Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dancing the night away ...

A leisurely Tuesday afternoon. 4:20 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012. A beautiful summer day, yesterday in New York.

Early last evening I went over to Lincoln Center for the opening of the 18th Midsummer Night Swing that is held in Damrosch Park, on the south side of the Metropolitan Opera House. Paul and Daisy Soros started this as part of their philanthropic contributions more than 18 years ago. They wanted to do something at Lincoln Center for the neighbors in the summertime. Daisy thought dancing is something that makes everybody happy.

Last night they hosted a cocktail and dinner for about 100 friends in a tented platform overlooking the dance floor and the stage where the Nelson Riddle Orchestra was playing Sinatra, Ella, and the music of the '50s and '60s.
The view from the dinner tent of the dance floor about to be used at last night's Midsummer Night Swing in Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center.
Although I like to dance, I go to see this event because it’s one of those New York moments that feels like neighborhood, in summertime in a small town. Except of course it’s New York, right in the heart of Manhattan, surrounded by forty and sixty storey apartment buildings as well as the Time Warner Center and the theaters of Lincoln Center, so visually it’s rich too. And the vibe is happy and joy. It’s total comfort zone.

They had perfect weather, with temperatures in the low 70s, and big white puffy clouds billowing above in the deep blue twilight sky. They began the dance about 7, with a woman on stage demonstrating dance steps, and the guests following on the dance floor and off. The foxtrot, the waltz, tango, the cha cha, the salsa. Then the crowd was greeted by Reynold Levy, the President of Lincoln Center. Mr. Levy thanked the sponsors and introduced Daisy Soros.
Daisy Soros telling the audience about her "Hi-Bye."
Daisy and Paul Soros.
Daisy, who, like her husband, is a native of Hungary but has lived in this country her entire adult life, speaks with a decided accent but excellent English, and not without her charm. In private conversation she is garrulous and full of humor when she is not specifically serious. And she is that too, a worldly woman.

She told the guests that she’d learned a new word from one of her grandchildren, and that was “Hi-Bye.” After launching this project and funding it for 18 years, the Soroses are turning it over to a new supporter. I don’t know who that will be, but they may have been present tonight at the dinner. Daisy thinks about all those things.

After her speech, she came down to the dance floor to cut a rug, as they used to say in the days of Swing, and the evening began. It’s a big dance floor so there’s room for hundreds, but also enough space for everyone. It’s modeled after the great public dance ballrooms found across the nation in the 1930s and 40s, and it’s also great for spectators along with park goers who are there just to sit back and listen. Everyone has a good time. The terpsichoreans  present run a wide variety of fashion and dance styles, shapes, sizes, heights and personalities, altogether and really into it. It’s interesting to observe so many so light and deft on the dance floor. Everyone is happy for that moment of jumping for joy, including the non-dancers.
Daisy and partner go into the dance and start the evening off.
The Midsummer Night Swing will run every night except Sunday through July 14 with a variety of bands on the schedule. Individual tickets are $17 per person including dance lessons. There’s a six-night swing pass for $80 and a season pass for $40; a special four-night pass for just $60. You can buy tickets online here or call 212-721-6500. Or you can get a ticket at the entrance, or just go and watch. That’s a lot of fun too. And you’ll see what I mean about “neighborhood.” It lifts the spirit, no matter.
When I got home from Lincoln Center, I was shocked to learn that last night in Liz Smith’s column filed on today’s NYSD, that Nora Ephron had died earlier in the evening.  Although I was an admirer, I only knew Nora the way you can know people: very casually, in New York in a wide circle of acquaintances and dinners; but I don’t think we ever had a conversation. Liz, however, was a good, longtime friend and great fan of Nora’s work and wit. 
Across the sea, in London. Sunday night I received this email letter from Cherie Blair, the wife of the former Prime Minister. Mrs. Blair has been involved for some time with the Loomba Foundation which has a special and deeply important objective. The letter is self-explanatory and Mrs. Blair is anxious to get the word out to all who need to know or could use getting to know.

Dear David,

Saturday 23 June 2012 marked the second anniversary of the UN recognised International Widows Day, and as President of the Loomba Foundation, I am particularly proud of this important milestone.  
Lord Raj Loomba, Baroness Floella Benjamin, Cilla Black, Nancy Dell'Olio, and Cherie Blair.
For the last 15 years we have been campaigning for better rights for widows, promoting their fundamental freedoms and human rights around the globe. This year to mark International Widows Day the Loomba Foundation organised a rather unusual high profile event designed to capture the world's attention and highlight the plight of widows and their dependents world-wide.  

As a Freeman of the City of London, Lord Raj Loomba has an ancient right to drive livestock over London Bridge, and on 23 June he invited twenty women - including myself - to join him in leading a herd of goats over the iconic London landmark.  Why goats?  For many widows in India, South Asia and across Africa, owning a goat is a lifeline - providing milk and also helping them to carry water and fire wood from distant places to their homes.
Lady Loomba with Loomba family members.
There are so many widows in the developing world who are the poorest of the poor. By tradition, they are variously ostracised, unable to work or remarry, ejected from their homes, have any wealth taken by the deceased husband’s relatives, and left without any means of supporting themselves or their children. There are 245 million widows around the world, of whom 100 million live in poverty, together with their children.  Because they can't earn a living, many widows have to rely on the efforts of their children, who miss out on education and end up on the streets or in factories, victims of exploitation and child abuse.
Cilla Black, Cherie Blair, and Lord Raj Loomba.
I am proud that the Loomba Foundation, it its 13 years of working in India, now educates the children of poor widows in 16 states, and has supported over 27,000 family members.  As part of its global work the Foundation is also empowering young widows in many countries in Asia and across Africa, and on 23 June at the Fundraising event at the Banqueting House, Whitehall, we launched a new project to empower 10,000 impoverished widows in India by providing them each with a new sewing machine and a two week training course in garment production.  It’s my hope that through the Loomba Foundation, we can help give widows and their children a voice and improve the quality of their lives.
Nancy Dell'Olio. Baroness Floella Benjamin.
Heather Small, Nancy Dell'Olio, and Kanya King.
Mrs. Aruna Oswal.
Elizabeth Emanuel.
Shamin Lalji, Lady Loomba and supporters of the Loomba Foundation.
Guests arriving at 10 Downing Street.
The Rt Hon. Nick Clegg MP, and Mrs. Miriam Clegg.
Lady Loomba with Roma Loomba, and Mrs. Aruna Oswal. Lord Loomba with the Lord Mayor of Moor Park, Kemal Butt and Mrs Butt.
Baroness Dee Doocey, Baroness Angela Harris, and Mr Doocey.
Roma Loomba and Elizabeth Emanuel. Elizabeth Emanuel and Kanya King.
Malcolm Lane and The Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg MP.
Nancy Dell'Olio and Mrs. Miriam Clegg.
The Rt Hon. Nick Clegg MP, Mrs Miriam Clegg and HE Jamini Bhagwati, and High Commissioner for India.
The Banqueting House, Whitehall.
Lord Raj Loomba.
HE Jamini Bhagwati, High Commissioner for India.
Baroness Angela Harris and Heather Small.
Baroness Angela Harris and entertainers.

Contact DPC here.