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Liza Minnelli Honors Mikhail Baryshnikov At NYC Dance Alliance Gala In Manhattan

Originally Posted: October 17, 2012

Lee Fryd

Lorna Luft and Liza Minnelli. (Photo: Eugene Mim/PatrickMcMullan.com)

Liza Minnelli -- trim and together -- swept onto the red carpet with her sister, Lorna Luft, at the NYC Dance Alliance Foundations' "Bright Lights! Shining Stars!" Gala to honor her dear friend Mikhail Baryshnikov. Robin Cofer and Cassandra Seidenfeld, both ladies spend their summers in the Hamptons, who helped launch this event last year, once again served as the benefit Co-Chairs. Joe Lanteri directed the program, which featured performances by ABT, NYC Ballet, Ballet Hispanico, and the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, as well as the dance students who benefit from the college scholarships the Dance Alliance awards.

Ambassador for the Arts - Mikhail Baryshnikov. (Photo: Eugene Mim/PatrickMcMullan.com)

"We have awarded this year hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars of college scholarships to young dancers around the country," Lanteri told us. "The program tonight is celebrating up and coming dancers. And of course, the professional dance community is on board."

So was Liza, who never seems to lose that boundless enthusiasm. She remembered the first time she saw Baryshnikov dance. "I couldn't breathe! I didn't breathe for the entire ballet... No one had ever seen anything like him. God it seems like yesterday but it was 120 years ago." We know that feeling.

"Misha had the strength, and still does, and the power and charisma and perfection. He made me understand why he made the moves...why he had to dance," Minnelli continued. "Then I got to dance with him in 'Baryshnikov on Broadway.' I was absolutely terrified. I don't get stage fright, but I was scared."

And then, Baryshnikov took the stage. "Ambassador for the Arts," he told the audience. "A pretty bold title. You know I didn't prepare any acceptance speech...actually it's a bit of a lie. I had an idea...I thought I would bring a chair with me! Quite conceptual: after all I've worked with a few choreographers who used chairs." Yes, that is a ballet concept, isn't it?

"You are the ambassadors," he later said. "People like the Dance Alliance Organization. We performers are actually humble servants of somebody above."

Roberta Flack, who received the Ambassador to the Arts Award last year, kicked off the evening. ABT star Julie Kent, Oscar-nominated dancer Leslie Browne and Tony Award-winning choreographers Jerry Mitchell and Andy Blankenbuehler also shared stories. Ballet Next star Charles Askegard, "West Side Story" choreographer Joey Lucia Hwang Gordon, and a slew of Hamptons summer residents Sharon Bush, Jean Shafiroff, Janna Bullock, Pamela Johananoff, and Joey McKneely were among those who came downtown to NYU's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts for cocktails, a performance and after-party.

Hamptons ladies Co-Chair Cassandra Seidenfeld, Janna Bullock, Lucia Hwong Gordon, Ramona Singer, and Co-Chair Robin Cofer. (Photo: Eugene Mim/PatrickMcMullan.com)


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