Dance Theater of Harlem Raises $500K at Vision Gala, Honors Jessye Norman

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DTHIn February, the Dance Theater of Harlem held its annual Vision Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City and aside from the wonderful performances by the Dance Theater of Harlem Company and students of the Dance Theater of Harlem School, DTH honored longtime board member and Grammy award-winning opera singer Jessye Norman, among others.

“This year, we really felt we needed to honor people for their deep support of DTH. Jessye Norman has been a board member for years and years and is a dear friend of Arthur Mitchell; the late Ted Bartwink, who we’re honoring posthumously, has really supported and encouraged this community to do the work it needs to do. His company, the Harkness Foundation for Dance, has given money to all of us and his work with Hofstra and physical therapists has made such a difference; we’re also honoring Under Armour because we want to celebrate them for the work they do with women, especially dancer Misty Copeland,” DTH Artistic Director Virginia Johnson told TNJ.com.

About Copeland, a soloist at American Ballet Theater, Leanne Fremar, head of the women’s division at Under Armour, Inc., said to TNJ.com, “It’s an honor to be here and I have to thank Misty Copeland, one of the faces of Under Armour’s “I AM” campaign launched this fall. It was an honor for us to tell her story.” Later, upon accepting the Virtuoso award on behalf of Under Armour, Fremar remarked, “It was the will of Misty to change the complexion of the ballet world I knew growing up. She had the determination to turn what the world told her into something else and demonstrate  ‘I will become a ballet dancer.’”

Another highlight of the night was Norman’s win for the coveted Arthur Mitchell Vision award. Gloria Steinem, American feminist and founder of Ms. Magazine, presented the award to her and shared with the audience, “My first time learning about Jessye’s outrageousness was when I heard her say on a radio show that she wanted to sing back-up for Sting. And then later, I heard her unamplified voice at a concert at Carnegie Hall. And I was amazed. She did not grow up in a world where people expected her to be an opera singer but she became an opera singer. She stands up for us because she stands up for herself. She’s an aristocrat of talent but she doesn’t behave that way because she’s one of us.”

Steinem then called Norman a legend in her own time.

Other winners were Mario L. Bezo, who also won the Virtuoso award, and Theodore Bartwink (post-humously) and the Harkness Center for Dance who won the Carl & Lily Pforzheimer Family Foundation Medal.

Harlem-born, fashion veteran Audrey Smaltz was also on-hand and did a fabulous job, as always, with the Silent Auction. By the end of the night, $500,000 was raised for the Next Generation Fund, which provides scholarships and financial assistance to the Dance Theater of Harlem School and the Community Engagement Fund, supporting arts education and community programs.

(CLICK HERE for a related article about DTH.)