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Thoughts on Fagan, his company

On perfection
“I always thought that it was easy to work with Garth once you understood that there was only one standard, and that was perfection.”
– Deborah Ronnen, former GFD board chair

“I’ve been able to work with him on the creative side and business side. That’s a whole different ball game, but the same pursuit of perfection carries Garth on the business side as it does on his artistic side.”
 – Bill Ferguson, artistic/administrative liaison and former GFD dancer

On excellence

“This is a brilliant company.”
—Clive Barnes, New York Post

“He wouldn’t give up on us. ‘I can’t just give up because you guys aren’t ready. I’ve gotta keep moving forward.’ It’s the perfect blend of professionalism and creative passion. And it’s a really beautiful thing. It’s kept us and him going for 45 years.”
 – Norwood Pennewell, rehearsal director, assistant to Garth Fagan and GFD dancer

“They come here to Brooklyn, they go into rehearsal to prepare, they go to the stage to rehearse. He’s so focused on getting the performance exactly precisely what he wants.”
– Joe Melillo, executive producer, Brooklyn Academy of Music

On storytelling

“Garth has a story to tell. It is not always descriptive or narrative; very often the only message is beauty. His great gift is to be able to move people through the complex language of choreography.”   
– Deborah Ronnen

On creating

“When everything is clicking, there’s no concept of time.”
– Norwood Pennewell

“He says something one time and we can do it. We know him. This is important because the creation and invention of movement has to come out. He can’t keep it in; he has to let it out and see it as soon as possible or the moment is gone.”
– Natalie Rogers-Cropper, director, Garth Fagan Dance School, and GFD dancer

“At its foundation (Garth Fagan Dance) has the strength of many years of tradition, but the expression lives in the now.”
– Bill Ferguson

“Garth, he is a sage. … He’s ancient and modern and youthful at the same time. I have the deepest level of love and respect for him because he is the embodiment of the best of culture.”
– Wynton Marsalis, musician and collaborator, in WXXI documentary, “Garth & Wynton: The Project”

“Fagan’s dances are perhaps the most profound and original in contemporary dance today.”
– Robert Johnson, The Star-Ledger

On Rochester
“I believe he is so successful because he resides in your city, which gives him the freedom to be a complete artist without any of the stress of being here in New York City. … It’s your creativity that makes it happen. … It is the secret weapon.
– Joe Melillo

“It was easy to raise funds for the company because I believed in the work and felt that it was under-appreciated at home.”
 – Deborah Ronnen

On being challenged
“I came to Garth Fagan Dance and got my butt kicked.”
– Natalie Rogers-Cropper

“He took me beyond any possible limit I ever thought I could possibly reach.”
– Norwood Pennewell

“Sometimes he’ll give me a straight answer and sometimes he’ll say, ‘Bill, I think that’s something you have to figure out for yourself.’”
– Bill Ferguson

On the GFD family
“Even though they’re professional dancers and they’re working with him, it’s, ‘Oh, this is Garth Fagan’s family coming to dance.’”
– Joe Melillo

4/24/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email [email protected]

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