MEMORIES AND FRIENDSHIPS, LOVE AND ADMIRATION –
And most especially laughter and delight at the
Phil Black Students’ Reunion event on March 30!
Phil’s “kids” with his “weapon of mass destruction…” the dreaded drumstick!!!!
Emotions ran high at the Phil Black Students’ Reunion March 30th. Every video with Phil, every dance number with a “Phil Black step” in it; the reminiscences of the 12 dancers featured during the evening. But most importantly, it was a way to reconnect with Phil – in many ways. DO40 member Mary McCatty offered directions – and a ride – to those who want to visit Phil at the Actors’ Home in New Jersey, and those instructions are posted on the Phil Black Appreciation Page on facebook.
Leora Blau flew in from Las Vegas, Al Micacchion from Lauderdale, FL…and each and every student got a “drumstick souvenir” when it was all said and done! Host Christine Langner kept the afternoon moving – if it wasn’t a video, it was a dance, choreographed by J.T. Jenkins and Alan Onickel – in the Phil Black style – and then the testimonials. Roseanna Mineo, Diane Nicole, Nancy Dalton Flowers, Jane Matera, Jose de la Cuesta, Michelle Bombacie, Jodi Guttierez, Mary McCatty, Nancy Melius, Leora Blau, J.T. Jenkins and especially Paige Dana Polisner.
DO40 will be using a clip from her remembrances at our TEACHERS WE LOVE PANEL and PERFORMANCE on May 5th at St. Luke’s Theater, 308 West 46th St., NYC, 7pm.
L to R: Nancy Melius, Leora Ron Blau, Paige Polisner and Jose de la Cuesta
Christine Langer and Michele Bombacie brought their mothers, as they were instrumental in their dance careers and were at Phil’s all the time, since both Christine and Michele both started at very young ages. There were DO40 members who remember Phil teaching in 1961 and Nancy Dalton, whom Phil hired to dance at the 1964 World’s Fair in NYC (with Goldie Hawn!). Students from the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00’s were there as well, actually up to when Phil stopped teaching in 2005.
The DVD of this event will be donated to the Jerome Robbins Dance Collection at the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts. However, Dancers Over 40 members may view the event in its entirety (13 clips) on the member-only page of our free website any time! Just use the email address you gave DO40 when you joined as your user name and the “discount code” on the back of your membership card as the password – and you’re in! It’s good to go for all our events from 2010 to the present. A great perk for our out-of-state members who can’t come in for our events. And these videos are great learning tools for the next generation as well. Our free youtube channel, featuring our older panels and performances is being referenced constantly by arts organizations and colleges around the country.
Also, Official AND unofficial photos of the event are all now on our DO40 Facebook page, our free website gallery and the Phil Black Appreciation Society facebook page. With all these embarrassment of riches, how can you NOT join DO40 now??!?!?
So please consider joining DO40, not just to watch your favorite teacher, Phil Black, but to also promote the history, legacy and lives of all our members by allowing us to continue our mission – and to pay it forward to the next generation. As board member and DO40 Legacy Award honoree Chita Rivera says “We Simply Cannot Do It Alone! Just click the box on the upper left hand corner and follow the easy instructions!
Phil Black Tribute - Summer 2006
Phil Black Tribute
Some of Phil’s former students (Nancy Murton, Billy Marti, Otto Cedeno, Paige Dana), and DO40 president John Sefakis (who taught at Phil’s studio for 15 years) put together a mini-dance class, complete with all of Phil’s dance styles, including a mini-combination. The highlight was M.C. Anthony Vincent Bova’s “recreation” of Phil, gently reassuring his students (while watering his plants and throwing drum sticks at them) and making them repeat the combination over and over until they got it right.
One of the highlights of the evening was Paige Dana’s loving, yet honest recreation of her years at the Phil Black Dance Studio, from the first time she climbed the stairs on West 50th Street, past the Tango Palace on the second floor -- a young girl, without the requisite skills to make it as a dancer, who, with Phil’s encouragement and assistance, made it into CATS on Broadway.
The show was produced by John Sefakis for DO40 and Nancy Murton and Anthony Vincent Bova. Nancy and Anthony worked tirelessly on the event, and rounded up many of Phil’s former students whom he hadn’t seen – and who hadn’t seen each other – in decades. The last segment was a videotaped lovefest from Eddie Mekka (formerly of TV’s Laverne and Shirley -- and a Phil Black Dancer to the core!). Eddie now lives in Las Vegas and was starring in the Las Vegas company of Hairspray! at the time. Also included was a tap routine filmed in Canada where Eddie and Phil played father and son in an original musical written by Eddie.
In the Seventies, Eighties, & Nineties, dancers from all over the world would travel to New York City to study with Phil Black at his studio on 50th & Broadway. For 30 years he dedicated his life to teaching the art of dancing in both jazz and tap and preparing his students to get jobs. 70 percent of his students ended up working in show business.
Some notable Broadway & Film stars who have graced his studio include Goldie Hawn, Eddie Mekka, Greg Burge, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, John Travolta, Irene Cara, Johnny Mathis, Marlo Thomas, Terri Garr, Chita Rivera, Bette Midler, Charlotte D’Amboise, Priscilla Lopez, Gelsey Kirkland, Danielle Brisebois, Priscilla Lopez, Anna Bella Sciora, Cynthia OnRubia, Jimmy Litton, Christine Langner & the Twyla Tharp Dance Company.
What made Phil Black so unique as a teacher was his commitment to his students. In an article for Dance Teacher Magazine he spoke a little about his method and is quoted as saying, “I want the students to understand how the movements work or why they don’t. In addition, the dancers must learn to sell what they have. They must do the steps and make it theirs. I tell students, come every day, and I guarantee you’ll be working in a year or two. Know what you want to do and do it. Just believe in yourself and make yourself the best you can be.”
Phil demanded a lot from his students and he used to have a reputation for being pretty tough. But those dancers that chose to study with Phil did so because he was an extraordinary teacher/choreographer that could get the best out of his students. To study with Phil Black was both an honor and an experience. Some of his advanced classes were known to run for 3 hours with students still wanting more. He taught many styles of jazz which included rock, lyrical, straight (Jack Cole) style, latin, and swing. He was a master of style, line, and shading. These 3 elements are rarely taught in classes today.
Phil Black, his sister, Mary and Barbara Kossen (rt.)
Arte Phillips and Billy Marti
Ron Stratton and Marge Beddow
The Next Generation
Otto Cedeno, Nancy Murton and Arte Phillips