Neighborhood Studios Gala Feature Ailey II Dance Co., Honors Westporters on April 28

Plans are well underway for Neighborhood Studio of Fairfield County’s (NSFC) 2019 annual fundraiser that benefits NSFC’s arts education programs, with special emphasis on its summer camps. The event will begin at 5:30 PM on Sunday, April 28th, at Quick Center for the Arts at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut.  Westporters Jeffrey and Laurie Gross are this year’s honorees.  The popular fundraiser will feature the world-renowned Ailey II Dance Company.

“We’re delighted that the Ailey Company II will be performing at our Gala right after their world tour, and that native Westporter, Grace Bergonzi, will be dancing along with the rest of the company,” said Rita Appel, a long-time Westporter and Chair of NSFC.                     

Tickets range from $40 to $150 for preferred seating, plus VIP seating at $225 and $500. Reception guests at the $225 and $500 ticket levels will be treated to a lavish cocktail reception provided by Garelick & Herbs, which will begin after the performance at 7:30 PM.  For additional information and to purchase tickets, call 203-254-4010 or visit www.quickcenter.com/box-office.

NSFC is an award-winning, multidisciplinary school of the arts founded in 1978 by the late Patricia Hart, a musician who was losing her sight.  In its 41 years, NSFC has served over 30,000 children.  Today, NSFC serves Greater Bridgeport youth of all ages with after-school programs and summer camps. 

Neighborhood Studios transforms the lives of Bridgeport children through arts education and empowers them to make a difference in their community.  It provides an inclusive, warm and welcoming environment that enables students to reach their fullest potential through the power of the arts.  NSFC offers high-quality art, music, theater, and dance instruction to children of all ages, regardless of ability, background or finances.

The programs use the arts as vehicles to improve engagement in school, raise self-esteem, increase graduation rates and prepare young people for life beyond high school. Graduates have gone on to attend colleges such as Berklee College of Music, Art Institute, Parsons School of Design, Howard University, The New School, UConn, UMass and Yale. Several have become music or art teachers and have performed on Broadway. 

The organization regularly partners with social service agencies, the Bridgeport Board of Education and other surrounding Boards of Education for program referrals. Grants are provided by such agencies as Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, Newman’s Own Foundation, Bedford Family Social Responsibility Fund, and individual donations.  NSFC was also a recipient of a COMING UP TALLER AWARD, given by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

For forty-five years, Ailey II has merged the spirit and energy of the country’s best young dance talent with the passion and creative vision of today’s most outstanding emerging choreographers. Started in 1974 as the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, Ailey II embodies Alvin 

Ailey’s pioneering mission to establish an extended cultural community that provides dance performances, training and community programs for all people. Mr. Ailey personally selected the veteran dancer Sylvia Waters to lead this junior company. As its Artistic Director for 38 years, she developed Ailey II into one of America’s most popular dance companies. In June 2012, Ms. Waters retired and named her longtime associate Troy Powell as the new Artistic Director. With Mr. Powell at the helm, Ailey II continues to thrive as he brings a fresh dimension to this beloved company.

Grace Bergonzi of Westport, CT, began her dance training at Westport Academy of Dance and recently graduated summa cum laude from the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program in Dance.   She has attended summer intensives at Alonzo King LINES Ballet and The School at Jacob’s Pillow, and she appeared in Alvin Ailey’s Memoria during Ailey’s 2016 New York City Center season.  In 2017, Ms. Bergonzi was featured in Dance Spirit magazine’s May/June issue.  This is her first season with Ailey II has joined the company in 2018.                                     

Jeffrey and Laurie Gross have, individually and as a couple, been recognized over the years for their community commitment and engagement.  “We are thrilled to honor Jeffrey and 

Laurie for their dedicated service and long-standing support of Neighborhood Studios,” said Frank Derico, Executive Director, “and to showcase our Conservatory students who will perform as part of the evening.”                                                                

The couple became involved with Neighborhood Studios twenty years ago when their daughter Margaret worked as a group leader one summer and found the experience one of life-changing importance.

Dr. Jeffrey Gross is a senior partner with Associated Neurologists of Southern Connecticut. His sub-specialty is multiple sclerosis, and he has served in leadership roles in several medical societies that support MS research and treatment options.  In addition, he has led several projects and volunteer activities to improve our community.

Laurie Gross worked for twenty years as Director of Community Relations for the 

Jewish Center for Community Services of Eastern Fairfield County.  During her tenure, she oversaw the operation of the Community Closet, the Young Leadership Program, as well as the Institute for Learning in Retirement.  Laurie currently serves as secretary of Neighborhood Studios, having previously been its chair. 

Organizing this year’s Gala are committee members: Jennifer Blankfein, of Westport; Claudia Cohen, of Westport; Robert Jacobs, of Westport; Melissa Diamond, of Westport; and Kanika Taylor, of Westport;  as well as the Co-Chairs of the Committee, Betty and Alan Feldman, of Fairfield. 

Event sponsors include Bruce Plotkin Photography; Barrett Outdoor Communications; Garelick & Herbs; Moet Hennessey; Moffly Media; and TracyLocke.

At last year’s Spring Gala, Executive Director Frank Derico said, “The arts inspire us; the arts educate us; and the arts empower us. Every day at Neighborhood Studios, our talented faculty provide these experiences for the children we serve. We inspire them to dream big and set goals. We educate our artists about making the right choices, improving their literacy skills and preparing for college. And we empower the youth with the tools necessary to be successful in school and beyond.”

For additional information about Neighborhood Studios of Fairfield County, call Executive Director Frank Derico at 203-366-3300 ext.228 or visit www.nstudios.org, To purchase Gala tickets, call 203-254-4010 or visit www.quickcenter.com


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