Making her point more seriously, Slotnick explained this dance-happy theory as it relates to one of the components of Saturday's recital: a 16-minute film of her male prison inmates' dance troupe. It comes from a larger work and, combined with an homage to those prison dancers (who, understandably, will not be able to attend the recital itself), is testament to the role that musical movement can play in lifting one's spirits.
She also brought it up again later, when mentioning the trio of pieces set to Laura Nyro songs featuring former Paul Taylor dancers Maureen Mansfield, now a dance teacher and choreographer at Vassar College, and Jared Wootan, who started dancing with Slotnick when he was nine. "It's a very varied program, with kids dancing with trained professionals and a number of longtime students," Slotnick explained. "The music includes everything from Prokofiev's Overture on Hebrew Themes to Edwin Starr's 'War,' from Ben Harper and Terence Trent D'Arby to Sarah McLachlan and Sergei Rachmaninoff."
The portion involving Slotnick's work with the men of Woodbourne Correctional Prison - arguably the first such effort using modern dance in a prison setting with prisoners - will feature a portion of the new Brent Buell film tribute, Dancing for Freedom, along with a tribute to the program that fills the SUNY-New Paltz grad's Sundays, featuring seven student dancers choreographed to James Ingram's "Someday We'll All Be Free."
Slotnick pointed out that a previous screening of that film in Rosendale hadn't been enough: "This program is special and needs to be experienced" - as will be the involvement of the veterans of the classically modern Paul Taylor company, working alone and en troupe in the recital's finale.
Slotnick, who began her own dance studies with New York City's Ballet Russe and later taught painting and drawing, continued her dance lessons as an adult with the legendary tapper Brenda Bufalino and others. She founded the Figures in Flight Junior Dance Company in 1988, and has since participated in artist-in-residence programs throughout Ulster and Dutchess counties. In 1997, she received an award from Networth Public Health for using dance to help people living with AIDS. In 1999 The Figures in Flight Dance Company received a Dutchess County Council on the Arts grant award to develop a new play for high school students aimed to teach tolerance and compassion. She will be opening her latest exhibition of paintings in New Paltz deeper into the current summer.
"What can I say?" she summarized about the upcoming recital. "I think it's going to be a whole lot of fun." The Figures in Flight recital and concert, featuring the Figures in Flight Junior Dance Companies, Maureen Mansfield and Jared Wooten (formerly of the Paul Taylor Dance Company) and a film highlighting the Woodbourne Correctional Dancers, takes place at the New Paltz High School Auditorium this Saturday, May 23 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10. Call (845) 255-6759 for further information.