Spring Benefit 2018: Leaps and Bounds

May 10, 2018, 6:30 pm9:30 pm EDT


280 Broadway, Entrance at 53A Chambers
New York, NY 10007 United States

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Phone: (646) 837-6809


Join us for our biggest event of the year, filled with exciting performances delicious food and drinks, and presentations by special guests.

Performances by

Gibney Dance Company
Ephrat Asherie
Brian Brooks & Wendy Whelan
The Illustrious Blacks
Jack Ferver
Marie Poncé
Alice Sheppard
Sanctuary for Families Survivor Leaders

Auction Items Including

A Private Yacht Party for 75 Guests
A 5-Night Getaway in Buenos Aires
A Night in Harlem at the Apollo Theater & Red Rooster
A Relaxing Week in the Adirondacks

Raffle Prizes Including

2 tickets to Dear Evan Hansen and Dinner for 2 at the Kimberly Hotel’s Empire Steak House

3 bottles of Retaggio Wine & a $100 Gift Certificate to Amelie Wine Bar

A Whiskey Class for you and a friend at the Flatiron Room’s Whiskey School

A Tea Ceremony for you and 4 Friends at Floating Mountain Tea House

Honoring three visionaries who have made transformational contributions, both to Gibney and the dance field at large:

Jay Beckner
President, Mertz Gilmore Foundation
Alair Townsend
Gibney Dance Board Member and Former Publisher of Crain’s
Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Dance Critic, Curator, and Community Educator

Jay Beckner, Alair Townsend and Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Benefit Host Committee 2018

Meet the Honorees

JAY BECKNER is President of the Mertz Gilmore Foundation. In 2017, the Foundation made grants totaling $10 million in the areas of climate change, democratic values, New York City dance, and New York City community empowerment. Since joining the Foundation in 1987, Mr. Beckner has served as its Director of Finance/Administration, Vice President, Executive Director, and President. Last year, Mr. Beckner was named a trustee of the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, after serving as a programmatic advisor to it since 2002. The Trust made distributions exceeding $9 million in 2017, primarily for the arts, the environment and civil rights. Leading beneficiaries of the Trust include The Public Theater, The New York Botanical Garden, Lincoln Center, Joyce Theater, Natural Resources Defense Council, the ACLU, and WNET/Thirteen.

Mr. Beckner lives with his wife, Eileen, in Montclair, New Jersey. His daughter, Lucy, teaches dance at a K-8 school in Arizona.

ALAIR TOWNSEND was Publisher of Crain’s New York Business for 18 years, and continued as Columnist for the paper until mid-2015. Her column won first prize for commentary from the Alliance of Area Business Publications in 2006 and the Society of American business Editors and Writers in 2007. Her tenure at Crain’s follows a public service career in New York and Washington, D.C.

Under Mayor Ed Koch, Ms. Townsend served as New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Finance and Economic Development from February 1985 to January 1989. As Deputy Mayor, she was responsible for formulating and guiding the City’s policies to encourage economic growth and the creation of jobs. Before becoming Deputy Mayor, she served three-and-a-half years as New York City’s Budget Director, responsible for managing the City’s expense and capital budgets, and was the first woman to hold that post.

She has written and spoken extensively on federal and local budgeting, national public welfare policy, local economic development policy and state and local politics.

She is a former Governor/Director of the American Stock Exchange, Fay’s Inc., and Armor Holdings Inc., and the Board of Overseers of TIAA-CREF. She is a board member and former President and Chair of the Greater New York Councils, Boy Scouts of America, former chair of City Center of Music and Drama (the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center), former chair of the New York City Independent Budget Office Advisory Board and former chair of the American Woman’s Economic Development Corp., the Exploring program of the Greater New York Councils of the Boy Scouts, and the Leadership Committee of the Lincoln Center Consolidated Corporate Fund. She is a member of the Women’s Forum and on the boards of Lincoln Center, New York City Ballet, Gibney Dance and the Citizens Budget Commission. She is the former Vice Chair of the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority, having been appointed by Governor George Pataki.

EVA YAA ASANTEWAA (2017 Bessie Award winner for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance) is a writer, curator and community educator. Since 1976, she has contributed writing on dance to Dance MagazineThe Village VoiceSoHo Weekly NewsGay City News and other publications and interviewed dance artists and advocates as host of two podcasts, Body and Soul and Serious Moonlight. She blogs on the arts, with dance as a specialty, for InfiniteBody.

