Artistic diversity for a good cause
Houston arts groups come together to fight breast cancer in "Pink at the Brown"
There's nothing like a good cause to pull Houston's downtown arts groups together for one night on one stage, which is exactly what will happen on Thursday at Wortham Center's Brown Theater for Pink at the Brown, the Pink Ribbons Project bi-annual gala. Raising money and awareness for breast cancer is what Pink Ribbons, in motion against breast cancer, is all about, so it was easy to get several arts organizations aboard.
The impressive line-up includes:
- Houston Ballet soloist Katharine Precourt in Raymonda dancing with Houston Ballet II
- Precourt and Linnar Looris performs the blockbuster pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty
- Alley Theatre veteran Bettye Fitzpatrick reflects on her own battle with breast cancer
- Houston Grand Opera Studio stars sing the sextet from Cosi Fan Tutti
- Gexa Broadway series managed to get Meredith Kaye Clarke from the touring show of Wicked to belt the show-stopping number, "Defying Gravity"
- Da Camera Houston'sYoung Artists Makiko Hirata, Creston Herron and Keith Thomas perform poignant works by two American women, Augusta Read Thomas and Rebecca Clarke.
- Society for the Performing Arts is flying in Jason Kittelberger and Acacia Schachte from Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet early to dance Ohad Naharin's riveting duet Mabul, before their April 1 performance at Cullen. That's dedication!
- Representing the next generation of artists will be Houston Girls Chorus and Houston Boychoir.
With this much artistic diversity, there's always a good buzz in the crowd, and according to artistic chair Shelly Power, that's exactly the point.
"This is a great introduction to each downtown arts group," says Power, associate director of the Ben Stevenson Academy at Houston Ballet. "Last time, people who had never seen the opera, talked about giving it a try, same for Houston Ballet."
The evening concludes with a champagne toast and dessert reception honoring Randalls Food Markets, Dr. Ana Maria Gonzalez-Anguloand and cancer survivor Lourdes T. Hernandez. "This is the first time we have honored a survivor," says Power.
The idea of making it a big downtown celebration came from Power while she was on the treadmill two years ago. Up until then, the gala had included only dance performances.
"I wondered what could I do that would be different, and it came to me that maybe the entire arts community could take part. I presented the idea at a Theater District meeting. Everyone thought it was a fabulous idea and brought something to the table."
Power remembers her first Pink at the Brown in 2009. "It was just magical to see all these audiences coming together. We raised a lot of money."
Although Pink Ribbons starts with the story of two dancing sisters, Jane Weiner and Susan Rafte, a breast cancer survivor, the organization has taken a broader approach to using the arts to heal and inform. The organization has served as a national model of using the arts in the fundraising process.
Events like Tour de Pink and Pink Platter combine community building and fun activities to raise funds. Art is often central to any Pink Ribbons event.
"We even have Pink Paint, a weekly art class for anyone who's life has been touched by cancer," says Loubel Cruz, Pink Ribbons executive director. "Dance is always our core."
Ballet dancer Precourt is proud to be participating.
"It's especially meaningful for me as a dancer to be a part of this event which benefits the Pink Ribbons Project, an organization that has its roots in the dance world," says Precourt, who wowed audiences in the recent Houston Ballet production of Sleeping Beauty. "I believe their work is doing a tremendous service to the community, and I am very glad to be able to contribute to their efforts."
For Weiner and Rafte, the journey has been a moving one.
"In 1995, I danced for my sister, a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient. It was what I could give as an artist. In 1998, I sat in the back of the audience and watched my sister, post breast cancer and a stem cell transplant, dance at the Cullen to a sold out audience," remembers Weiner, who now serves as Pink at the Brown's artistic director.
"On Thursday, both my sister and I will watch from the audience and the wings as some of the finest talent in Houston, and in essence beyond, perform for this cause that changed our family's lives forever in September of 1995. It's incredible to see how a seed of an idea has grown into a citywide celebration."