Performing Arts: Dance
March 1, 2015
Frigid temperatures did not diminish the spirits of guests arriving for the Dance Theater of Harlem Gala at Cipriani’s 42 Street. People dressed in festive attire spoke enthusiastically about the evening’s awardees and the Dance Theater of Harlem’s Renaissance under the direction of Virginia Johnson. Once ballerinas star in her own right, Virginia Johnson helped move the company founded by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook into the spotlight.

In April (8 – 11), the company arrives at City Center for a dance-packed four- day season and the gala evening was dedicated to several cultural leaders who were instrumental in buoying the company and school into the 21 century. When everyone settled in their seats, the tributes began to roll in.

Before one of the evening’s highlights, Dance Theatre of Harlem Company members Ashley Murphy, DaVon Doane, Jenelle Figgins, and Samuel Wilson performed "September" by Robert Garland in honor of Ms. Norman.

For many, the combination of Gloria Steinman, founder of Ms. Magazine and a leader of the feminist movement, and the imperial African-American opera singer Jessye Norman, was awe-inspiring.

A fan of Ms. Norman’s, Ms. Steinem applauded her journey from a rural setting to the greatest opera houses in the world. Devoted to DTH, Ms. Norman graciously accepted the Arthur Mithcell Vision Award and to the utter delight of everyone in the audience, she broke into a spirited version of the traditional folksong “This Little Light of Mine.”

Although it was hard to top this moment, after the animated Dance Theater of Harlem students finished their cheeky ballet, "Villanelle" by Robert Garland, they formed a line and walked up to Ms. Norman’s table, one by one, to shake her hand. That nearly elicited a standing ovation of people with cameras in hand snapping away.

Wendy Whelan, the NYC Ballet principal who recently retired, recalled the wonderful dance supporter Ted Bartwink and presented the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Family Medal to Mr. Bartwink. It was accepted by his widow, Barbara Bartwink and long-time foundation trustee, William Perlmuth. A dance lover, the indomitable Mr. Bartwink led the The Harkness Foundation for Dance for many years before passing away a couple of months ago.

In addition, Hannah Storm presenting Virtuoso Award to Under Armour, Inc. - Accepted by Leanne Fremar.

With the help of the effervescent auctioneer Audrey Smalls, the gala raised $500,000. Proceeds benefit the Next Generation Fund, which provides scholarships and financial assistance to the Dance Theatre of Harlem School and the Community Engagement Fund, supporting arts education and community programs.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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