- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 7, 2004

CityDance Ensemble performers dazzled guests at a Thursday fund-raising gala in the Gold Room of the Russian Embassy.

More than 300 people turned out to support the dance company’s newest venture — the CityDance Center at Strathmore, a $100 million school and performing arts center opening Jan. 17 in Bethesda.

“It will be a cultural focal point in Montgomery County,” said Barbara Santos, chairwoman of the circle of founding trustees, the donor group for the new music and dance center.

This center will serve as a cultural center for Montgomery County and as second home for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with its 2,000-seat concert hall, said John Gidwitz, the symphony’s former executive director.

“It’s visually stunning,” Mr. Gidwitz said. “It has wonderful site lines.”

The building’s design, which includes suspended dance floors, is ideal for dancers — inspiring them and choreographers “to think beyond, larger than you are,” said Paul Emerson, artistic director of the CityDance Ensemble, founded in 1996. “That’s what art is about.”

The board of directors and event committees organized the gala and silent auction with hopes of raising $60,000 to purchase resources for the opening of the center’s school. The ambassador of the Russian Federation Yuri V. Ushakov agreed to help CityDance Ensemble host the gala.

“This company has a very close partnership with Russia,” Mr. Ushakov said about the company’s tours to Russia and interest in Russian dance. “They’re doing very interesting things, and we want to support them. It’s our gesture of friendship, so to say.”

The partnership is “about building bridges, crossing boundaries and sharing what’s important” after decades of misunderstanding, Mr. Emerson said.

As Mr. Ushakov’s wife Svetlana said, “It’s a nice opportunity to show the interest of our country, of Russia, for the art of the American people.”

— Shelley Widhalm

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