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Wholly Modern

Wholly Modern Shirley Ubell by Ruth Bauer Neustadter
Painting of Shirley by Ruth Bauer Neustadter

Wholly Modern

Shirley’s Dream 60 years and counting!

Dances to celebrate CMDE founder Shirley Ubell and 60 years as a non profit.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without words
And never stops at all

Emily Dickinson’s poem expresses how I feel about the miraculous creation and longevity of The Center for Modern Dance Education. The seed for CMDE was planted in by Maya Kyla when I was 19 and had my very first modern dance lesson. Her melodious voice telling me to breathe as I lifted my leg, reached down the bleakness of my soul and I suddenly was filled with joy and hope. Shirley Ubell Founding Director, CMDE

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Saturday, March 19 at 5:30PM
Fair Lawn Community Center Theater


1. Remembering Shirley

Film by Linda Mensch and Paul Romano
Music: "The Best Things Happen When We're Dancing" sung by Danny Kaye

2. Welcome Breaths

The core choreography for this piece was started on zoom and was influenced by having to stay in our own space even when we returned in person.
Choreography: Elissa Machlin-Lockwood
Dancers: Ruth Bauer Neustadter, Kevin Cooper, Audrey Goodman, Diane Jehle, Sharon Silow-Carroll, Carolyn Smith, Amanda Trott, Diana Fainberg
Music: Walela & Sweet Honey in the Rock

Shirley was part of this adult Modern dance class until she moved to California. She used an umbrella in more than one of her solos, and her first dance lesson was about breathing.

*A Few Words by Cindy P. Low

3. Waking Up!

Moving Experience Dance Company

Choreographed and directed by Silinea Hilliard, Allison Brown, Amanda Trott
Dancers: Chris Hayer, Chesne Valentine, Megan Farrell
Music: Good Vibrations by Ricky Reed

4. We're All In This Together

Choreographed and performed by Shirley Black Brown Coward
Music: "The Getting Better Band"
Debbie Blackwell Cook vocals, Scott Wilkie piano & keyboards, Rob Rinder organ, Nathan Brown bass, Jeff Olson drums & percussion

Shirley Brown-Coward's dad brought her to "the studio" when she was 10 years old. Shirley Ubell recognized and nurtured her talent.She was a scholarship student for 9 yrs, was accepted to Julliard, performed on Broadway, was a Master Teacher and an award winning choreographer.

5. For Shirley

Choreographed and performed by Ruth Bauer Neustadter, Shirley's first student!
Music: Claude Debussy’s Suite bergamasque, performed by Pascal Rogé

This dance was inspired and informed by Shirley's choreography & use of props.

6. Confined Quarters

Choreography: Janelle S Ings
Music: "Invasion," Vivaldi's "Spring" (recomposed), and "Vladimir's Blues", by Mark Richter
Dancers: Kalena Brown, Allison Brown, Silinea and Sheena Schuler

This piece was inspired by the lockdown the world faced during the pandemic.


In Buddhist tradition, monks are considered warriors whose mission is to fight ignorance and suffering through enlightenment. Shirley was a warrior of enlightenment; enabling her students to speak powerfully through the art of dance.
Choreography: H.T. Chen
Music: Bradley Kaus
Costumes designed by Juliet Ouyang
Performed by Seneca Lawrence, Torrey McAnena, Richard Sayama, Ari Someya, Keyasha Williams-Bailey, Glenna Yu

Dian Dong Chen was one of Shirley's early students, and Shirley always thought of her as family.


A panel discussion: What is modern dance?
Created by Claire Porter
Movement developed with the dancers
Text by Claire Porter
Performed by Lena Aronson, Allison Bazin, Richard Field, Audrey Goodman, Cindy Pratt Low, Elissa Machlin-Lockwood, Ruth Bauer Neustadter, Jamie Sporn, Alexandra Stavrou, Susan Thomasson

Originally commissioned in 2012 for CMDE’s 50th anniversary by the Center for Modern Dance Education this piece was revised for today’s celebration. .

9. Moved Stills

Filmed and photographed Linda Mensch, edited by Paul Romano
Music: Jeremy Taylor, Andrew Tracey, & The Eeels

This was made for CMDE’s 50th anniversary with CMDE dancers past and present

10. Celebrate! African Beat Modern Feet

Choreography and music: Yahya Kamate
Guest Drummers: Gabriel Roxbury & Dashawn Bowy
CMDE African Dance Youth Company: Jayren Madera, Jared Bailey, Amanda Darius

Join us in the lobby for memorial celebration reception


Limited seating 
 Proof of vaccine or negative test 
 Masks required

Fair Lawn Community Center Theater
10-10 20 th Street,
Fair Lawn NJ 07410



Special Thanks to Colleen Conwell and the technical staff at the Fair Lawn Community Theater, Stage Managers Barry and Katonya Rochester, Photographer Mary Thurmond Videographer Tony Sutera.

CMDE is grateful to all the dancers, volunteers, alumna and friends who continue to support our mission through donations of time and money!

Quote by Shirley Ubell
Quote by Shirley Ubell

Made possible by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts

CMDE sponsors

ABC Radio Interview with Shirley Ubell

210 Forsyth Street: The Finger of God
In Celebration

by Shirley Ubell

Modern Dance Made Me Who I Am!

March 12, 1947, I was an awkward, depressed 18 year old, destined to be an old maid. My mother sent me to Maya, a diminutive dark haired, unemployed Eurasian dancer, to teach me to ball room dance “so you’ll get a boyfriend!”

Although a psychology major at Hunter College, I hadn’t any idea of what I wanted to do with my life. In fact, I was so depressed, I wished I were dead.

Thirty-nine year old Maya, a talented, but unemployed dancer, contacted through my mother’s beautician friend Ida, had agreed to teach me. After five tortured minutes of trying to lead me in a simple box step, Maya looked me over, stared directly into my eyes (we were exactly the same height, barely five feet) and said excitedly,
“You have the body of a modern dancer. Have you ever studied it?”

“Studied it?” I replied, “What is it?”

“You must have seen it performed in the theater,” Maya persisted.

“I’ve never been to the theater,” was my answer.

“Never been to the theater …. Don’t know what modern dance is,” mused incredulous Maya, a born dancer, surrounded all her life by the glamour of theater by her musician mother and sculptor father.

 “I’ll show you. Lie down on the floor and breathe.”

210 Forsyth Street: The Finger of God by Shirley Ubell
In Celebration by Shirley Ubell

The emancipation of Shirley Expressed Through Dance, 1982

The emancipation of Shirley Expressed Through Dance, 1982​
The emancipation of Shirley Expressed Through Dance, 1982​