On Tuesday, February 26, the Dance Theater of Harlem held its Vision Gala at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City. Entertainment industry veteran Vanessa Williams was honored for her extraordinary career accomplishments in film, television, music and the Broadway stage. Currently, she stars in the upcoming ABC series “666 Park Avenue”. Her critically acclaimed work in the arts has earned her a host of Emmy, Screen Actors Guild and Tony nominations. She is the recipient of six NAACP awards, a Golden Globe award, a Grammy award and an Oscar award for her platinum-selling single “Colors of the Wind” from the Disney film Pocahontas.
“I grew up in an arts family. My parents are music teachers and I’ve taken dance lessons my whole life. I’ve made a living doing what I love…being on Broadway, so I’m happy to be here supporting the arts,” Williams told The Network Journal.
The Westchester, New York, native and mother of four was there with her mother Helen Williams with whom she authored her autobiography, “You Have No Idea” and one of her daughters, Jillian Hervey, who introduced her to the stage following a touching montage of Williams’ career.
Also in attendance were actress Condola Rashad, actor Cuba Gooding, Jr., opera legend Jessye Norman, model Alek Wek and honorary chair Chelsea Clinton. Rashad, daughter of actress Phylicia Rashad who played Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show, attended the school briefly and remembers it fondly. “As a child, it was a place I could go and be surrounded by other kids who were doing the things I was doing,” she shared with The Network Journal. The 26-year old actress, who received rave reviews in her performances in Ruined and Stick Fly, will star with Vanessa Williams in the upcoming Broadway play, The Trip to Bountiful.
Choreographer Arthur Mitchell founded the Dance Theater of Harlem in 1969 to combat the stigma that Black girls did not make good ballerinas. “Arthur challenged the industry and proved them wrong. To this day, he has said there aren’t enough African-American dancers at the major companies,” said guest host and news anchor Sade Baderinwa.
Jessye Norman agreed. In a red carpet interview with The Network Journal, she said: “Arthur is a great friend of mine. I’ve worked with Dance Theater of Harlem since the start of my career in the late 70’s. To see these wonderful dancers walk with their backs arched…that will be with them for the rest of their lives. We should all be thankful for the artistic contributions DTH has made to the world.”
Dance Theater of Harlem Company will perform world and company premieres at Jazz at Lincoln Center from April 10-14.
Click here to view the photo gallery from DTH's Vision Gala 2013.
Photo: Brokaw Photography