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DO40 Agnes De Mille Panel

Curtain call, l to r: (offstage, Richard Skipper, Stuart Hodes, half of Iva Withers),
Crandall Diehl, Gail Reese, Kathleen Marshall, Gemze de Lappe, DO40 Prez John Sefakis,
Christine Sarry, Paul Sutherland, Hope Clarke and Ted Chapin
(holding their cast gifts of a stick of butter, given to them by “Carol…”)

It really was an “Our History, Our Legacy, Our Lives” moment
at St. Luke’s Theater Monday, October 11th, honoring Ms. De Mille!


DO40 Agnes De Mille PanelDO40’s first panel of the season celebrated the life and work of choreographer and dancer Agnes De Mille. DO40 Legacy Award Winner Gemze de Lappe, who worked extensively with De Mille, brought together as many of the remaining creative artists of the time, including Bambi Linn, Crandall Diehl, Iva Withers, Gail Reese, Hope Clark, Bill Guske, Stuart Hodes, Paul Berne and moderator Paul Sutherland. Also on hand, Ted Chapin of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization as moderator of the Broadway section, director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall and former ABT dancer Christine Sarry. Richard Skipper as Carol Channing opened the show, churning butter to Bette Midler’s “Oklahoma!” and segued into “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” from De Mille’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”

Everyone learned a thing or two about Agnes that they DIDN”T know, and the rest of us just inhaled all the wonderful information presented by the panelists. Panel #1, moderated by Paul Sutherland, was all ballet, and featured Agnes’ works Three Virgins and a Devil, Fall River Legend, The Four Marys and Rodeo. Panel #2 was moderated by Ted Chapin and featured Agnes’ Broadway years.

DO40 Agnes De Mille Panel

Christine Sarry, Paul Sutherland, Hope Clarke and Ted Chapin with the butter.

Brilliant gems spilled from the mouths of Christine Sarry about learning Rodeo in Agnes’ later years (but before her stroke); and DO40 Agnes De Mille PanelBambi Linn’s observations about how you had to DANCE – not just “act” were priceless (like the ads!). She was too young, in the 1942 original Oklahoma cast to play Dream Laurey, so they created a “young dream girl” for her. She, of course, did play Dream Laurey in the highly acclaimed movie version.

Crandall Diehl was on both panels, as he straddled Agnes’ ballet and Broadway years, and brought loads of stories with him! Clips will be posted on DO40’s youtube site, very soon! Unfortunately, due to rights issues, we cannot post the video clips of Agnes, nor her dances, nor the “live” dance portion of the program. A very rare clip of Gemze de Lappe and dancer and actor James Mitchell was shown – and intermingled with a live performance by Elena Zahlman and Joshua Nieto of the New York Theatre Ballet. Special thanks to new DO40 member Diana Byer, head of that company!!! But you had to BE THERE to enjoy it! One of the perks of being in NYC, and being a member (the early notice and ticket discounts!).

Tons more photos to follow! Also, please go to our facebook page,, where we post all pictures (along with our website, of course!). Those will be up in a week or two (it’s a lot of work for us volunteers!). We’ve got over 7,000 facebook fans in just the last 9 months!!! Amazing how we’re catching on here and across the country. Now, if all of them could JOIN Dancers Over 40 as members we could bring you MORE panels and performances – maybe to a city near you! If you’re not a member, please go to the home page and click on JOIN and… JOIN! We can’t do it without you!

DO40 Agnes De Mille Panel

Paul Berne, Bambi Linn, Stuart Hodes, Iva Withers and Crandall Diehl – (again with the butter!)


From BALLROOM to Ballroom – DO40 Greets the Summer in Style!

DO40 Spring FlingDancers over 40's annual Spring Fling erupted into couple dancing to celebrate the ballroom dance community AND our DO40 members from the original cast of Michael Bennett's BALLROOM. Marge Champion was also on hand to reminisce about the 1975 TV-movie, QUEEN OF THE STARDUST BALLROOM, for which she won an Emmy for choreography. (The Broadway musical was based on this program.)

