Bebe Neuwirth at the 2018 National Dance Institute’s Annual Gala. Photo Credit: Noam Galai/Getty
Monday marked the 42nd Annual Gala for the National Dance Institute, and some of New York City’s biggest dance, theatre, television, and film stars were out to celebrate the beloved organization. Dance Network was back with a prime spot on the red carpet for the second year in a row covering all the action.
NDI is an educational organization that was founded in 1976 by the legendary former New York City Ballet danseur, Jacques d’Amboise. The organization allows kids all throughout New York City’s public school system an upfront and hands-on experience with “dance and music to instill… a love of the arts, a passion for learning, and a desire to strive for their personal best. At the root of NDI’s methodology is the belief that the arts have a unique power to engage all children—regardless of background, ability or socio-economic status—and motivate them toward excellence.”
At this year’s Gala, NDI chose to honor TONY® and Emmy® award winning Broadway legend and television superstar, Bebe Neuwirth. Dance Network caught up with Neuwirth on the red carpet and asked her about her passion for arts exposure and education.
“Our creative energy is part of what makes us human, it’s part of our whole being,” Neuwirth told the Network. “You have to give children a box of crayons, you have to beat a drum and let them beat a drum, you have to play music for children, because… everyone needs to express… it’s part of our health and core needs as humans… everybody needs arts in their life in some way.”
Neuwirth, once a student at Juilliard’s School Of Dance, made a household name for herself as an Emmy® award winning television actress, having played Dr. Lilith Crane on both NBC’s Cheers and Fraser and Nadine Tolliver on CBS’ Madame Secretary.
Neuwirth has also spent a large portion of her career dancing on the boards of Broadway, winning two TONY® awards: her first for her portrayal of Nickie in Bob Fosse’s 1986 revival of Sweet Charity and, the second, for the role of Velma Kelly in the 1996 revival of Chicago.
Charlotte d’Amboise (left), Bebe Neuwirth (center), and Jacques d’Amboise (right). Photo Credit: Noam Galai/Getty
“A lot of us who danced for [Bob Fosse] and or have done his work, we feel very, very strongly and loyal to that work, and care very much that it be carried on,” Neuwirth said of the late choreographer. “[His art] was so complicated and so complex… a very elegant vocabulary and style and aesthetic. So a lot of us feel very strongly that it should be passed down.”
The theme of the 2018 Gala was Dance Me a River, and the evening was hosted by Jacques d’Amboise’s son-in-law, three time TONY® nominated actor, Terrence Mann. According to NDI, the theme of rivers was chosen because, “since the dawn of time, rivers have enabled civilizations, built economies. and inspired dreams. They are a source of life to those who live along its banks as well as under its waters.”
Dance Network had a chance to speak with Jacques’ daughter, Broadway’s Charlotte d’Amboise out on the carpet. We asked her about the pride she feels for her father and the growth she’s seen in the organization since it was created it back in 1976.
“I remember when it started, and he had like ten kids, and he would do it after he finished dance
class with New York City Ballet! He would bring these ten kids, (laughing) who had like no idea who Balanchine was and would be like ‘Oh my God, we’re here at the State Theatre’, smelling of rosin and Ben-gay and it was amazing,” d’Amboise recalled. “So [to see] ten kids grow to thousands [of kids], and [to see the program grow] nationally and internationally. It’s amazing. It’s an incredible program that really is helping kids that would never be exposed to the arts, be exposed to the arts.”
The State Theatre is the former name of Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theatre.
Frank Wood (left), Mandy Patinkin (center), Kathryn Grody (right). Photo Credit: Noam Galai/Getty
Theatre icon Mandy Patinkin was spotted on the red carpet along side his wife, film star Kathryn Grody. Dance Network asked the celebrity couple about their passion for dance education and the Institute.
“Our son Issac, when he was five years old, was in ‘Tiny Tots’ with Jacques, and then on the ‘Celebration [Dance] Team’,” Patinkin said.
“He was with the organization for ten years, and he's not a dancer, but, it was about community— the importance of community… and the importance of expressing yourself, and it meant the world to him.” Grody added.
“And I was a big stupid father at the time, because I would walk around going, ‘what are we doing this every weekend for, he’s not a dancer, can’t you see the kid isn’t a dancer?’,” Patinkin humorously recalled of his son. “I had no idea it really had nothing to do with dance— it had to do with community and a sense of your body, and freedom, and friends— and it helped form his life.”
Mandy Patinkin onstage at the 2018 NDI Gala. Photo Credit: Noam Galai/Getty
Patinkin, who currently stars on the Showtime series Homeland, has an extensive theatrical resume, including two TONY® nominations for The Wild Party and Sunday In The Park With George and one TONY® win for originating the role of Che Guevara in Evita. Dance Network asked Patinkin if there’ any chance theatre fans can expect to see him back on Broadway anytime soon.
“I don’t know, I hope so, the door’s always open, I’m always looking.” Patinkin said.
Agnes McConlouge Ferro, one of the co-founders of National Dance Institute’s D.R.E.A.M. Project— a program dedicated to helping students with physical and cognitive disabilities get exposure to dance— spoke with Dance Network about the recent expansion of the program.
“It feels like we’re coming into our own,” McConlouge Ferro said with the glow of passion for her students. “I think even the fact that they’re performing here tonight at the Gala for the second time, it’s the way that it should be, it’s a level of acceptance that hasn’t been there before— not by NDI, but overall, so that everybody watching in the audience, can really see that all of these kids, whether they’re on a ventilator, whether they’re using a wheelchair, whether they have Autism, Down Syndrome, whatever it is— they’re all participating, they’re all part of this.”
NYCB’s Ashley Bouder (left) and Teresa Reichlen (center), and ABT’s Isabella Boylston (right). Photo Credit: Noam Galai/Getty
A few members of the current companies of New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre were on hand walking the carpet Monday evening as well.
Ashley Bouder, a NYCB principal who just, the day before, finished dancing in City Ballet’s recreation of Apollo— one of the many pieces restaged for the company’s 2018 All Balanchine series— spoke to Dance Network about the importance of arts education.
“Without dance in my life, when I was younger I don’t even know where I’d be… For me, dance was my life, it gave me a life outside of the tiny little town I grew up in… I love living in New York, I love being here, I love being in the dance world, and I love the arts,” Bouder said. “I love what [the arts] brings to people. I love that you can step out of the real world, and into this beautiful ethereal pretend world and live outside yourself for just that hour or two you’re there, and I think that’s such an important escape for every single human being— but to give that education to young children, to be able to do that for themselves— is so important.”
“Arts education is so important because I felt like it taught me more discipline than academics,” City Ballet principal Teresa Reichlen told Dance Network. “It gave me a goal that I was passionate about, and it inspired me to thrive in that passion.”
City Ballet principal dancer Adrian Danchig-Waring, spoke with Dance Network about a recent hitch he’s run into in his dance career, and how his positive attitude and bravery in the face of stigma is helping the healing process.
“Well, you’ve caught me injured at the moment. I tore my Plantar Fascia onstage at the Kennedy Center doing Symphony In Three Movements— it’s taken me out for a couple weeks,” Danchig-Waring told DN.
“[But,] the road to recovery,” he said with a smile, “is full of silver linings. It has to be.”
Want more? Dance Network’s coverage of the National Dance Institute’s 2018 Annual Gala continues. All week long we’ll be releasing videos of Michael red carpet interviews. Stay tuned!