A class reunion of sorts, “From the Horse’s Mouth,” the brainchild of Tina Croll and Jamie Cunningham, puts a legend in the spotlight. Countless colleagues, friends and patrons celebrate the chosen one on stage and in the audience. This year, it was Gus Solomons Jr.’s turn. At the 14th Street Y (April 1-3), the list of celebrants for the Sunday performance (the cast changed each evening) totaled 23 and included Santa Aloi, Patricia Beaman, Michael Blake, Wally Cardona, Yoshiko Chuma, Hope Clarke, Carmen deLavallade, Mary Kate Hartung, John Heginbotham, Deborah Jowitt, Jonathan Matthews, Dianne McIntyre, Meredith Monk, Douglas Nielsen, Wendy Perron, Christina Noel Reaves, Pascal Rekoert, Judith Ren-Lay, James Sutton, Alice Teirstein, Martine van Hamel, David Vaughan and Susanna Weiss.
Most performed live, but some who surely wanted to be a part of the event sent their tribute on film. When the evening finally got going, Solomons entered the stage and the audience roared. The audience became quiet when he began to move, with gestures only he can bring to life, his long arms and legs consuming the space. Then he said, “I used to be taller, slimmer (pause-laughter), impatient (pause-more laughter), happier and more limber (pause and even more laughter).”
The lights went out, and it was time for the others. The structure is set, and each of the 23, in varying red and black costumes had a short time on stage to share anecdotes while seated in a chair, to dance a bit or to improvise with each other, guided by “ a chance element … [where they] … pick a card from a box … which suggests how to vary [a] phrase.” A couple of times, accompanied by an overture with the sound of horses, the entire cast crossed in a diagonal line, donning “costumes [that] depict a favorite dance [or] that represent a costume they have always wanted to wear.”
They are there for Solomons, but in truth, they are all stars. Almost all talked about the beauty of Solomons’ long dancing legs and arms, and his unpredictable nature, but there were also touching individual stories. Van Hamel opined, “Decades later, we’re still dancing.” Perron admitted that Solomons “was ahead of his time.” McIntyre confessed, because of Solomons, “I learned to be bold in dance.” Cardona affirms, “You are my hero.” Sutton said, “Gus was just always there, like the weather.”
Solomons the mentor, the best friend, the puppeteer and writer was also honored by some of his students, who harmonized his name and his teaching through a Solomons-esque dance routine. Towards the end, the illustrious 92-year-old dance writer David Vaughan offered, “We don’t stop dancing.” His long-time friend and co-founder of Paradigm Dance Company, Carmen deLavallade, overwhelmed by the outpouring of talent and gratitude for her friend, breathlessly said, “Darling, we’re still here.”
What an afternoon!