- Last year Southampton producer Patricia Watt
, daughter of the esteemed critic Douglas Watt
and Ava Astaire
, and daughter of the legendary Fred Astaire
, restored a longstanding tradition to the arts scene and revived the annual Astaire Awards
which recognizes excellence in dance on the stage and film. For both ladies it is a labor of love and an opportunity to pay tribute to their fathers. The event was an overwhelming success as Broadway
welcomed them back with open arms. Brooke Shields
presented Tommy Tune
with the very first Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award and singular sensations were honored throughout the glittering evening.
Actor Alan Cumming. Photos courtesy of Patrick McMullan.com
Just last week at Elaine's, the popular entertainment industry watering hole, Patricia and her co-producer Ron Glucksman
, with the help of New York Post
Theater critic Michael Riedel
, announced the 2009 nominees and several very special awards selected by a most prestigious nominating committee that includes: Sylviane Gold
, Theater Columnist for Dance Magazine
, Anna Kisselgoff
, former Chief Dance Critic of The New York Times
, Wendy Perron
, Editor in Chief of Dance Magazine
, Linda Winer
, Chief Theater Critic of Newsday
and Damian Woetzel
, Former Principal Dancer, New York City
The 2009 Astaire Awards Ceremony hosted by Alan Cumming
, will take place June 1 at Fashion Institute of Technology's Haft Auditorium. In addition to the Awards Ceremony, the night will include performances of some of the best Broadway and Hollywood dance numbers, alongside stars of the stage and screen. The evening will support of The Auditory Oral School of New York which has the ability to change the lives of profoundly deaf children, forever
will present American film director and choreographer - hailed as "the King of the Hollywood musicals" - Stanley Donen
, whose classic films include "Singin' In The Rain," "On The Town" and "Charade," with the 2009 Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award. Other scheduled presenters include Tony Danza
, Bebe Neuwirth
and Geoffrey Rush
Once again as in years past, The Astaire Awards Gala is one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the season. Though the nail-biting and lobbying by producers is far less than the Tonys, nonetheless, hundreds will be on the edge of their seats for the awards for best choreographer and best female and male dance performances. This year with a number of first class Broadway entries and the expansion of film musicals, there are many stellar performances in the running.
. who snared the award last year for "In the Heights." is once again in the running for her feisty, electrifying turn as Anita in "West Side Story"; the three young boys - David Alvarez
, Trent Kowalik
and Kiril Kulish
- who play Billy in "Billy Elliott", recently tapped with Tony nominations, are up together once again; for best choreographer on stage look for either Peter Darling
of "Billy Elliott" or dance world fave Karole Armitage
to take top honors, and on film "Slumdog Millionaire" seems a shoo-in but never underestimate a movie that has Meryl Streep
knocking out some fancy footwork in "Mamma Mia"!
Patrick Swayze with his wife Lisa Niemi.
Whoever wins will be joining a very elite group of dance's greatest talents: George Balanchine
, Michael Bennett
, Patricia Birch
, Wayne Cilento
, Graciela Daniele
, Bob Fosse
, Ann Reinking
, Jerome Robbins
, Susan Stroman
and Tommy Tune
Patricia Watt is not the only Hamptonite with a passion for dance and dancers. Her Southampton neighbor Janice Becker
, who has served as Dinner Chair for the Career Transition for Dancers Gala each year, one of the rockin'-est one night only events at New York's City Center, shared some absolutely thrilling news with me. This year Allen Brill
, CEO and President of Rolex
USA, the gala sponsor, will present The Rolex Dance Award to Patrick Swayze
on Nov. 22.
Terrific news especially as Patrick is fighting a brave battle against pancreatic cancer. I immediately contacted Brill who said, "It is an honor to present the Rolex Dance Award to Patrick Swayze, one of the most recognizable American actors, dancers, and singer-songwriters of our time. We are pleased to celebrate not only his legendary career and many contributions to the world of dance, but also his continued support of the mission of Career Transition For Dancers".
Patrick, who began his career in dance, could have been the inspiration behind "Billy Elliott" - change the coal mining town in England to a blue collar suburb of Texas, where Patrick faced similar derision of his peers but pursued dance nonetheless. While his first gig was as a dancer for Disney on Parade, he left that area to study with the Harkness Ballet Company and later the renowned Joffrey Ballet before joining the Eliot Feld Ballet as a principal dancer.
He made a career shift and starred as Danny Zuko in the long-running Broadway production of "Grease" before his debut in films. Numerous film roles followed, and then international stardom arrived with his performance as the dance instructor Johnny Castle in "Dirty Dancing." It became a surprise hit and achieved massive international success, as well as garnering him the status of a pop culture icon.
Actress Judith Ivy.