Ms. Yaa Asantewaa joined the curatorial team for Danspace Project’s Platform 2016: Lost and Found and created the skeleton architecture, or the future of our worlds, an evening of group improvisation featuring 21 Black women and gender-nonconforming performers. Her cast was awarded a 2017 Bessie for Outstanding Performer. As EYA Projects, she has begun partnerships with organizations such as Gibney Dance Center, Abrons Arts Center, Dance/NYC, BAX and Dancing While Black to curate and facilitate Long Table conversations on topics of concern in the dance/performance community.

She was a member of the inaugural faculty of Montclair State University’s MFA in Dance program. She has also served on the faculty for New England Foundation for the Arts’ Regional Dance Development Initiative Dance Lab 2016 for emerging Chicago-area dance artists. In May 2017, she served on the faculty for the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography’s inaugural Forward Dialogues Dance Lab for Emerging Choreographers.

Ms. Yaa Asantewaa was a member of the New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Awards committee for three years and has been a consultant or panelist for numerous arts funding or awards organizations including the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

As a WBAI radio broadcaster (1987-89), Eva worked with the Women’s Radio Collective and the Gay and Lesbian Independent Broadcasters Collective (OUTLOOKS) and co-hosted the Tuesday Afternoon Arts Magazine with Jennifer Bernet as well as producing her own specials.

A native New Yorker of Black Caribbean heritage, Eva makes her home in the East Village with her wife, Deborah, and cat, Crystal.


GIBNEY DANCE COMPANY is Gibney’s acclaimed resident dance ensemble. With a focus on artistic excellence and social integrity, GDC activates dancers toward their full artistic, entrepreneurial, and socially-minded selves through rigorous physical, intellectual, and interpersonal practices. Learn more.

EPHRAT “BOUNCE” ASHERIE, a 2016 Bessie Award Winner for Innovative Achievement in Dance, is a New York City based B-girl, dancer and choreographer. Her company, Ephrat Asherie Dance (EAD) is rooted in street and social dance and has presented work at the Apollo Theater, FiraTarrega, Jacob’s Pillow, New York Live Arts, Summerstage, and the Yard, among others. Ephrat has received numerous awards to support her work including a Mondo Cane! commission from Dixon Place, a Travel and Study Grant from the Jerome Foundation and Workspace and Extended Life Residencies from the LMCC. Most recently Ephrat received a National Dance Project award to support the development and touring of her new work, Odeon, which will premiere at Jacob’s Pillow in June. She is a co-founding member of MAWU and on faculty at Broadway Dance Center. Ephrat received her MFA from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she researched the vernacular jazz dance roots of contemporary street and club dances. For more information please visit ephratasheriedance.com.

BRIAN BROOKS is the inaugural Choreographer in Residence at Chicago’s Harris Theater for Music and Dance. This innovative three-year fellowship supports several commissions for Brooks, including new works for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Miami City Ballet, and his own New York-based group. A 2013 Guggenheim Fellow, other recent awards include a NY City Center Fellowship, Joyce Theater Artist Residency and Mellon Foundation Creative Artist Fellowship. Brooks’ work has toured internationally since 2002 with presentations by BAM’s Next Wave Festival, the Joyce Theater, Jacob’s Pillow, the American Dance Festival, NY City Center Fall for Dance Festival, and the Works and Process series at the Guggenheim Museum, among others. Lumberyard Performing Arts (formerly American Dance Institute) has provided ongoing support through commissioned premieres and Incubator Production Residencies.

Beyond his company, Brooks has developed work with renowned ballet dancers, actors, and student groups. Damian Woetzel/Vail International Dance Festival has commissioned him to create three works featuring dancers from NYC Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet, including First Fall, in which he dances with former NY City Ballet Principal Wendy Whelan. He is in his fifth year collaborating and touring with Whelan, currently performing a duet evening accompanied by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider. Brooks has choreographed off-Broadway Shakespeare productions for Theatre for a New Audience including A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2013), directed by Julie Taymor, and Pericles (2016), directed by Trevor Nunn.

