DC is known for many things, some less savory than others. But aside from the politics and the great divide between left and right, there is one thing that unites Washingtonians together: the arts. There is nothing quite like that peaceable hush that befalls a theatre just before curtain rise. The audience may very well be packed with a menagerie of differing beliefs and agendas (all in pearls, of course), but for one evening, individuals come together and applaud the brilliance of art. It’s an uplifting occasion.
Support for the arts is always something to celebrate, which is why this last week in DC hit a particularly high note. Two Saturdays, two galas, and a triumphant success.
Chamber Dance Project celebrates five years in DC
Five years ago, the enigmatic Chamber Dance Project moved from its home in New York to propel the emerging contemporary dance scene in Washington, DC. To mark the anniversary, the Board of Directors (including our very own Paul Ashe) hosted a bash under the chairmanship of Craig McCullough. Guests experienced a soul-stirring cathedral of sound during a spectacular preview of the world premiere ballet, Chant. Set to debut during the summer season, Chant is a collaboration between the dancers of Chamber Dance Project and Gregorian chanters, under the watchful eye (and ear) of Washington National Cathedral Music Director, Michael McCarthy.
The evening raised critical funds to support both the upcoming season at Lansburgh Theatre and the philanthropic initiatives of the organization. Patrons sponsored 150 performance tickets to be donated to DC social service agencies, in addition to underwriting the new bring-a-child-for-free program at matinee performances. It was a motivational evening, the success of which will resonate for months to come.
Paul Ashe co-chairs Washington Performing Arts gala
A week later and we’re back at it, this time championing the area’s preeminent performing arts presenter: Washington Performing Arts. Paul Ashe co-chaired the gala for hundreds of eager arts patrons at the National Building Museum and, together with the incredibly generous guests and sponsors, raised over $1 million dollars to support the organization’s diverse mainstage, community, and educational programming. The impact of WPA is far reaching, with education initiatives and phenomenal artists at 10 different venues each season – from the Kennedy Center to the historic Synagogue at Sixth and I.
The charming Nina Totenberg served as master of ceremonies throughout the evening and paid marked tribute to Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the National Museum of African American History & Culture, who was honored with the 2018 Ambassador of the Arts Award. To set the atmosphere, performances included: Eric Owens, bass-baritone; Chelsey Green, Mars Urban Arts Initiative artist-in-residence; Washington Performing Arts Gospel Choir led by Theodore Thorpe and Stanley Thurston; and Step Afrika! The after party, hosted by the Washington Performing Arts Junior Board and Daimler, featured raucous dancing to Miami’s DJ Zog. It was an evening to remember, from the Fund-An-Opportunity Drive and live and silent auctions (where Spey pearls lustered dazzlingly), to the inspirational stories and performances.
To all this we at Spey say, brava! We are proud to serve in the shadow of the brilliant art scene in Washington, DC.
Image: Chamber Dance Project Board of Directors: Deborah White, Nan Moring, Craig McCullough, Cynthia Schiffrin, Joy Treutel, Jason Jarrell, Deborah Downey, Paul Ashe, Elaine Maslamani, and Diane Coburn Bruning. Credit: Tanya Green.