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INTERVIEW: Dancers For Good Co-Producer Eric Gunhus On Honoring Chita Rivera, Bebe Neuwirth, The 2018 Performance, And More

Nicole Barylski

40 dancers will be featured. (Photo: Rob Rich/SocietyAllure.com)

Dancers For Good is once again offering the unparalleled opportunity to observe a mesmerizing evening of dance during its 2018 benefit on Friday, July 20. Taking place at Guild Hall in East Hampton, this year's performance will highlight the expertise of stars from Amy Marshall Dance Company, Carolyn Dorfman Dance, Eryc Taylor Dance, Martha Graham Dance Company, Pam Tanowitz Dance, Paul Taylor Dance Company, and Rock the Ballet, and also feature a special Chicago tribute.

We caught up with Eric Gunhus, who co-founded the benefit with Michael Apuzzo, about this year's affair - which will celebrate the legendary Chita Rivera and Bebe Neuwirth.

Tell me a bit about this year's honorees.

EG: Dancers for Good is thrilled that we're doing something different this year. We have two special honorees Chita Rivera and Bebe Neuwirth, who are of course legends of the dance world. Chita, who has had an amazing career, is a Tony award winner who originated roles from Anita in West Side Story all the way to leads in Kiss of the Spider Woman and has been honored by President Obama with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and she received the Kennedy Center Honor in 2002. So, we're just thrilled after her most recent nod as the Lifetime Achievement winner at the Tonys this past summer to have her in East Hampton for Dancers for Good. Bebe Neuwirth is a Emmy and Tony winner who has graced our stage the past two years as the host for Dancers for Good and we're thrilled to have her back. Bebe is being honored for not only her work as an artist, but she's such a champion of all artists, but dancers in particular - having started The Dancers' Resource of The Actors Fund. She is just an unparalleled champion of what it means to be a dancer and a dancer for good. As a matter of fact, when we named Dancers for Good, the meaning is twofold. When you're a dancer, the discipline, it's something that's in your blood, it's something that's with you your whole life. You're a dancer forever, for good. But, also, this is an event where we're bringing 40 dancers, eight dance companies, all together under one roof - who are doing good, donating their time and talent to raise money to give back to those in need in the industry through The Actors Fund. Bebe, who has been a dancer her whole life, realized during a time of personal crisis and injury, realized that there were others who needed resources to be able to have a safety net, a place to go when they were injured because injury is sort of dirty, scary term within the dance world. You don't know what it means to have your whole livelihood taken away, possibly, and if people think that you're injured it might jeopardize your ability to get hired. She wanted a safe place for dancers to go where they could get the support that they needed to rehabilitate or to possibly transition if that was what the cards help to them, but a safe place to seek the answers that they needed. The Actors Fund did that.

You'll also have Stephanie Pope, who worked with Ms. Neuwirth in the 1985 revival of Sweet Charity and Ms. Rivera in the national tour of Chicago, as the evening's host.

EG: Stephanie Pope is an amazing actor/dancer who has been performing for over 35 years. She's even performed locally in the Hamptons at Bay Street Theater. She got her first Broadway debut in Sweet Charity - handpicked by Bob Fosse and that musical starred Debbie Allen and Bebe Neuwirth. She was actually the standby for Chita Rivera in Kiss of the Spider Woman on Broadway and appeared herself as Velma in Chicago - a role that Chita created in the original production and a role that Bebe revived in 1996. So, Stephanie has had a long association with both of these ladies, as well as the production of Chicago. She'll be honoring both of our legends of dance through a special production from Chicago.

What will this year's performance entail?

EG: Dancers for Good 2018 brings together the best of contemporary, modern, and ballet under one roof. We're bringing in an amazing assortment of dance companies from Paul Taylor Dance Company to Martha Graham to Eryc Taylor to Rock the Ballet. It's just an unbelievable opportunity to see multiple styles of dance from all disciplines in the Hamptons. It's a full, magical evening of dance, followed by a reception for VIP level ticket holders where the audience has the opportunity to mix and mingle with the full company of dancers, with our host and honorees.

What will proceeds support?

EG: All of the net proceeds from Dancers for Good go to The Actors Fund, which is a large organization that provides a large safety net for all people in the entertainment industry - whether you're a dancer, actor, singer, stagehand, a violinist. They have an entire array of services that are specifically catered to the specific needs of people in the entertainment industry. If you're a violinist who's losing your hearing, if you're an injured dancer, The Actors Fund has services like The Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts which is an entire health center devoted to people in the entertainment industry that they can go to during off hours. It's basically like a doctor that makes house calls too, but within the entertainment industry - within the middle of Times Square. They have a senior living facility, which is a whole battery of assisted living, which is round the clock care. There's the Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative, the HIV/AIDS Initiative, drug counseling, career counseling, an entire battery of services. We are big champions of The Dancer's Resource within The Actors Fund. Dancers have a very unique set of needs - whether they're going through times of crisis, need or transition, The Actors Fund is there. Often times, people in the entertainment industry find themselves with nowhere to turn, and if they can't pay their rent or lose their health insurance because they haven't worked in a while, The Actors Fund is there. No questions asked.

Why did Dancers For Good feel that East Hampton was the right spot to hold this dance festival?

EG: I'm a Hamptons resident. I live in East Hampton, year-round. I thought what better place than in the most beautiful place on earth to bring some of the most beautiful artistry on earth. I think it was the perfect opportunity living out there. I thought the people that were out there in busy summer season would want to enjoy some really gorgeous artistry.

Tickets start at $150.

Guild Hall is located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information, visit dancersforgood.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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