I’ve always said if I could have a super power it would be the ability to transport myself into the world of my favorite books and coexist with the characters. Well last Sunday my wish came true as musical theater history textbooks from around the globe came to life right in front of my eyes! The New York City Dance Alliance Foundation put on the BRIGHT LIGHTS SHINING STARS gala, bringing together Bebe Neuwirth, Chita Rivera, Ben Vereen, Andy Blankenbuehler, Valarie Pettiford, Joel Grey and dozens more.
The performance was a benefit on behalf of the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation, founded by Joe Lanteri. The NYCDAF is truly the first of its kind, raising funds to help aspiring dancers pursue higher education in the arts. Since its inception in 2010, the organization itself has awarded close to $2,000,000 in college scholarships to the next generation of dancers. This does not include the organizations that have partnered with the NYCDAF and awarded $30,000,000 in scholarships. NYCDAF has afforded hundreds of rising stars the opportunity to study and pursue a performance career through higher education.
The guest of honor for the evening was the legendary Ann Reinking. She was honored as an Ambassador for the Arts. (Previous honorees include Mikhail Baryshnikov and Catherine Zeta-Jones.) Fondly known as one of Fosse’s most brilliant dancers, Ann Reinking has a resume that could go on for pages, a brain that holds a plethora of wisdom, and a heart that wants to share her love of life and dance with the world. Almost every performance of the evening had some tie to Reinking’s career, whether it be something she personally choreographed or a show in which she performed. Most memorable was the reunion of the Fosse original cast. Almost 20 years after their Broadway run, the cast of Fosse reunited to perform “I Wanna Be a Dancin’ Man”, courtesy of the Verdon/Fosse Legacy.
The crowd was dazzled as this group of Broadway vets poured their hearts and souls on the stage for Reinking. The show also included a performance by 30+ college-aged dancers who received scholarships from the NYCDAF this past summer, a vocal solo by Bebe Neuwirth in Ann’s honor, a duet from the New York City Ballet, Broadway cast members of Hello Dolly! and CATS, Ballet Hispanico, and the “Hot Honey Rag” from Chicago, performed by Dylis Croman and Amra-Faye Wright. Talent and passion was not in short supply Sunday evening!
The BRIGHT LIGHTS SHINING STARS gala was a spectacular gathering for the world of dance. The evening honored those that have made dance history, those that are in the midst of creating it, and those that will soon be tasked with carrying the torch. Thanks to the work of the NYCDAF, we can confirm that the performing arts has a bright and shining future.
To make a donation or for more information on the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation, please click HERE!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Madison Embrey is a Michigan native that moved to NYC in 2010. After completing her BFA in Commercial Dance from Pace University in downtown Manhattan, she toured the United States and Europe with a live-action stunt show called Marvel Universe Live! Now back pursuing her dance career in NYC, she can most often be seen with a smile on her face and a coffee in hand. You can follow Madison on Instagram at @madisonembrey.