I was honored to be asked to present an award to Joan Myers Brown at a recent Dance USA conference at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. Joan is the founder of Philadanco, a great African American modern dance company. She is also a great friend; we have worked together for over 20 years. It was not a surprise to be asked to speak on Joan's behalf - she is honored frequently and I am her 'go to' presenter.
The two other honorees that evening were also great women of dance: Barbara Weisberger and Sharon Luckman. Barbara was the Founder of the Pennsylvania Ballet (celebrating its 50th anniversary this year) and the Carlisle Project, and Sharon just retired as Executive Director of Alvin Ailey after a remarkable tenure there.
All three women were most deserving of every plaudit they received.
What made the evening so special for me was that all of the Honorees - and their presenters - were dear friends of mine.
I met Barbara 20 years ago. She was considering me as a consultant for the Carlisle Project. She decided I was not the right person for the job but we both came to respect each other immensely. Her award was presented by Roy Kaiser (no relation) the current Artistic Director of the Pennsylvania Ballet. I am currently serving as a consultant to Pennsylvania Ballet and meet weekly with Roy; together we are developing a truly exciting plan for the Ballet. Barbara joked that we were finally working together after all of these years.
Sharon followed me as Executive Director at Ailey; in fact I hired her as Development Director when I was there. We have been colleagues, collaborators and friends for two decades. Her award was presented by Uri Sands and Toni Pierce Sands, two former Ailey dancers who have started their own dance company and school in St. Paul, Minnesota. Toni rejoined the Ailey company in 1992, during my tenure there. I will always remember her wonderful, balletic grace in works like Night Creature.
The confluence of people who I have known, worked with and respected for so long brought home the compact nature of the dance world. In the course of a career one gets to know just about everyone and, more importantly, work with everyone. We can share stories about choreographers, dancers and performances, remember great successes and dramatic failures, and appreciate the many people we have in common. In fact we share lives. (Not surprisingly, there were other 'relationships' among awardees and presenters: Uri Sands started as a Philadanco dancer for Joan; Meg Booth, then the Chair of Dance USA runs my ballet program at the Kennedy Center; Meg, Sharon and Linda Shelton, the Executive Director of the Joyce Theater, all worked for Twyla Tharp at some point in their careers, and on and on.)
It is an honor to be a part of this remarkable fraternity (sorority?) of dance people -- directors, managers, dancers, choreographers -- bound together by a love of dance and shared experiences.