Greenwich Arts Council Holds Its Annual Meeting and
Honors High School Seniors with
Annual Creative Achievement Awards
The Greenwich Arts Council held its Annual Meeting on Thursday afternoon, June 6. Immediately following the Annual Meeting, the Greenwich Arts Council honored six high school seniors from Greenwich schools with the annual presentation of the Arts Council’s Creative Achievement Awards. Selected by their teachers for their “exceptional artistic ability and creative vision,” this year’s honorees included Christopher Mahaney of Brunswick School for music and visual arts; Ashley Brown from Convent of the Sacred Heart for music and the performing arts; Greenwich Academy student Natalie Panno for excellence in multiple disciplines; and Greenwich High School seniors Johnny Rabe for music and the performing arts, Laura Pincus for music, and Kara Meyering for visual arts. Greenwich Arts Council board member, Elinor Carr, served as host and chair of the award presentation.
“Once again we witness the radically democratic nature of the arts by this wonderful sampling of talent,” remarked GAC’s Executive Director, Frank Juliano. The Greenwich Arts Council’s mission is to support and nurture emerging artists. The Creative Achievement Awards is just one of the many ways by which the Arts Council helps young artists reach their potential.
On October 8, 2006, The Greenwich Arts Council presented the Artist Laureate Award to Greenwich resident Cynthia Gregory in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the world of dance. In a remarkable career that spanned more than 30 years, Cynthia was celebrated as one of the world’s greatest ballerinas. For most of those years she was a prima ballerina with American Ballet Theatre, where she performed lead roles in Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, Raymonda, La Bayadere, Don Quixote and La Sylphide. Her performance as Odette-Odile in ABT’s Swan Lake (first performed by her in 1967) is still recognized as definitive.
As a young girl in Los Angeles, Cynthia studied with Carmelita Maracci. By the age of 14 she was awarded a Ford Foundation Scholarship to study with the San Francisco Ballet, where she soon became a principal dancer. She joined ABT in 1965 and danced in more than 80 works with the company, including roles that were created for her by choreographers Eliot Feld, Alvin Ailey and Twyla Tharp. She has performed as a guest with many of the great dance companies of the world, and in 1974 she was one of the first American artists to perform in Cuba after diplomatic relations had been broken in 1961.
Much of Cynthia’s energy today is devoted to her family – her husband Hilary Miller and her son Lloyd. She is actively involved in Career Transition for Dancers, a not-for-profit organization that provides career counseling and other vital services to dancers who are making career changes. She is also an author and artist. Her watercolors and pen-and-ink drawings, interpretations of her most memorable roles, have been seen for the past three years as part of the Arts Council’s Art to the Avenue event.
A full house joined in celebrating the woman whom Rudolph Nureyev called “America’s prima ballerina assoluta” and whose performances have been described as “electrifying.” The program included Jacques D’Amboise, Kevin McKenzie, and Susan Jaffee – all prominent figures of the dance world, a dance performance by Ballet Academy East choreographed by Ms. Gregory, and a video presentation of Cynthia Gregory dancing in some of her most celebrated roles. The event took place Sunday, October 8, at 4 pm at the Massey Theater of the Wallace Performing Art Center at Greenwich Academy. A champagne and dessert reception immediately followed the presentation, with wine provided by Le Wine Shop and desserts compliments of Restaurant Jean-Louis.
GAC: Where did you first study dance?
CG: I started classes when I was five years old, in Los Angeles. My parents were ballroom dancers and loved to dance. We were a musical family and I loved to move to music. On the suggestion of our family doctor, I was enrolled in ballet classes for exercise, and when it became evident that I had talent, I started studying with a number of different teachers six days a week.
GAC: What made you want to study? What did you envision for yourself – did you see yourself as a dancer with a major company, a Broadway star, or a film icon like Cyd Charisse?
CG: I was just so happy to be dancing. I was most comfortable and felt quite at home around dancers and the dance. At fourteen I received a Ford Foundation Scholarship to the San Francisco Ballet. My parents moved us north to San Francisco and there I started as an apprentice to the company. I was inspired by the professional dancers and by great teachers, especially Lew Christensen. At sixteen I toured with the company. The dancers become your family and your social structure. It was a wonderful world and a wonderful time.
