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GALA TOUCH TO CAPEZIO AWARDS

With an event calculated to mirror its growth from a shoe-repair shop in old New York to an American industry, Capezio/Ballet Makers celebrated its 100th birthday on Monday evening with a gala awards ceremony.

“We’re a company that likes to give back to the dance community,” Alfred Terlizzi, a third-generation family member who is now company president, said in conversation while photo-call crews clattered away as three of the award recipients, Jac Venza, Bob Fosse and Rudolf Nureyev (Fred Astaire being absent), posed good-naturedly, and sometimes quite fondly, with award presenters Merce Cunningham, Gwen Verdon, Suzanne Farrell and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Capezio has been giving dance awards for 36 years but never to four people at once. Moreover, the actual ceremony was held for the first time this year on stage--in the Juilliard Theater instead of, as lately, in the music and dance school’s less formal terraced lobby.

Cunningham opened the proceedings in a double capacity. He presented and accepted the evening’s first award on behalf of Astaire, who was quoted as being delighted to accept an award he was unable to collect personally, due to the tiring trip this would have entailed.

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In his prepared remarks, Cunningham noted that Astaire’s art could “give the mind a rest and the spirit a boost.”

Verdon wrapped up her presentation of Fosse’s award by referring to the benefits she gained from working with the well-known Broadway choreographer: “Learning at that level of excellence will last the rest of your life.”

In his response, Fosse was downbeat. After referring to his most recent Broadway flop, “Big Deal,” he concluded by saying, “Before I die, I just want the New York Times to say one nice thing.”

Making what was her first public appearance since hip-replacement surgery in February, Farrell got one of the event’s liveliest ovations, before she gave her well-prepared presentation concerning the contribution Venza had made to dancing, largely as executive producer of “Dance in America” on Public Television.

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Venza’s reflected on a time early in his career when the best of America’s dancers were thought unemployable for TV, where “you had to look like a cheerleader.”

With his extemporaneous remarks about Nureyev, Baryshnikov elicited the ceremony’s biggest show of emotion by dwelling on “Rudi the man” and describing his families of followers both in Leningrad and here in the West.

Reacting to his countryman’s sentiment, a visibly moved Nureyev embraced and kissed a similarly affected Baryshnikov. After composing himself and commending Baryshnikov’s talk as “so sweet, and in English!,” Nureyev thanked the “people of the United States for being so supportive of my dancing in the last 25 years” and also complimented Capezio ballet slippers by saying it was “love at first shuffle” when they were introduced to him “by Erik Bruhn in 1961.”


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