she was asked to join the Joffrey Ballet School Performance Company in which she danced several principal roles in works such as Gerald Arpino’s Birthday Variations and Davis Robertson’s UnEquilibrium. Fentroy competed in the Youth America Grand Prix finals in New York in 2010 and 2011, where she was then asked to compete in the Beijing International Ballet and Choreography Competition. She has also had her contemporary choreography recognized in other competitions
JENNIFER KRONENBERG AND MIGUEL GUERRA - Lead Dancers and Authors
Longtime Miami City Ballet principal dancers and husband and wife Jennifer Kronenberg and Miguel Guerra have danced together as leads in romantic ballets such as “Giselle” and “Romeo and Juliet.” Kronenberg was a 17-year-old student at New York’s School of American Ballet when Miami City Ballet founding artistic director Edward Villella hired her in 1994, rising to principal dancer in 2001. Guerra, born and trained in Cuba, joined as a soloist in 2001 as he was visiting his aunt in Miami, who brought him to the troupe’s studios and announced to Villella that her nephew was “the best dancer in the world.” The pair married in 2006 and in 2012 had a daughter, Eva Carlynn.
Their many memorable performances include leading roles in Balanchine’s “Symphony in C,” “Apollo,” “Agon,” and “Symphony in Three Movements;” Jerome Robbins’ “Afternoon of a Faun”, and “Villella’s The Neighborhood Ballroom.” Renowned choreographers Alexei Ratmansky, Liam Scarlett and Twyla Tharp chose them for key parts in the MCB-commissioned ballets “Symphonic Dances,” “Viscera” and “Nightspot.” They appeared in the troupe’s 2009 Manhattan debut at New York City Center and in its extremely successful season in Paris the summer of 2011. Kronenberg wrote “So, You Want to be a Ballet Dancer?” published in 2013 by University Press of Florida. The couple have also co-authored a dance how-to, “Experiencing the Art of the Pas de Deux.”