To be a Garth Fagan dancer is to adhere to the teachings and techniques of the company's founder. That discipline has served Norwood Pennewell, both as a dancer, and as a person.
“You can be a dancer, singer, architect, a janitor," Pennewell told us at the Garth Fagan Studios this week. "But whatever you do, give it 120 percent. And just be the best person you can be.”
It was a dance professor at SUNY Geneseo in the 1970s who told Pennewell to go to a Garth Fagan seminar, or he wouldn't be welcome back in her class. He went, and soon found himself learning from Fagan himself.
“I was going to go to New York and do some auditioning, and he said let me suggest to you that you stay for the summer develop your techniques and get a little bit stronger and see what you think after the summer," he recalled. "And I've been here ever since.”
Pennewell just turned 60. And as time dances on, dancers feel it in their bones. Literally.
"It comes across your mind that you start thinking about it," Pennewell says, groaning in mock pain. "Ugh. The knees and whatever. The paradox is as you get older, you become more comfortable with where you are artistically. So you have two arcs happening. You have your artistic development peaking, but your physical abilities starting to wane."
Both his artistic and physical abilities will be on display this week (December 5, 6, 8 and 9) at Nazareth College Arts Center as Garth Fagan Dance returns to the local stage. Pennewell is not only dancing in the show, but also choreographed part of it. For dancers, like the rest of us, new challenges can help keep us young.
And Norwood Pennewell has more than just Garth Fagan to challenge him. Steve Humphrey, an original Garth Fagan dancer, is still performing at the age of 66!
For more on "Garth Fagan Dance: Home For The Holidays," click here.