National Dance Institute (NDI), the non-profit arts education organization founded in 1976 by legendary New York City Ballet principal dancer Jacques d’Amboise, hosted its 41st Annual Gala at the PlayStation Theater in New York City.
The annual event raised over $1.4 million and counting. The Gala is National Dance Institute’s largest fundraising event, with all proceeds benefitting NDI’s award-winning arts education programs.
The evening kicked off with a cocktail hour, followed by a seated dinner, live auction and program. Tony award winning actor and comedian, Bill Irwin introduced the program which featured performances by NDI children, showcasing the mission, essence, and culture of the organization and this year’s in-school curricular theme, Harlem. The NDI children performed “Harlem Night Song,” “Spanish Harlem” and “Hoofer’s Club,” featuring special guest Bill Irwin. In addition, NDI dancers performed a routine to “Route 66,” which showcased the DREAM Project, a special program that pairs children with physical and intellectual disabilities with mainstream students.
To get the crowd of more than 400 NDI supporters going, longtime NDI supporter and actor Alec Baldwin conducted the live auction alongside professional auctioneer CK Swett. Before the auction lots even opened, Alec and CK auctioned a selfie on stage alongside NDI children and the highest bidder, which went for $10,000. Throughout the auction, Alec impersonated NDI founder Jacques d’Amboise by reading a number of Jacques’ famous sonnets aloud. Following the selfie, Alec and CK began auctioning the lots, which included Hilaria Baldwin making multiple bids, a Trump impersonation, and multiple split bids including a lunch with Alec to further the donations.
- The ultimate theatre package featuring two coveted seats and a backstage tour of Hamilton in addition to two seats and a post-performance meet and greet with Josh Groban in the smash hit Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812;
- An original artwork by world-renowned American artist Red Grooms titled Traffic!, a three-dimensional lithograph which captures the sprawling, rambunctious energies of New York City;
- Two tickets to the exclusive 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in LA and a newly created dance in the bidder’s honor by the brilliant choreographer Jacques d’Amboise; and
- A reservation for six at the legendary Rao’s Restaurant in NYC.
Alec Baldwin then introduced the StarChild Auction, a time where guests are invited to give any level of donation to support NDI. Attendees were given the option of adopting a school, a class, a dancer, supporting NDI’s work with children with disabilities and more.
Following the auction, multi-platinum, international recording artist, songwriter and actor Josh Groban was honored for his passionate support of arts education. NDI children welcomed Josh to the stage with their own rendition of “You Raise Me Up.” Upon accepting the honor, Josh remarked how he wished he was an NDI kid growing up. He continued, “Arts education is not just a luxury or an extra – it changed my life.” He continued, “It’s not just about finding the next great Terry Mann or Alec Baldwin, it’s about giving young people the opportunity to truly find themselves and find greatness in themselves; whether they go into it professionally or not. It has never been more important than right now, in this incredibly divisive country and world that we live in, that, our future generations develop universal fundamentals of leadership and compassion and self-love and awareness of everybody and every culture around them. In that spirit, I humbly thank you so much for inviting me here tonight and I pledge to continue my support, continue being a family member of NDI, keep the good fight, and keep the passion going.”
Additional honorees included long-time NDI Board member, Arnold S. Penner and his wife, Madaleine Berley. Christopher d’Amboise, renowned choreographer, created a special piece performed by the boys of NDI in their honor, which focused on Arnold’s longtime friendship with Jacques and his love of cars. Three time Tony Award nominee Terrence Mann performed a medley of “Born To Be Wild,” “Drive My Car” and “You’ve Got A Friend” to accompany the piece.
To close the night, 200 NDI children performed “Saints,” an upbeat favorite from the NDI repertoire. Additional notable guests in attendance included: Michael Cerveris; Actress Kathryn Grody; Broadway actress and NDI Board Member Charlotte d’Amboise; New York City Ballet Dancers Daniel Ulbricht, Tiler Peck, Sterling Hyltin, Jared Angle, Amar Ramasar, Tyler Angle, Teresa Reichlen; Former New York City Ballet Dancer Wendy Whelan, among others.
Photo credit: 1) Alec Baldwin and Hilaria Baldwin Dancer. 2) Traci Lester. 3) ) Sarah Arison, Josh Groban and Diana DiMenna. 4) Madaleine Berley and Arnold S. Penner. 5) Tiler Peck. 6) Charlotte d’Amboise and Terrence Mann. By Noam Galai / Getty Images