Friday, March 1, 2013

Dance Theatre of Harlem Vision Gala Honors Vanessa L. Williams and Raises Nearly $600,000 for Community Engagement and Next Generation Funds

Meshea Ashton, Kendrick Ashton, Vanessa L. Williams, Spencer Means, and Valentino Carlotti, grand gala sponsor, attend the 2013 Vision Gala for the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York City.

New York, NY – The Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) held its Vision 2013 Gala honoring actress/singer Vanessa L. Williams on February 26th at the Mandarin Hotel in New York City. The Vision Gala raised $585,000 and the proceeds will benefit the Next Generation Fund and the Community Engagement Fund.  The evening’s honorary chair was Chelsea Clinton, with Valentino D. Carlotti – Goldman, Sachs & Co as Grand Gala Sponsor, HBO CEO Richard Plepler, and his wife Lisa, and Hollywood power couple Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil as co-chairs.   WABC-TV’s Sade Baderinwa served as the special guest host.  “It was a magical evening. We showcased the talented, hard-working young dancers that we’ve been nurturing at the Dance Theatre Harlem and paid tribute to the beautiful and talented Vanessa L. Williams for her contributions to the performing arts,” says Virginia Johnson, Artistic Director.  “It was also the perfect opportunity to celebrate the return of the world-renowned Dance Theatre of Harlem Company by offering a preview of the ballet, Glinka, which will be part of the repertoire for our first New York City season as a new company in April at Jazz At Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall, Time Warner Center.”

More than 300 corporate sponsors, supporters, friends, alumni and members of the board attended the event, including renowned opera singer and board member Jessye Norman, supermodel Alek Wek, actor Sean Ringgold from the soap opera One Life To Live, Vanity Fair’s George Wayne, American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland, and New York City Principal Dancer Sara Mearns.   Also in attendance were Williams’ castmates from the forthcoming Broadway show, The Trip To Bountiful, Oscar Award-Winning actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Tony Award-Nominated Actress Condola Rashad, along with the production’s producers Stephen C. Byrd and Alia Jones. Members of Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Board of Directors were also on hand for the star-studded celebration, including Chairman of the Board Kendrick Ashton, Jr., Gala Committee Chair Leslie Wims Morris, along with board members Alpha Mom’s Isabel Kallman, Olivia Scott Perkins, DTH Vice Chairman of the Board Michael Armstrong, Trey Muldrow, Asha Richards, Don M. Tellock, Chloe Drew, Zandra Perry Ogbomo, Aliya LeeKong and Spencer Means.

Gala honoree Vanessa L. Williams with daughter Jillian Hervey and mother Helen Williams

Zandra Perry Ogbomo, Meshea Ashton, Kendrick Ashton, Marc Mezvinsky, Chelsea Clinton, 
Michael Armstong, Lori Hall Armstrong

Cuba Gooding Jr., (center) with DTH dancers Anthony H. Javier Savoy, Jr., Taurean Green, Da’ Von Doane, 
Ingrid Silva, Chyrstyn Fentroy, Alexandra Jacob and Emiko Flanagan

Valentino Carlotti, DTH Board Member Jessye Norman and Laveen Naidu

There were also performances by the DTH Cabriole Program and students of the DTH school.   There was a special video tribute to Ms. Williams, showing memorable clips from her vast body of film, television and theatre works and a special performance choreographed to her music by choreographer Robert Garland, before she took the stage to receive her award.  Williams spoke intimately and candidly about her long-held passion for the arts and how the arts helped to shape her career and life overall.  She also shared a personal story about her connection to Dance Theatre of Harlem in that she attended a Dance Theatre of Harlem satellite program during her youth in Syracuse, NY.

Lacey Thomas, Jamal Chase, Alek Wek and Anthony H. Javier Savoy, Jr

AJ Calloway, Misty Copeland and Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Chelsea Clinton (center) with DTH dancers Emiko Flanagan, Ingrid Silva, Stephanie Williams, 
Da'Von Doane and Dustin James

Among the Vision Gala’s sponsors were Valentino D. Carlotti - Goldman Sachs & Co; HBO; BET Networks; Anonymous; GlobalHue; Siris Capital, LLC; Ford Foundation, American Express, Akin Gump, Con Edison, Simpson Thacher and Bartlett, Walt Disney Company, Leslie Wims Morris, Anne E. Robinson, Jody and John Arnhold, Jerry and Helene Dreskin, Isabel and Craig Kallman, Dana and Ackneil M. Muldrow III and Don M. Tellock. The gala reception was sponsored by BET and Aren and Aliya LeeKong.  “We are thrilled and very grateful for the wonderful support shown by so many corporations and individuals,” remarked Laveen Naidu, Executive Director of Dance Theatre of Harlem.   “This gala marks an important turning point and will have a lasting impact on our programs and the institution as a whole.”

In related news, DTH Artistic Director Virginia Johnson and ballet dancer Misty Copeland will participate on a panel discussion sharing individual stories that reveal universal narratives about the intersecting and contradictory artistic, aesthetic and cultural elements that continue to shape the world of ballet. The event will be held on March 4, 2013 in New York City and is open to the public. For more information, visit here.

Source: Press release/Photo credit: Brokaw Photography and Joseph Rodman

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