- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 11, 2006

There is magic in numbers — as in the record amount of $2.8 million raised this past weekend at the Kennedy Center’s 35th Anniversary Celebration for the institution’s artistic, education and outreach work.

The real magic, though, was the entertainment onstage Sunday evening in the Concert Hall. A stellar cast of performers brought the formally clad audience to its feet several times to clap and cheer, no more so than when the cast of the 2005 documentary “Mad Hot Ballroom” showed their stuff.

Twelve pairs of young people from New York City public schools who do competitive ballroom dancing for sport exhibited their skills in fast-moving Latin and swing rhythms, keeping their cool and never missing a beat.

The hall (lit in red and blue and with the numeral 35 illuminated in gold light) was rocking with appearances by, among others, the New Orleans Preservation Hall Jazz Band, tap soloist Savion Glover, 80-year-old Angela Lansbury and Judy Collins.

The gala’s program creator and director, Marvin Hamlisch, led the National Symphony Orchestra Pops in selections from many of the center’s hit shows and attractions from past years, which also were celebrated in a video presentation at the start.

The program concluded on an odd note: two Cirque du Soleil acrobats gyrating on colorful ribbons over the audience below — shades of the Las Vegas Strip and out of tune with the likes of violinist Sarah Chang and others who had performed earlier.

Official Washington turned out in unusual numbers. So many ambassadors, congressional figures and Cabinet officers turned out for the reception, dinner and show that the security detail seemed at times to overwhelm the guests. They were like black crows standing apart from a crowd dressed gaily — as invitations had requested — in “black-tie and red.”

The chosen color scheme was “just for fun,” said center Assistant Secretary Ann Stock. Large red streamers stretched over the building’s River Terrace, and red mood lighting later greeted diners entering the Atrium and South Foyer. New White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and predecesor Colin Powell, intelligence czar John Negroponte, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace, at least three Supreme Court justices (plus former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor) and Queen Noor (a standout

in green chiffon and chenille) made so festive a scene that politics was relegated to the back burner, at least for the night.

“Be proud of the dream fulfilled,” Miss Lansbury noted.

“The best is yet to come,” promised center Chairman Stephen Schwarzman—, who made sure to introduce representatives of the armed services, Iraq veterans all, who were the evening’s special guests.

Ann Geracimos

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