Just two more dance notes before I kick off my ballet slippers. I have learned from my friend the internationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer Ronald K. Brown
and his Evidence, A Dance Company will be among three companies taking part in the inaugural season of DanceMotion USA, an international touring series created by the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The organization announced this week that DanceMotion USA would send the three companies to different parts of the world between January and April of next year: Evidence will tour Africa; Urban Bush Women will tour South America; and ODC/Dance, a San Francisco troupe, will tour Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia. On their tours, the companies will offer workshops, classes and discussions with local artists and audiences.
Even better news for his legion of fans on the East End is that the company will return for their sixth annual "On Our Toes" in the Hamptons on Aug. 22 in Bridgehampton. With all of the events being canceled or scaled way back
, it is good news indeed that this gala - thanks to some very loyal supporters like the Honorable Bernard
and Joyce Jackson
(who will host the gala at their home), Moet
Hennessey, East Hampton's Reginald Van Lee
and Hamptons.com - is going forward and will continue to be the premiere African-American cultural event of the social season.
Also heading across the pond is my pal Stas Kmiec
who turns me on to the best places to get pierogies. Stas is going to Poland (pierogie heaven) in July to choreograph for Teatr Sabat, the acclaimed Warsaw theater revue company. Stas will be doing four Broadway suites including "Fosse Suite" and "West Side Story". In addition he'll be conducting a symposium on theater dance for Warsaw dancers. With the reality shows "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing With The Stars" so popular in their Polish versions, dance is clearly taking over the scene in Poland.
Three cheers for LI Green Founder and Executive Director Chuck Schwartz
who will be receiving an important honor from the Atlantic
Chapter (NYS) of the Sierra Club. On June 6 in Great Neck Long Island, Chuck will receive the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter "Production Without Pollution" award for his work in building community environmental awareness and energy efficiency programs. As a result of Chuck's insight and leadership, LI Green has created and is now delivering home energy efficiency programs for Long Islanders
at costs of less than one-tenth of that being spent on equivalent utility and public programs.
In addition to Chuck, others receiving Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter Awards include NY State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli
and Reverend Tom Goodhue
, director of the Long Island Council of Churches and one of the founders of the Long Island Interfaith Environmental Network. The award ceremony will be held at the Inn at Great Neck, in Great Neck, Long Island. The theme of the awards dinner is "Green Jobs
for New York State."
(L to R) Bryon Lewis, Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. and Colson Whitehead.
Switching gears, I have to tell you the big book of summer has got to be "Sag Harbor," writer Colson Whitehead's
sweet reverie of coming of age in Sag Harbor, more specifically the community of Azurest, historically long the favored resort for affluent African-Americans. Whitehead dazzled the literary set with his edgy but very funny novels "The Intuitionist" and "Apex Hides the Hurt." Now gracefully - and quite sweetly - he steps into the coming-of-age genre with a leisurely chronicle of how Benji Cooper, a preppy 15-year-old African-American from Manhattan, spent the summer of 1985. For locals, there are tons of references to landmarks of all sorts, from Olaf's Ice Cream store to the parks and ponds around this seaport. Familiar it was to Whitehead, for Sag Harbor was a real home to the then teenager somewhat alienated from his prep school mates especially with his passion for Fangoria magazines. A delight from beginning to end.
With each day's reports of yet another newspaper or magazine folding, it is refreshing to hear that not all is doom and gloom, especially with some of the big publishers like Hearst and Readers Digest. In fact, both companies seem to be having success especially in food related glossies. Water Mill's Michael Clinton
, Group VP at Hearst, is prepping for what may be Hearst's biggest launch since "O, The Oprah
Magazine" with the red hot "Food Network Magazine" slated for regular production.
Hearst did a little head-hunting over at Readers Digest's
"Everyday With Rachael Ray" and snared Millie Carpenter
as the new editor-in-chief. Makes sense since Southamptonite Rachael's mag was one of the biggest launches in publishing and is bringing in big $$$ - more than enough to redo her whole house, and then some.
Kudos to Westhampton's Jim Watkins
, Channel 11 anchor, and wife Lauren
, who helmed the New York Mets
Seventh Annual Autism Awareness at Citi Field this weekend. Jim's son is autistic and the couple has been tireless workers on autism issues.
Honors continue to roll out and two most deserved East Hamptonites will be picking up awards. The Innocence Project will honor actor/director Bob Balaban
at their Celebration of Freedom and Justice Dinner at Cipriani
Wall Street this week. Bob, as you might remember, directed the compelling "The Exonerated" which dramatized the real-life stories of six innocent citizens who spent anywhere from three to 20 years on death row until DNA testing proved that they had all been falsely convicted.
East Hampton's Nathan Lane
, surely one of the busiest guys in show biz, and the superb Judith Ivey
, will be toasted at The 15th Annual Celebrity TBG Doodles Auction at Studio 540 to benefit the work of the acclaimed off-Broadway theater company The Barrow Group.