On Monday night I had the pleasure of volunteering at and attending the Gina Gibney 2008 Gala, Women at Work. After spending the afternoon helping set up at the Alvin Ailey Center, we moved downstairs for the performance. The Gala was the 10-year anniversary of GGD as an all-female company, so the performance included excerpts from the last ten years of Gina’s choreography.
The highlight of the performance for me was The Mentor’s Piece, an incredibly powerful piece danced by five women who have worked with Gina through the Domestic Violence Project. The DVP is a initiative that hosts workshops in shelters throughout New York City, providing an outlet for women to regain a positive self image through movement. The women in The Mentor’s Piece are all survivors of domestic violence, some of whom have worked with Gina for nine years. Although they do not have a background in dance, they are nevertheless dancers, and phenomenally brave ones at that. The dance features all five women together and separately and the music is piano and chimes overlayed with short narrations from each of the women. My favorite narration was from Dorota, who says in her narration (not a direct quote, but to capture the essence), “One day I was walking down the street and I saw a beautiful tree and I thought, that tree must be new, I’ve never seen it there before. I went and told my sister, who said that the tree had always been there. And I thought, oh my gosh, I am getting better! I am so thankful to finally see beautiful things.” The entire piece is gut-wrenchingly tender and both times I saw it, in rehearsal and in performance, I had to put down my camera; my eyes and nose were too wet.
After the performance we gala-ed it up on the fifth floor in a studio the size of the City Center stage (including wings), surrounded by glass windows looking out into midtown Manhattan. During the mingling, silent auction and munching, guests were encouraged by Commemorators (NYU Tisch MFA students armed with different types of cameras, from iphones to Polaroids) to play with giant foam word blocks and to sign a 7 foot tall “anniversary” card. The entire evening was a wonderful combination of celebrating dance and the dancers, advocates, mentors, and philanthropists who have spent 10 years in the challenging and unique endeavor of taking dance into the community to help women who have survived domestic violence. I can’t imagine a gala celebrating a more extraordinary project with more stupendously heroic men and women.
The Distance Between Us, 2007
GGD and Mentor’s Piece dancers
Katie Glasner (our Barnard ballet teacher) and Gina Gibney
“You Eat Powerful Tutu”
GGD Alum Marta Miller
My favorite shot of the night: GGD Dancers Stevie Oakes and Courtney Drasner
Commemorators Jennifer and Lori had a wee bit of wine