Last week at its 2014 Vision Gala held at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City, the Dance Theater of Harlem (DTH) celebrated its 45th anniversary. And what better way to celebrate than raising a large amount of funds for the school?s pool of talented dancers?
?Funding the arts is always a challenge. In some sectors, it?s gotten a little bit better, but as an industry, we?re still feeling the lag of the recession. So it hasn?t really impacted our institutions yet. We know there?s such a shortage of the arts in schools, and audiences are hungry to have this artistic experience whether it?s in the theater or a library or a museum. We continue to rely on private donors since government money is very, very small and foundation money is also relatively small. So it?s all about corporate funding. We have to rely, largely, on individuals who are passionate about the work we do, who believe in the DTH mission and who really are believers in the notion of diversity within classical ballet,? Laveen Naidu, Dance Theater of Harlem?s executive director, told The Network Journal.?
And that evening, private donors certainly did their part to help keep the school?s programs alive. In a live auction conducted by fashion expert Audrey Smaltz, $700,000 was raised to benefit Dance Theater?s Next Generation and Community Engagement funds. Nearly 400 corporate sponsors, supporters, friends, alumni and members of the board attended the event, including journalist Paula Zahn, Malaak Compton Rock, Kimberly Chandler, Miss USA 2012 Nana Meriwether, Isiah and Lynne Thomas; Miss New York City 2014 Kira Kazantsev, philanthropists Samuel Peabody, Judith M. Hoffman, Jean Shafiroff, Beverly D?Anne and Guy Mognaz.
During the evening, honorees Valentino D. Carlotti of Goldman, Sachs & Company; arts advocate and dance educator Jody Gottfried Arnhold; and recording artist Patti LaBelle took to the stage to receive their awards. Carlotti was honored with the inaugural Virtuoso Award; Gottfried Arnhold, with The Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Medal; and LaBelle, with the Arthur Mitchell Vision Award. But it was Ms. LaBelle?s surprise performance that left guests smiling. After her acceptance speech, she sang an acapella rendition of ?The Lord?s Prayer,? with opera singer Jessye Norman joining her, along with the entire audience, in singing amen. ?I can dance, but they dance like angels,? said LaBelle during her acceptance speech, referring to the Dance Theatre of Harlem Company tribute performance (choreographed by Robert Garland). ?This is my 52nd year in this business called show and to be honored by the Dance Theatre of Harlem for their 45th year anniversary, I feel so blessed, so honored,? she continued during a short dinner break in the program.
Aside from the Company?s tribute performance, the DTH school performed to ?Over the Rainbow.? There was also a preview of the Company?s upcoming spring season, to take place next month at Jazz at Lincoln Center, with an excerpt from ?The Pas de Dix from Raymonda.???
According to the Company?s mission statement, ?Dance Theatre of Harlem is a leading dance institution of unparalleled global acclaim that uses the art form of classical ballet to change people?s lives. Now in its fifth decade, the Company has grown into a multi-cultural dance institution with an extraordinary legacy of providing opportunities for creative expression and artistic excellence that continues to set standards in the performing arts. It has achieved unprecedented success, bringing innovative and bold new forms of artistic expression to audiences in New York City, across the country and around the world.?
Virginia Johnson, Dance Theater of Harlem?s artistic director, told The Network Journal, ?What we do best is bring people together?into the art form?who may not have been interested in it before. And we bring people together into an audience who may not ever have sat together. It?s a very important and new opportunity we have as a company.?