"I've been doing this for 40 years," says Sandra Jemal of Smithtown, adding with a laugh: "Half the dance teachers on Long Island, I've taught."
Jemal, president of the Long Island Dance Consortium, shows what her current students can do in the 11th annual Celebration of Dance at the Long Island High School for the Arts, starting Friday night. Her Long Island Dance Company performs with nine other affiliated groups, plus the Martha Graham II company.
"This is our chance to show Long Islanders what's out there," Jemal says. Besides this annual spring festival, the consortium -- with 20 performing companies -- presents two outdoor shows as part of Huntington's Summer Arts Festival.
Jemal, who studied with Martha Graham and Edward Villella, then of the Island's Eglevsky Ballet, danced professionally with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Although she teaches dance for all ages -- toddlers to retirees -- her company, with studios in Lake Grove and Miller Place, is made up of high school and college-age dancers. "These kids are aspiring professionals," she says, "looking to spread their wings on Broadway or study dance in college." Among her former students is the daughter of actor Ralph Macchio, who rehearsed in Jemal's studio for TV's "Dancing With the Stars."
The festival is designed, she says, "to give everybody a taste of all forms of dance, not just one style."
Here's what you can sample this weekend:
OPENING NIGHTERS First, two contemporary ballets: Bayport's American Dance Theatre of Long Island opens with "The Letter," choreographed by Kathleen Kairns-Scholz. Long Island Ballet Theatre of Huntington then performs "Mishima," by Adelphi professor Catherine Lawrence to music by Philip Glass. Next, Olga Berest's eponymous troupe from Port Washington puts on some modern moves, followed by Huntington's Red Hot Mamas. These tap-dancing seniors, ages 53 to 83, narrowly missed the cut for Paula Abdul's "Live to Dance" TV show. Variations, a Huntington studio led by Erin Lopez, jazzes up the evening.
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE Glen Head's Circle of Dance Repertoire performs "Intersections," a modern piece by former Lar Lubovitch dancer Katarzyna Skarpetowska. From Greenvale, Dany Holdstein's Two Worlds draws on Israeli and jazz influences. Jemal's dancers close Act I with two pieces she choreographed: "Avatar" (from the movie) and "The Dollhouse," plus Jill O'Keefe's jazzy "Mannequin." Trinity Dance of Hickville, performing bold con- temporary numbers by Heather Granger and Chris Jimenez, is next, followed by students from the host arts high school.
GUEST ARTISTS Martha Graham II, observing its 85th year, is the only festival company from outside the Island and the only one performing both nights. It closes Friday night's show with selections from the late founder's "Acts of Light" and "Ritual to the Sun." Saturday night's finale: her ballet set to Copland's "Appalachian Spring."
WHAT Long Island Dance Consortium's 11th annual Celebration of Dance
WHEN | WHERE Friday and Saturday nights at 8, Long Island High School for the Arts, 239 Cold Spring Rd., Syosset
INFO $20 each night, longislanddance.org, 631-271-8423