GAC: When did you start studying and dancing with ABT? What was a typical day at class?
CG: In 1965 I left San Francisco with every intention of coming to New York to study with Ballanchine and the NY City Ballet. When I arrived it was the 25th anniversary season for ABT and I took some classes at the school on West 57th Street. There were three or four little studios and at that time, classes were open to anybody. So in a typical class you would find Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn dancing alongside a novice dancer. The struggling students would watch the serious dancers and learn from their example. And the best teachers taught by intellect, not intimidation, and always gave you something to think about.
GAC: When did you start performing with ABT and how did your day at class change?
CG: Within two weeks I was able to arrange an audition with then ABT director, Lucia Chase. Although I was a soloist in San Francisco, I joined ABT as a corps de ballet. It was a very important time for me. As a member of the corps, you rehearsed eight hours a day, learning parts, music and dance styles, and especially building a sense of community with your colleagues. In nine months I was chosen as a soloist and then a principal dancer.
GAC: After 31 year of dancing, you are retired professionally. Do you want to teach?
CG: I love to coach dancers and work with them on the finer points and variations, in preparation for their roles.
GAC: Have dance students changed over the years?
CG: Dancers now are more aware of the world around them. It is something I strived to do as well growing up. I loved concerts, rock music, theatre – I always wanted to enlarge my world. That makes you a better dancer and overall a stronger and more balanced person.
Of all the arts the Greenwich Arts Council supports, architecture has the longest gestation period. It usually takes years from the first sketches to full occupancy. So the Greenwich Arts Council recognizes this art – so crucial to the community – only every few years. And this is one of those years.
In early April, four distinguished professionals from the design world met in Greenwich to choose the best of the town’s architecture completed since the last Design Awards for Architectural Achievement program in 2001.The jurors included two eminent architects, Carol Bentel of Locust Valley, NY, and Mark Simon of Centerbrook, CT, the renowned landscape architect Peter Rolland of Rye, NY, and the accomplished writer on design Rachel Carley of Litchfield, CT. Carley is known locally as the author of the recent book Building Greenwich and curator of the exhibition Greenwich by Design, recently on view at the town’s Historical Society.Eligible for awards were new and remodeled buildings and landscape projects completed since the last Greenwich Arts Council awards were given in 2001, with the exception of private houses, which are too numerous and difficult to visit for such a program.After a busy day reviewing dozens of potential winners in photo form and visiting nine finalist sites, the jurors decided to recognize just three projects, two for awards and one for a citation. In their view, these represented a distinct level of architectural achievement – a level worthy of international recognition.The two award winners were the Patsy G. Howard Upper School of Greenwich Academy and the Georg Jensen shop on Greenwich Avenue. The Upper School is distinguished by its planted roof and the way daylight floods its interior through glass walls, glass interior partitions, and “light chambers” projecting through the roof. Natural-finished wood framing lends the building welcome warmth within its glassy envelope. The building was designed by the New York office of the internationally renowned firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.Smaller than many Greenwich living rooms, the Georg Jensen shop shows an exquisite design sensitivity in every detail. The unusual use of black slate to frame shadow-box show windows outside and black leather on interior surfaces was admired. Jurors couldn’t resist the obvious reference to it as a “jewel box.” Architects for the shop were Tuller McNealus Feld of New York with Paul Hopper of Greenwich. Display units were designed by a Danish firm as components for this and similar shops the Tuller firm has designed in Manhattan and other U.S. locations.A Citation recognizes the alterations of the 55 Railroad Avenue office building: a striking new canopied entrance from the street and a redesign of the adjoining sunken garden. With no other changes to the building’s exterior, these few moves transformed the building, connecting it to the busy street it had previously ignored and elevating its image through elegant details. The alterations were designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, another internationally known New York office.The architects and owners of the winning projects were honored at an awards ceremony and reception on May 19 at the Greenwich Arts Center.Organizing and conducting this awards program are co-chairs John Morris Dixon and Barbara O’Shea, along with Heidi Manwaring, Secretary of the Greenwich Arts Council.