Daymond John, Matt Higgins, Bill Irwin, Robert Fairchild Attend National Dance Institute Annual Gala

National Dance Institute (NDI), the non-profit arts education organization founded in 1976 by legendary New York City Ballet principal dancer Jacques d'Amboise, hosted its 43rd Annual Gala at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York City. The annual event, which is NDI's largest fundraising event of the year, annually raises $1.5 million with all proceeds benefitting NDI's award-winning arts education programs.

The evening kicked off with a festive cocktail reception for its over 400 guests, followed by an elegant seated dinner punctuated by a spiritual live auction, an honors presentation and special performances by the children of Nation Dance Institute. Jacques was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award presented to him by the founder of well-known dance performance shoe brand LaDuca Shoes, Phil LaDuca. For this tribute, two professional dancers from the recent Broadway production of Carousel performed the dream sequence that Jacques first performed in the 1954 film version.

The program featured performances by NDI children, mirroring the theme NDI is infusing into all its classes throughout the New York City public school system this year- Voices of Change. Guided by NDI's masterful teaching artists, NDI children are learning about individuals throughout history who have used their artistry and voice to effect positive change throughout society. In tandem with this theme Robert Fairchild, producer, director and Broadway star, introduced the Enough! PSA featuring NDI students in partnership with Everytown for Gun Safety. The PSA aired in the fall featured a new track from Sia and choreography from James Alsop who is known for her work with Beyoncé, among others. You can find the PSA here.

Throughout the night the NDI children performed, "Drums Speaks", "Imagine", and "Jump in the Line", with a special performance of "Madiba", a tribute to Nelson Mandela, from the DREAM Project, a program that pairs children with physical and intellectual disabilities with mainstream students.

The live auction was conducted by professional auctioneer CK Swett. This year's live auction lots included:

  • A one-on-one meeting in New York City, with Daymond John, Founder and CEO of FUBU and star of ABC's 4-time Emmy Award winning business show, Shark Tank.
  • A walk-on role in an episode of the long-running hit show, True Bloods, courtesy of star, Len Cariou.
  • Four house seat tickets to the must-see theatrical performance To Kill a Mockingbird and a prix fixe dinner for four at Café Un Deux Trois.
  • An unforgettable day with world-renowned American artist Red Grooms where he will lead you on a tour of his downtown studio, draw a sketch of you and your guests and take you out for a delicious meal at his favorite lunch spot in Chinatown.
  • An unparalleled hospitality experience and mouth-watering home-style Italian cuisine for four at the legendary Rao's Restaurant.

CK Swett then introduced the StarChild Auction, a time where guests were invited to give any level of donation to support NDI. Attendees were given the option of adopting a school, a class, a dancer, supporting NDI's work with children with disabilities and more.

Co-founder and CEO of RSE Ventures, Vice Chair of the Miami Dolphins and guest judge on Shark Tank, Matt Higgins, introduced this year's honoree, Daymond John. As the founder and CEO of FUBU, and star of Emmy Award-winning Shark Tank. Daymond was honored for his entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to supporting children's success through his powerful mentorship programs. Fellow Shark Barbara Corcoran recorded a special video congratulating Daymond on this honor saying that he "demonstrates the wonderful attributes of perseverance and grit and sets an example for every kid in public schools to follow." Upon accepting the honor, Daymond John stated, "If a young dyslexic child that was left back in school, a little brown boy with no access capital, can make it, then anybody can. I'm here as one of these many children. When they wake up and go outside, often they don't see any hero's that look like them. Here, they get to see people like me and I get to be inspired by them."

Last year's honoree and Chairman of GFP Real Estate, Jeffrey R. Gural, returned to the stage to present an additional honor to long-time NDI supporter and managing partner at Savanna, Christopher Schlank. Schlank was a member of Jacques d'Amboise's very first class of students during NDI's earliest days over 43 years ago. "When I was 10 years old, I had the fortune of taking part in after-school dance classes taught by the famous New York City Ballet dancer, Jacques d'Amboise," said Christopher Schlank, managing partner of Savanna. "My fellow classmates and I spent hours in pursuit of the highest knees and the most outstretched arms, while mastering the rhythms and sequences of Jacques's inventive steps. The pace was quick, the music motivating, and the joy abundant. Schlank continued, "I didn't turn out to be a professional dancer but, looking back, it's all so clear that that wasn't the goal of those classes. Beyond the moves, Jacques taught us about perseverance, striving for excellence, and how to reach our greatest potential. He believed, as I do, that the arts should be a part of every child's education. I am honored to be recognized by National Dance Institute and I celebrate with them all they have achieved since those early days 43 years ago, and all they do to infuse children's lives with the beauty and power of the arts."

To close the night, 200 NDI children performed "Voices of Tomorrow," an upbeat favorite from this year's curricular theme. Additional notable guests in attendance included Bill Irwin, Kathryn Grody, Frank Wood, Charlotte d'Amboise, Robert Fairchild, Leon Robinson, Ariana DeBose, Phil LaDuca NYCB Ballet principal dancers Adrian Danchig-Waring, Daniel Ulbricht, Ashley Bouder, Sterling Hyltin, among others.



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