Monday, October 10, 2016

CTFD GALA 9/26/16, Marriott Marquis in NYC

Career Transition for Dancers Gala 2016

Celebrating the first year of CTFD integrating into the Actors Fund was a grand evening paying tribute to dance and dancers. In this transformative year, the dichotomy of disconnect rang true: past meets future, and the light of dawn shining bright!

Announcer (Mary Jo Mecca):


To kick off our evening please welcome ten time Tony Award winner Tommy Tune!

Tommy sang the perfect opening song about the nature of being an entertainer called  “I Love It”  He then made a stunning exit - walking down the stairs on center right through the audience.  His pianist in the back, Michael Biagi.

The first honorary Chairwoman of Career Transition for Dancers made an unexpected appearance to welcome the merging of the two organizations - she was met onstage by Tony Award winner (and Hamilton choreographer) Andy Blankenbuehler, who was there to present one of the annual CTFD Awards to Joe Lanteri.

Andy Blankenbuehler and Agnes deMille aka Lynn Cohen

Said Agnes:  I’m sure you all remember when I showed up for your 2013 gala - the year CTFD received the Tony Honor. Now, that was really a big deal! But an even bigger deal is that finally the organization has returned to the Actors Fund, where it should have never left!  I mean, this is where I started it in the first place.  Sure, it did great work on its own, but we can do even better work together.   I always loved making up new steps, so congratulations on your next step!

(below)  Mark Stuart Dance Theatre in "Libertango" performed a spectacular duet!  

Jamie Verazin and Mark Stuart

Mark received a grant from CTFD years ago, and initiated the next segment of the program which was about former dancers sharing stories of their careers, their transitions into other areas of the dance field, and thanking the organization for support. It was led by Dax Valdes (sitting on a chair in the audience in the dark):  

DAX (a al Zac from "A Chorus Line"): "Former dancers please come out on stage, former dancers to the stage please! So, tell me a little about your transition, Tony you start...." 
Tony:  Moving from dancer to director to festival producer, I've promoted the best tap dancers in the field. Now, I love seeing the next generation of dancers find their own unique voices....

Tony Waag and American Tap Dance Foundation

Coreen Danahar and Gregory deSantis 

BALLET NY - Judith Fugate and Medhi Bahiri Artistic Directors 

When Medhi and I transitioned from performers to directors we  needed to educate ourselves in management skills, marketing strategies and fundraising plans, among other aspects of the 

Tina LaForgia and Patric Palkens

Cincinnati Ballet:

Tina LaForgia and Patric Palkens from Cincinnati Ballet danced a wonderful contemporary duet choreographed by Gabriel Gaffney Smith called "Untitled" (he also composed the music). Stay tuned to hear more about these talented artists!

Dax then said to Tina and Patric after the duet - in keeping with the theme:

" you are both mid-career...there is no better time than now for you to learn about CTFD and what we have to offer dancers here at the Actors Fund.   Joanna Rush, you're next!"

Joanna Rush (center)

Joanna Rush shared her story in a well-crafted piece of choreography by Sara Brians - that was cleverly set to her text...
"When I was in first grade I wanted to be a priest. I wanted to make the world a better place. But then I found out that girls weren’t allowed to be priests.  So, naturally enough, I decided I wanted to be a Rockette.  A counselor named Patch, showed me that there was such a thing as “parallel careers.” 
David Parsons gave a heart-felt moment and duet as a tribute to former CTFD Executive Director and long time dancer and dance supporter, Alex Dube. The photo is the end of the piece which gave the feeling of....just like dance, the temporal and ephemeral nature of life.

"Finding Center" with music by Randy Newman

Elena Damario and Ian Spring

Nathalie Enterline

After the Auction and Dinner moving into part two of the show, Executive Director of the Actors Fund, Joe Benincasa shared a few words an then introduced our next performer:

And now, it is my great pleasure to introduce the phenomenal, world-renowned Nathalie Enterline!

Nathalie performed a solo called MY WAY - sung by Frank Sinatra. The dance started with a charming mime bit as Charlie Chaplin with a fast change moment into a dazzling and spectacular baton twirling dance.

Nathalie as Chaplin

The Manson Trio excerpt from Bob Fosse’s “Pippin” had three Fosse experts in Bebe Neuwirth, David Warren Gibson and Pam Sousa holding the power, and demonstrating the brilliance of subtly…you have to be really good to be subtle!


"Ladies and gentlemen, Desmond Richardson, one of the great modern dancers of this time!"

 "Imprint Maya" by Dwight Rhoden 

Desmond Richardson

In between we had a moment pause to promote a work created about Sono Osato's career. It was called "Sono's Journey" choreographed by Melissa Thodos of Thodos Dance Chicago. We say a promo video of the work and each guest received a full copy.  Sono (at 97 years old) attended the event - still kicking and in great spirits!

Tony Award winner Bebe Neuwirth, known in the business as a "triple threat" and founder of the Dancer's Resource, closed the evening singing a very moving rendition of "Mr. Bojangles" accompanied by Scott Cady.

Antonia Skobina and Denys Drozdyuk

I forgot to mention, that before Bebe's last number there were two testimonials from Melanie LaPatin and George de la Pena tellings us of their amazing noteworthy accomplishments as dancers and what they are doing today (still noteworthy!) 

And, as a segue into their speeches were Ballroom sensations Antonia and Denys in Aretha Franklin's "Respect" (I was watching backstage SL)

OK, so now for the fabulous PRE-SHOW!

The Pre-Show was planned improvisation....with:
Dustin Hubel on Hoops (left)
Melanie LaPatin Ballroom dancers
Silva Dance Company
Francoise Voranger and Hybrid

Movement Company
Schedule 40 Performers that included:
Anthony 'Grasshopper' Mitchell, Zoob Fernandez, Fibi Eyewalker, Rowen Sadlier, and Annette Ellis

Francoise Voranger in pose on Pole

Dustin Hubel

Ann Marie DeAngelo giving direction to Francoise Voranger

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