Catherine Zeta-Jones Sparkles at NYCDA's Bright Lights Shining Stars Gala

September 30, 2013

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s been a lot of glamour surrounding the dance world in the past few weeks. From the Emmy nominees-like Allison Holker in an Oliver Tolentino evergreen gown and Travis Wall in Armani-walking the red carpet, to the haute couture costumes for the NYCB gala, (not to mention the looks that night from SJP and Milleportman), I’ve been a little fashion-ed out.


That was until I saw one of Hollywood’s biggest stars at the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation event this Sunday night.


Catherine Zeta-Jones walked the red carpet at NYU’s Skirball’s Center for the Arts wearing a dazzling, floor-length silver dress before receiving the 2013 Ambassador For The Arts Award during the foundation’s Bright Lights Shining Stars gala. But what made her appearance even more special was her message: Hard work and perseverance really can make dreams come true. We learned that before she starred in The Mask of Zorro with Antonio Banderas, and before she played Peggy Sawyer in the West End production of 42nd St in London, she was simply a studio kid: Cat from the Hazel Johnson School of Dance in Wales.


Her humble and humorous acceptance speech painted a picture of any hopeful dancer or musical theater triple threat: The time that Cat asked her mother why couldn’t she have married a redhead, instead of her father, so that she could play Annie. Or the time she pined for the part of Liesel in The Sound of Music at a regional theater, but had to settle for Brigitta because she was too little.


Zeta-Jones’ words were especially fitting for the evening as a whole, which was devoted to helping aspiring professional dancers go to college. This year, NYCDAF has awarded $3.4 million in scholarships, including a $10,000 award sponsored by Dance Magazine. And last night, the foundation handed out even more money, ranging from $5,000 to $10,000, to be used on any college program of the dancer’s choice


While the rest of the evening was full of song (Bring It On’s Adrienne Warren belted out “The Best is Yet to Come,” and Joanne Borts from Once gave a moving rendition of “Send in the Clowns”) and dance (Clifton Brown performed Jessica Lang’s famousSplendid Isolation II excerpt, Charlotte d’Amboise led a rousing tribute to Zeta-Jones’ performance in “All That Jazz” fromChicago, and 10-year-old talent Luke Spring earned a standing O for a killer tap improvisation), the best moments really were watching the NYCDA students’ college dreams come true. Well, that and watching Cat from the Hazel Johnson School of Dance pose for cameras on the red carpet in the same room as the rest of us.