Jack Anderson

Mark Lamb Dance at Metro Baptist Church

Mark Lamb Dance
Second Saturday Sanctuary Salon Series
Metro Baptist Church, 410 West 40th Street, Hell’s Kitchen
February 11, 2012; 7 p.m.
(646) 265-4782,, $20 suggested
Reviewed by Jack Anderson, February 14, 2012

Erin Johnson & Mark Lamb. Photo by Sam Kanter.

Unexpected pleasures can sometimes turn up in out-of-the-way places. Take Metro Baptist Church, a modest house of worship tucked away among the overpasses back of the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Who could have predicted that it would be home to a resident dance company? Yet Mark Lamb Dance is based there, and for the past two years Lamb has been the organizer of a Second Saturday Sanctuary Salon Series, presenting monthly performances involving dance and the other arts.

I learned of the series through press releases intriguing enough to make me decide to take a look. I discovered a plain, largely unadorned, sanctuary: a basically empty space, but one that could easily be filled with dancing. And the fact that it has moveable chairs rather than conventional fixed pews makes it an adaptable space akin to such other churches that also function as dance theaters as Judson Memorial or St. Mark's in the Bowery.

Deborah Gladstein & Jerron Herman. Photo by Sam Kanter.

Lamb called his latest salon "A Love Letter to Metro" and, coming just before Valentine's Day, that it was. The informal evening drew upon the artistic talents of church members and the surrounding community. Spectators were welcomed by Lamb and the Rev. Alan Sherouse, Metro's affable young pastor. Events included a comic sketch about a "mystery date," a dramatic reading drawn from love letters, songs by members of the church choir (which, judging from their sound, may be quite a good one), and dances by Lamb and his company. At times, the choreography looked a bit amorphous, yet no piece outstayed its welcome.

The program's main attraction, Kathleen Conry's "Dancing Through Life with Grace," was both well-organized and emotionally touching. Honoring Bella Malinka, a veteran New York ballet teacher, a faculty member of the School of Performing Arts from 1949 to 1981, and reputedly the model for the ballet teacher in the film "Fame," this tribute was, in effect, a little pageant of American dance during the 20th century. As Malinka watched from one side of the performing area, dancers came and went representing dance in multitudinous manifestations, including the kitsch taught at neighborhood dancing schools of questionable merit, tap dance, Duncan dancing, modern dance, and ballet. The performers were women of various ages, all united in a love for dance. At the conclusion, Lamb raised a tiny baby aloft and the other participants gathered around them, forming a harmonious community.

The Salon itself surely made everyone present feel part of a community. Audience and dancers could mingle during the intermissions, when snacks and wine were served. This was a happy occasion that I was happy to have attended.


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