This was a first for DO40 – venturing below Canal Street to party at the Lafayette Grill and Bar on Franklin Street. The restaurant has ballroom and couples dancing nightly, from Greek to the Hustle, Belly Dancing to Tango. Daytime the restaurant also doubles as a classroom for those interested in learning more couples dancing. For more information, go to

A few other BALLROOM members couldn’t make it – Dorothy Lister, David Evans and Michael Vita. DO40 is compiling as many names as possible of BALLROOM members, in anticipation of a planned Michael Bennett panel and performance next year. Many of our members worked with Michael, either side by side (Advisory Board members Carol Lawrence and Valerie Harper) in SUBWAYS ARE FOR SLEEPING, or in a show choreographed by him (a list too long to repeat here!). DO40 member Joy Serio Dunbar was in Michael’s first Broadway outing as a choreographer, A JOYFUL NOISE. We will be contacting as many of our members as possible who worked with Michael to insure a great event – even if that means schlepping choreographer and director Bob Avian up from the good life in Florida to speak!

DO40 Spring FlingDO40 member Teddy Kern, owner of the dance studio Dance Manhattan, supplied DO40 with the dancers from her studio to perform for the crowd.       Featured couples dancing were Lou Brock and Heather Gehring (Adagio Foxtrot), Michael Jagger and Evita Arce (Lindy Hop/Charleston), Marianna Parma and Omar (Argentine Tango) and special guests Lori Brizzi and John Marcie (do the Hustle!).  After the performance, everyone go up and learned the Lindy!

Seen in the audience were Karin Baker and hubby Greg, Georgie Marcy, Mary Lou Barber, Lois Silk, Gregg Mayer and Lawrence Merritt – DO40 Board of Directors members all – as well as Jed Danforth, Darlene Larsen, Lee Hooper, Ron Young, Nicole Barth, Janice Herbert, new member Clare Demming, Virginia Siedell, Felicia Velasco, Susan Sigrist, Terrence Murphy, Annette Macdonald, Gene Gavin, Leni Anders, Norma Doggett Bezwick (from SEVEN BRIDES… and MAGDALENA), as well as our crack P.R. maven, Audrey Ross. 

DO40 member Carol Sundquist donated an original framed window poster of BALLROOM, and the four original cast members signed it on stage.  It will be auctioned off at DO40 table at the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Flea Market on September 27th.  And if we can get a few more names on it before the event, we will!!

Dancers Over 40 Spring Fling 2009Another long-time member, Virginia Siedell reminded us of those BALLROOM cast members no longer here, especially her friend, actress Marilyn Cooper, who died earlier this year.  Very important to remember – to preserve and present the history, the legacy and the lives of these creative artists – an important DO40 mission.

At the end of Marge Champion’s discussion of QUEEN OF THE STARDUST BALLROOM, she mentioned she was entering her 90th year.  President John Sefakis congratulated her and announced that the Board of Directors had JUST voted in a new membership category for DO40 – free memberships for those 90 and above!  What a coincidence!  DO40 wishes Marge all the best in this fabulous coming year!

The Lafayette Grill and Bar’s buffet was a hit with the audience, and the first hour of socializing was a great idea!  Then it was on to the performances, the BALLROOM reminiscences and the Lindy demo!  A big bang for the buck!  Well, the 10 bucks for those members attending!

So ends another record-setting year for DO40 – that kicked off with DO40’s second appearance at the BC/EFA Flea Market last September, and continued with the Jack Cole: Alive and Kicking panel and performance featuring Chita Rivera, the Winter Holiday party with 21 dancers from the Radio City Music Hall Corps de Ballet and ended with the Michael Kidd Rides Again panel – and the Spring Fling!  Phew!  Pretty good stuff for a small, upstart organization!  But to continue doing all these events on our limited budget, we need more members!  And more volunteers!  Please get the word out – tell two friends to tell two friends – and help make DO40 a bigger and more diverse  organization!

DO40 Spring Fling
  DO40 Spring Fling
Professional Dancers Society

Click HERE for more photos of D040's Spring Fling Ballroom Event.

