BWW Review: NATIONAL DANCE INSTITUTE's 42nd Annual Gala Raised Funds and Offered Joyous Dancing by the Schoolchildren
Nearly 500 guests flocked to the ballroom of the Zeigfield Theatre in NYC on the evening of April 30th 2018 for the 42nd annual Gala of the National Dance Institute (NDI). The non-profit arts education organization was founded in 1976 by renowned former New York City Ballet principal dancer Jacques d'Amboise who spoke movingly about the work he clearly loves. The event is the organization's key fundraiser, and this year a whopping $1.5 million was raised. All of the proceeds will go toward supporting and expanding NDI's mission to integrate first-rate dance training into schools during regular class hours rather than at lunchtime or after school. The roster of schools now includes not only NYC schools but also schools in China and Lebanon. Over the course of four decades, NDI has given more than two million youngsters the transformative experience of dancing.
The Gala evening at the Zeigfield, entitled "Dance Me A River", started with a cocktail reception. The theme was chosen because rivers are the source of life for all those who live along its banks as well as under its waters. The festivities then moved on to a seated dinner, an honors presentation, and a live auction. Yet the highlights of the proceedings were the dances performed by NDI children to live music. I was particularly moved during the performance of "Dreamin' on the River" danced by members of the NDI DREAM Project, a program that involves children with physical and intellectual disabilities along with mainstream students.
Another favorite of mine was a group of girls in a rendition of "All That Jazz" from the musical "Chicago" as the introduction for one of this year's honorees, Tony Award-winning dancer, singer, and actress Bebe Neuwirth. Neuwirth starred in both lead roles in "Chicago", Velma and Roxy, on Broadway. The children did a creditable job of the iconic arm movements created by choreographer Bob Fosse. After Neuwirth's acceptance speech, she led the girls off stage with an impromptu moment of doing those famous arm movements herself while the children picked up her cue and performed them right along with her.
The other honoree was Jeffrey R. Gural, Chairman of GFP Real Estate, who is a passionate believer in the work of NDI and a generous supporter. He takes the time to visit many of the schools and to interact with the youngsters. When he arrived onstage, he held a sheaf of thank you letters from the kids. He read aloud a select few with touching messages about the power of NDI.
Overall, the event was a tribute to continuing impact of NDI on the lives of schoolchildren of all ethnicities and abilities. For more about NDI's programs and upcoming events, please visit National Dance Institute.
Photo credit: ©Noam Galai/Getty Images