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Sixth Annual ’On Our Toes In The Hamptons’ Leaps To New Heights

Originally Posted: August 24, 2009

Edward Callaghan

"Walk Out The Dark" performed by Evidence, A Dance Company. Photos by Rob Rich

Water Mill - The Honorable Bernard Jackson and his wife Joyce Mullins Jackson hosted some 300 guests at their lovely Water Mill hilltop estate for the Sixth Annual "On Our Toes in The Hamptons" featuring and for the benefit of Ronald K. Brown's world acclaimed Evidence, A Dance Company on Saturday, Aug. 22.

Emcee Rene Syler, Reggie Van Lee, Chairman of Evidence, and Alicia Bythewood, Event Chair.

Sag Harbor's Alicia Bythewood, event chair, welcomed guests alongside the Jacksons for the elegant afternoon that began with poolside cocktails on the deck. Smartly clad waiters lined the path to the pool offering guests the event's signature cocktail - the 10 Cane ToeTapper. The breezy, refreshing mix of 10 Cane Rum, pineapple juice, freshly squeezed lime juice with a dash of grenadine syrup was created by Moet Hennessey especially for the event. The 10 Cane ToeTapper set palates singing and the toes tapping!

Bythewood and her husband Dan took a moment to toast the very energetic committee which included Reginald Van Lee, Michael and Gail Monroe Perry, Harriet Michel, Brian and Mira Mullins, Ronald K. Brown, Donna Williams, Neil R. Lowe, Joyce Mullins-Jackson, Reggie Canal, Leslie Mays, Zaid Abdul-Aleem, Dwayne Ashley, Monica F. Azare, Joanne E. Hill, Andrea Hoffman, Sandra D. Jackson-Dumont, James Sullivan, Jocelyn Taylor, Dr.Ancy Verdier and Lisa B. Walker.

The fashionably attired crowd sipped cocktails while perusing a number of the silent auction tables set around the pool laden with scores of luxury items and one-of-a-kind experiences. The culinary team of The Seafood Shop in Wainscott outdid itself offering platter after platter of bite-size crab cakes, spicy mini Curry sweet pea Samosa; herb crusted seared tuna skewer with wasabi aioli; Carolina pulled pork and butter pickle served atop jalapeño corn bread round; Portobello and fontina cheese quesadilla with avocado crème; Tuscan crustini with rocket pesto, sweet pea and pecorino.

New York's First Lady Michelle Paterson and actress Lynn Whitfield were among the high profile guests.


Poring over the luxurious items on the silent auction tables were First Lady of
New York Michelle Paterson
, award winning actress Lynn Whitfield (soon to be seen in the new Fox Film "Mama, I Want to Sing"), philanthropists Jean and Martin Shafiroff, Christian Dior president Stephanie Barraque, Caroline Lieberman and longtime supporter Noel Hankin of Moet Hennessey, among others.

Among the fabulous items that were up for bid were a Quadruple Celebrity Makeover with make-up, hairstylist, celebrity photographer session and a designer from H & M; sparkling watches from Christian Dior; a unique internship at the Basketball Academy; a private dance session and lunch with acclaimed choreographer/dancer Ronald K. Brown; an oil painting by celebrated artist Alvin Clayton and glittering jewels from Judith Ripka, Emily & Ashley, Zale's and Jewels of the Ocean.

Select auction items are also still on line available for bidding on www.CharityBuzz.com.

Ron Brown performs solo piece entitled "For You."

It was interesting to note not only the vast array of goods donated for the auction but the number of top corporations like HSBC, Prudential, Continental Airlines 10 Cane Rum/Moet Hennessey and Christian Dior who despite the troubling economic times continue to provide major support to Evidence.

At approximately 5:30 as the sun was slowly moving westward, the drummers initiated a call to the tent and led the guests down a Tiki torch-lit path to the magnificent tent beautifully designed by Anthony Bell and filled with unique Balinese furniture, bridges, African masks and large statues of Buddha courtesy of Deanna Annis of The Furniture Garden in Water Mill underneath a canopy of Japanese parasols.

Former CBS Early Show co-host and best selling author Rene Syler took to the stage to officially welcome the guests and warm them up for the upcoming auction. Syler who has emceed several other Evidence galas was in rare form cracking jokes - often at her own expense - and truly making everyone feel at home.

She congratulated event chair Alicia Bythewood for having created, with her team, such a glamorous late afternoon event and introduced the Evidence Board of Directors who have all worked tirelessly to further Brown's mission to promote understanding of the African Diaspora through dance and storytelling.