Brooks has created dances for Eliot Feld’s Ballet Tech, The Juilliard School, Boston Conservatory, The School at Jacob’s Pillow, Harvard University, and many others. He dedicated 12 years as a Teaching Artist at Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts in Education and has been on part-time faculty at Rutgers University and Princeton University. He learned how to run up walls and fly off a trampoline while performing for three years with daredevil choreographer Elizabeth Streb.

JACK FERVER is a New York based choreographer, writer and director whose works interrogate and indict an array of psychological and socio-political issues, particularly in the realms of sexual orientation, gender and power struggles. His direction blurs boundaries between fantastic theatrics and stark naturalism, character and self, humor and horror.

He has been presented throughout New York City, at such places as The Kitchen and New Museum, as well as domestically and internationally. He is a professor at Bard College and is guest faculty at NYU. He has also taught at SUNY Purchase, and has set choreography at The Juilliard School. As an actor he has appeared in numerous films and television series.

THE ILLUSTRIOUS BLACKSOnce upon a time in a galaxy not far away, there lived two kings. Each was the ruler of his own deliciously glorious planet. The first king, Manchildblack, was well known throughout the cosmos for his ethereal vocals, celestial sonics and earthy musical messages. The other king, Monstah Black, was a star in the solar system for his gravity defying performances, gender bending fashions and spacey disposition. One magical night, an inexplicable ultramagnetic pull forced the two planets to collide. A technicolored explosion occurred, turning night into day, with a feast of aural and visual delights. It was then that the universe was changed forever. Manchildblack and Monstah Black united and became The Illustrious Blacks.

With inspiration from extra terrestrials like Prince, David Bowie, Grace Jones, Boy George and George Clinton, The Illustrious Blacks have arrived with a mission to fuse futuristic funk, hypnotic house and cosmic pop into pulsating positivity for the planet. The real life married couple are not only co-pilots on their artistic voyage, but are united in their fantastical journey through life.

In 2017, The Illustrious Blacks released their highly anticipated debut EP, NeoAfroFuturisticPsychedelicSurrealisticHippy, on Concierge Records. The acclaimed duo found even more praise for their epic live shows, which fuse music, dance, theater & fashion. Toward the end of summer 2017, The Illustrious Blacks landed their live show Hyperbolic for a three month residency at the legendary Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater.

The Illustrious Blacks’ entertaining and often hilarious weekly radio show, “On Air w/The Blacks,” invites listeners onto the mothership of the charismatic couple, where they discuss the latest happenings in global pop culture on WBAI 99.5 FM in New York.

Individually, Monstah Black and Manchildblack illuminate the galaxy with equal magnitude. Together, as The Illustrious Blacks, they have combined their powers and metamorphosed into supernovas, blazing through the Milky Way like a comet, with their own unique brand of cosmic freak nobility.

MARIE PONCÉ (Cherokee/Taino) is a NYFA Fellow 2016 (Choreography), Lifetime member: Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, LMCC, Pick of the Fringe-Edinburgh, Scotland, award winning Actor, Native Hoop Dancer, Singer, craftsman, professor: SAG-Aftra, Negro Ensemble Co. and NYU/Stella Adler, published writer, whose solo featured at 92Y, SummerStage, NMAI/Jewish Museum’s Almost Summer Celebration Wagner Park. She co-produced Restoration and Healing, Inc. workshops for trauma, Monrovia, Liberia. Founder/NEC Monthly Meets/Open Artist NYC: artists as entrepreneurs; writer of The Roots of Rap at IRT Intl Experimental Thr. Fest. Cairo, Egypt; Audelco Award; Carmen–One Life to Live; writer/actor AWOL-pilot for Mad TV.

ALICE SHEPPARD is the founder and artistic leader of Kinetic Light, a collective of artists and collaborators working at the intersections of art, design, disability, race and dance. Her artistic practice emerges from her academic career and her training in dance. Engaging with disability arts, culture and history, Alice attends to the complex intersections of disability, gender and race with movement that challenges conventional understandings of disabled and dancing bodies. Her work has been commissioned by CRIPSiE, Full Radius Dance and MOMENTA Dance Company. Alice has also performed as a solo artist and academic speaker throughout the United States.

SANCTUARY FOR FAMILIES SURVIVOR LEADERS Since 2013, Gibney Dance Company members have created works in partnership with the Sanctuary for Families Survivor Leaders, survivors who have emerged to become inspiring advocates. This work honors aspects of their individual journeys as a reminder that we all possess the capacity for change.