Crowds were left pleased and impressed at this year’s 17th Annual Ted Hershey Dance Marathon this past Saturday, April 11th at Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford. There, the Greater Hartford community and members of the region’s dance world gathered to remember, honor, and celebrate the life of a unique person and dancer. Ted Hershey, principal dancer with the Hartford Ballet and co-founder of Works Contemporary Dance, had a vision to make and keep the arts a vital part of the city and region. Hershey died from AIDS in 1998 and the dance community gathered to create the Ted Hershey Dance Marathon.
Since 1998, the Marathon has inspired through movement and music, illuminated the minds of the dance community and audience through performance and brought together the diverse members of the Hartford and Greater Hartford dance community to celebrate Hershey’s vision of the arts. Saturday’s receptive audience enthusiastically expressed their understanding and approval of that vision. By the sound of it, the show was a smash met with gasps of delight and awe as well as applause.
A total of 24 performing troupes gathered: the Artists Collective Performing Ensemble, Asian Performing Arts, Ballet Theatre Company, the Caribbean American Dance Troupe of the West Indies Inc., DANCENLIGHT, Dance Department of the Hartt Community Division, Dance Workshop of Miss Porter’s School, Dimensional Dance, The Ensemble of Judy Dworin Performance Project, Figments Youth Dance Ensemble, Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, The Hartt Dance Division BFA Program, Island Reflections Dance Theater Company, Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts, O’D N’Tap, Sankofa Kuumba, Sonia Plumb Dance Company, Spectrum in Motion, Sumbhaav School of Kathak Dance, TNMOT-AZTRO, Works/Laura Glenn Dance, Brad Roth, Bonita Weisman and Paul Dennis.
The Marathon was a thrill ride of motion, colorful costume, and artistic precision which highlighted dance styles ranging from classical ballet to tap to hip hop and provided the crowd with a world tour of dances including Caribbean, Indian, East Asian cultural dance, and traditional African dance.
As the Marathon is approaching its 20th anniversary, this year’s event also focused on the perpetuity of dance and the arts in Hartford and Greater Hartford. Original members of WORKS Contemporary dance will be teaching choreography to younger dancers allowing the next generation of dancers to embody Hershey’s dances themselves. The end of the night paid tribute to both tradition and new innovation with a duet of an original Hershey piece executed by a dancer who had performed with Hershey and by his adult nephew who had seen his uncle’s rendition of the duet as a youth and is now a dancer, himself.
With such an ensemble of dance troupes and a showcase of current and upcoming dancers and artists, next year’s Ted Hershey Dance Marathon promises to bring more displays of excellence and graceful acrobatics amid applause. This year’s Marathon also proves that dance in Greater Hartford in 2015 continues to provide audiences with great entertainment and breakthrough talent.