Finally, she brought up Evidence's new executive director Bruce Michael to share the group's plans for their upcoming 25th anniversary season which begins in 2010. Michael who was previously Vice President/Creative Producer of the Radio City Rockettes shared with the audience the news that Evidence would be traveling to Africa on a special State Department Tour. Other news included the upcoming publication of a massive tome chronicling the history of the famed company in words and pictures, the creation of a lavishly designed calendar and an over-the-top 25th Anniversary Gala to be held in late winter.

Moet Hennessey created a signature cocktail for the fete the 10 Cane Rum Toe Tapper.

Singer Gordon Chambers took over the microphone and launched into Donny Hathaway's plaintive and heart wrenching "A Song for You" as Brown swept onto the platform for a moving solo piece that had the crowd cheering "Bravo." The dance, "For You," was originally choreographed in 2003 in memory of Stephanie Reinhart, co-director of the American Dance Festival and is a tribute to all of those we have loved and lost too early in their journey.

Following his performance, Syler began the live auction of several luxury items including watches from Christian Dior. The man's watch was the first up and after spirited bidding Reginald Van Lee, Evidence, A Dance Company Chairman of the Board scored the winning bid. Next up was the sparkling gem jeweled lady's watch which Uptown Magazine publisher Jocelyn Taylor flaunted like the best of high fashion models. A fierce bidding war broke out but ultimately Dan Bythewood was the lucky winner of the gorgeous creation which he promptly presented to his wife Alicia as Saturday was their 39th wedding anniversary!

After the auction many of the attendees hit several of the Paella Stations in the main tent where they sampled lusty seafood paella of local Crawfish, Mussels, Shrimp and Crab. For the non shell fish eaters, there was equally zesty paella filled with chicken, sausage, shredded slow roast pork and lamb. The Seafood Shop proved their mastery of non seafood items as well!

For their final performance, dancers Tiffany Quinn, Clarice Young, Arcell Cabuag, and Otis Donovan Herring performed an excerpt from the powerful "Walking Out The Dark" choreographed by Ronald K. Brown; with live music performed by Farai Malianga and costumes by Carolyn Meckha Cherry.

"Walking Out the Dark" was co-commissioned by the American Dance Festival with support form the Doris Duke Awards for New Work and Philip Morris Companies, Inc., the Bessie Schonberg/First Light Commissioning program of New York's Dance Theatre Workshop with funds from the Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation and the Greenwall Foundation and with additional funds provided by Chase Manhattan Bank; the National Endowment for the Arts; the Aaron Davis Hall Fund for New Work, and The University of Texas at Austin Topfer Endowment for the Performing Arts.

Evidence, A Dance Company Board of Directors gathered on stage Saturday evening in celebration of the Sixth Annual 'On Our Toes In The Hamptons' event.


At the end of the performance there was thunderous applause and then Brown brought out his whole company for an impromptu number that was joined by the audience. It was an electrifying and jubilant moment and a fitting finale for the gala.

After much dancing with the dancers, many of the guests strolled back up through the dense woods to the poolside decks for after dinner cocktails and cigars provided by ,Besim Cukaj of Besim's Fine Cigars on Job's Lane who also donated a gift certificate for the raffle. Surprisingly, it was not just the gents who were lighting up but a number of the ladies as well!

On Our Toes...always pulls in one of the most stylish groups of ladies and gents on the East End and this year was no exception with such resplendently attired folks as Susan L. Taylor and husband Khephra Burns,The Ground Crew founder Audrey Smaltz sporting an enormous sun hat with her partner the stunning Gail Marquis, Jones Magazine's Bryce Kennard up from Houston, Black Gives Back's Tracey Webb and Jacqueline Davis, Brad Learmonth of Harlem Stages,Prince Kunle Omilana and Princess Keisha Omilana of Nigeria, Brie Bythewood and Alicia Rodriguez gorgeous in strapless mini dresses, Copper Cunningham, Audrey J. Bernard. Joanne Hill with beau Shawn Thomas, Allison and Eric Johnson, Jennifer Liu and Gerald Cooper, the radiant Donna Williams, Clinton Haynes and Felicia Daniels, Meghan Birdwell and Brian Beller and Cortez Charles with Lisa Farrow and scores more glitterati!.

It is gratifying to see that in just a few years, On Our Toes in The Hamptons, the dream of Susan L. Taylor author and Editorial Director Emerita of Essence Magazine and Reginald Van Lee Sr. VP, Booz Allen Hamilton in bringing Black culture to the Hamptons, has evolved to become the only continuous, major African American cultural event of the Hamptons summer season. Indeed, it has become recognized as the premiere African American cultural event on the Hamptons social calendar.


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