Not many people around Fordham’s campus know who Jenifer Ringer is. Even fewer may know that she is a fellow Ram. I did not know this either until this past Sunday, when I attended her farewell performance at the New York City Ballet.
On Sunday Feb. 9, Ringer, FCLC ‘98, a prima ballerina with the New York City Ballet, retired after dancing with the company since 1990 and becoming a principal dancer in 2000. She is the second longest-term member of the company.
“You wouldn’t miss this one, would you?” asked a former ballet acquaintance of mine, Robert Dorf, a member of the advisory board of Dance/NYC, as my mother and I entered the magnificent David H. Koch theater located at Lincoln Center. “No,” I replied, “I really wouldn’t.”
Growing up very involved in the ballet world, Ringer was not only a role-model to me, but also very much a celebrity to all fellow ballet-goers.
During her luminous career, Ringer also attended the Fordham Lincoln Center Campus, where she received her English degree, even amidst great hardship that was taking place in her off-stage life. The dancer admits in an article in the New York Post, “If people told me I was dancing well and I looked great, then I felt great for about five minutes,” when reflecting on a time when she had a severe eating disorder and her future at NYCB was uncertain.
However, Ringer rose to the occasion and is now one of NYCB’s greatest treasures, which was made very evident by the farewell she received.
The pieces performed at the matinee showing were handpicked by the ballerina and featured an all-star lineup of mostly principal dancers—this is not something one gets to see very often, even if one goes to the ballet every other Sunday for one’s entire life.
The first selection, “Dances at a Gathering,” choreographed to music by Frédéric Chopin, by one of the greatest modern artists of this time, Jerome Robins, is beautifully simple, and allowed Ringer to showcase her finite technique and ability to capture the entire audience with her beauty. The dancers danced with their hair down, wearing long and flowing pastel dresses, creating a feeling of nostalgia that Ringer was surely experiencing at the time.
The second selection, “Union Jack,” in juxtaposition to “Dances,” truly took on a life of its own. Union, choreographed by George Balanchine and performed to traditional British tunes adapted by Hershy Kay, showcased Ringer’s other, much more theatrical side.
As she played the “Pearl Queen,” Ringer was undeniably having fun on the stage, allowing herself to let go and perform in a way that a dancer only really could for his or her last hurrah.
The piece ended with dancers filling the stage, the British flag dropping to the floor and the orchestra simulating a full royal salute. This is how Ms. Ringer said farewell to an inspiring, dramatic and incredible career. She, rightfully so, gave herself a royal salute, with all of the dancers standing at attention as the curtain fell for Ringer one last time.
A full 30 minutes of applause followed the show, with each member of the company coming out on stage to present Ringer with a plethora of flowers. Ringer gracefully bid farewell to her fans in a display of appreciation that was truly unprecedented and unexpected from a dancer who nearly left the company early on in her career.
While her dancing days may be over, it is clear that the artist inside of Ringer can never be taken away, and it is exciting to wonder what she is going to do next.