Michael Kidd Rides High

Michael Kidd

Another Entertaining and Educational Panel celebrating the
Work of Director/Choreographer Michael Kidd

DO40’s Michael Kidd event received rave reviews from the audience as they filed out of the St. Luke’s Theater Monday, April Jane Powell, John Sefakis and Carol Lawrence6th.   A first-rate moderator with dancing credentials up the you-know-what, a hostess with the most-ess whose stories cracked up the audience, a movie legend reunited with her Brides and a panel of member gypsies unparalleled in DO40 history!

Grover Dale’s first (almost) show was Li’l Abner, and from the gut busting dancing stories to his last night in the show with Tony Mordente (an anecdote not to be included here!), he was right on the mark.  He got the most out of the panelists and tore up the stage with host Carol Lawrence, star of Kidd’s Subways are for Sleeping.  Panelist and D40 member Carolyn Kirsch had the audience hysterical when she told of how she was fired “over the radio” during Breakfast at Tiffany’s – while brushing her hair!  Shirley Nelson Holst and Teak Lewis talked technique and about what a great guy Michael was.  Judy Dunford McGrath was very diplomatic about Tiffany’s – but made sure to separate the choreography from the catastrophe!

The movie segment of the program highlighted two legendary divas.  One an understudy and ingénue for the ages, and one a movie star.  Iva Withers was Vivian Blaine’s understudy in Guys and Dolls (1950!) and also appeared in the move (we watched the clip!).  And the wonderful Jane Powell spoke with Grover about her work with Michael in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  Then the reunion.  Norma Doggett Bezwick and Virginia Gibson, two original Brides came on stage and told tales of how they got the job (“this isn’t just a chorus job!” said Virginia to her agent!).  DO40 Salutes Michael KiddNorma luckily auditioned to be Gwen Verdon’s understudy in the Broadway company of Can-Can, but did not do it; Michael remembered her and flew her to LA to do Brides.  Story after story, and film clip after film clip -- the audience’s attention never faltered. 

There were 10 movie clips beginning with a dance montage from Kidd’s early shows, Li’l Abner, Guys and Dolls, The Bandwagon, STAR! and Michael himself dancing with Gene Kelly and Dan Dailey in It’s Always Fair Weather.  We saw the man dance and watched his choreography, and then heard about it – from the horses’ mouths!  An abundant feast for the eyes, ears and heart.

Of course, what brought all this together was Shelah Hackett Kidd, introduced early in the show by DO40 president John Sefakis and then by Gower near the end of the show to read a letter from Julie Andrews (before a clip from her movie with Michael, STAR! Shelah danced for Michael and assisted him in many of his Broadway shows and movies.  No one knew him better.  She was elegant and witty, and charming and disarming at the same time.  DO40 was so pleased she accepted our invitation to fly in from LA.

There were reunions galore in the audience!  Of course, it had been so many years that Barbara Mordente couldn’t recognizeDO40 Salutes Michael Kidd Shirley Nelson until prexy John Sefakis put them together!  Johnny Nola, Gene Gavin, Jerry Ames and more DO40 members bumped into old acquaintances in every aisle of the theater!  The New York Times was there.  Dickie Moore came with the missus!  People lined up to take pictures of each other!  It was old home week and yet, more than that.  It was truly what DO40 does best:  present the history, the legacy and the lives of its members in a way that entertains and pays it forward to the next generation.  And, as always, a copy of the program will be donated to the Jerome Robbins Dance Collection at the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.   Next Fall’s panel will be a tough challenge.  The synchronicity of the Kidd event was unbelievable.  The line-up changed, the venue did as well, and yet DO40 kept focused on the task at hand – to tell the stories of their lives as only they can. 

Bravo to the tech people, who saved the day with great video projection and stage management.  Thanks to Media at Large (Shashi Balooja, Ed French, Gordon) and our fab Stage Manager for the last few panels, Lee O’Connor.  Special thanks to Ed Gaynes for his support and the use of his theater for this event.  It’s a great space for the type of event that we do.  To all the volunteers, our Board of Directors and savvy crew – thanks for making the evening such an unforgettable event!
DO40 Salutes Michael Kidd DO40 Salutes Michael Kidd DO40 Salutes Michael Kidd

Click Here for more photos!


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