Wednesday, November 01, 2017

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Michael Douglas & Catherine Zeta-Jones Make a Rare Public Appearance for Dancer's Gala

Brian Stokes Mitchell, Anka Palitz and Michael Douglas
Photos Lieba Nesis
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The Actors Fund's Career Transition for Dancers held its Jubilee Gala on Wednesday November 1, 2017 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel with cocktails beginning at 6 PM. The Fund is a national human services organization that provides dancers with a career planning transition program, health wellness and support, and emergency financial assistance and scholarships. It is a safety net for entertainment professionals over their life span to better handle the unique needs of a dancer.

Ann Van Ness

The night's honorary gala chair was Anka Palitz with Co-Chairs Janice Becker, Andrew Faas, Lee Wells and Ann Van Ness. This night was made for dance lovers and featured various performances beginning with "The Rent Party" from the National Dance Institute. Bebe Neuwirth, the emcee, welcomed the crowd with a special tribute to dancer Martine Van Hamel.

Martine Van Hamel and Artistic Director of ABT Kevin McKenzie

An award was presented soon after by Kelly Ripa to Carrie Ann Inaba a judge on ABC's Emmy Award winning "Dancing with the Stars." Inaba wore a midnight blue sequined gown and confessed she loves to shop for clothing on eBay and Amazon.

Honoree and Dancer Robert Fairchild, President of National Museum of Dance Michele Riggi, Richard Kielar and Christian Zimmermann

Tonight also honored superstar Catherine Zeta-Jones and famed New York City Ballet dancer Robert Fairchild. Zeta-Jones was accompanied by her husband Michael Douglas and they were swamped by photographers and admirers through the duration of the evening. Zeta-Jones looks like an old time movie star along the lines of Rita Hayworth, and Ava Gardner and I am puzzled as to why her movie career has stalled.

Producer Rob Marshall

Producer and Director Rob Marshall who collaborated with Jones on her Oscar winning performance in 2002's "Chicago" lauded Jones as being part of a small group of film stars who are dancers including Liza Minnelli, Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. Marshall recounted how proud he was of "Chicago" which he had only 60 days to shoot remarking that with this movie...

TV personalities Carla Hall and Carrie Ann Inaba

Catherine ushered in a whole new era of film dance stars noting that she gave birth to her daughter Carys 10 days after accepting the Academy Award. His partner, John DeLuca, who also collaborated on "Chicago" said what he admired most about Catherine was her dancer's gypsy soul and her quest for perfection.

Catherine Zeta Jones with Rob Marshall in background

Catherine Zeta Jones gave a moving speech in her phenomenal Welsh accent, recalling her love for dance at the early age of four. She personally dedicated her award to John Chester who acted as her mentor and surrogate "mom" since the age of 16 lamenting his death which occurred years ago. She pledged to support the actor's fund for the rest of her life with she and Michael donating $10,000 to the Alexander Dube' Scholarship Fund. Catherine recalled expressing ambivalence to her mom at the beginning of her career as to whether the movie thing would work out. She said mom I was born in the wrong era I should have been auditioning with Fred Astaire when there was dancing. Her mom replied give it a try knowing Catherine would be anything the system wanted her to be - if they didn't want me today she knew I would come back tomorrow, Catherine remarked to uproarious laughter.

Catherine Zeta Jones, Michael Douglas and Lieba Nesis
Photo: Annie Watt

She thanked her beautiful husband, Michael Douglas, for allowing her to tap in the bathroom as long as she doesn't scratch the floor. She said she wouldn't be receiving the award without her dancer's instinct of just turning up "you have got to be in it to win it." Someone who echoed Catherine's tenacious dancer spirit was Robert Fairchild who retired from New York City Ballet two weeks ago and thanked Artistic Director Peter Martins for believing in and supporting him.

Left to right: Amra Faye Wright, Gary Chryst, Kevin McKenzie, Bonnie Mathis, Martine Van Hamel, Bentley Roton and Gregory Cary

Fairchild said when the curtain came down he was nervous as to how he would feel but is filled with gratitude to take this jump and see where he will land. He is currently starring in the Broadway show "An American in Paris" and with his good looks and artistic abilities it is safe to say his star will continue to grow. Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon who has adapted "An American in Paris" for the stage said he was proud to know Fairchild.

Left to Right Marcia Roma, Monica Dalton, Barbara Gross and Diana Frankel

In the live auction portion of the evening a lunch date with Fairchild at Majorelle was auctioned for $4,000 and two VIP tickets to the last performance of "Hello Dolly" received $5,000. Some other exciting aspects of the evening were the snippets of dance numbers performed including a delightfully funny excerpt of "Housework" from "Free to Be You and Me" that the crowd loved, and the performance of an energetic dance set to "Smooth Criminal."

Ken and Maria Fishel with Donna and Richard Soloway

When the DJ portion of the evening began nearly all the attendees headed to the floor to strut their stuff-a crowd that enjoys the art form of dance to the fullest.





- Lieba Nesis

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