Three decades of dance: Mary Pat Robertson

mary patAfter 35 years at Princeton Ballet School, Mary Pat Robertson has retired. I’m very sad for the dance community but glad for her to have a less compressed schedule

In a comprehensive article by my colleague Anne Levin at Town Topics, Robertson says — and I know this to be true about her — that she loves coaching young dancers and mentions two of her former students among the many. Kraig Patterson  (formerly with Mark Morris) and Unity Phelan, Phelan, whose father is entrepreneur John Phelan, was named in a March 1 essay on rising stars at City Ballet by New York Times critic Alastair Macauley. I saw Phelan teach a master class at PBS and was captivated by her energy and fascinated by her feet. More on that at another time.

Meanwhile I hark back to what was, for me, the heyday of modern dance in Central Jersey, the early ’80s, when Robertson launched an innovative company, Teamwork Dance. Teamwork concerts were never dull, The late Geulah Abrahams and Michelle Mathesius  had their own companies — and even Mark Morris performed at Trenton’s Mill Hill Playhouse. Grant money was available and — surprise! — just a little bit of dough encouraged a lot of dance.

One of Teamwork’s principals, Janell Byrne, also danced with Abrahams and has had her own company for three decades at Mercer County Community College’s Kelsey Theatre. Her choreography is on the program this weekend at Rider University, which is now the center for innovative dance. “Transforming and manipulating a scenic element…..” sounds intriguing!


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