Nancy Zeckendorf Launches Memoir “small town, Big Dreams”

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Nancy Zeckendorf with step-son William Zeckendorf, III as they unveil a plaque at Zeckendorf Towers by Union Square.

“Dancing is singing with the body” shared Nancy Zeckendorf from the stage at New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. The celebrated philanthropist and former Metropolitan Opera ballerina returned to New York City from Santa Fe for a week filled with events to launch her new memoir, small town, Big Dreams.

“I loved dancing to opera music and I love improvising to it. But you know, I wasn’t dancing because I wanted to dance. No, I wanted to be the music. And much later, my teacher Antony Tudor said ‘dancing is singing with the body.’ That’s what I was trying to do.”

She was joined on stage by American Ballet Theatre’s newly appointed Artistic Director, Susan Jaffe, who shared “When I first got into ABT, with Misha Golubitsky and Gelsey Kirkland there, I’d see them walking down the hallways – I didn’t close my gaping mouth for at least the first year. I could not believe I was there, that I could literally touch them …. And when you think about it, Antony Tudor, Margaret Craske, and Martha Graham; these icons were her teachers! These are the stories Nancy shares in her memoir.”

Susan Jaffe and Nancy Zeckendorf discuss Nancy’s memoir.

Nancy’s audience included step-sons Artie Zeckendorf (with wife Elizabeth Zeckendorf) and William Zeckendorf III (and wife Anna Zeckendorf), ABT’s Sascha Radetsky and Stella Abrera, as well as Diana Byer, Candace and Frederick Beinecke, Penny Colman, Beverly D’Anne, Joan Duncan Oliver, Mercedes Ellington, Betti Franceschi, Magee Hickey, Judith Hoffman, Niel Hoos, Shelby Lamm, Ambassador Earle I. Mack, Ellie Manko Libby, Boulie and James Marlas, NYPL’s Jerome Robbins Dance Division Curator Linda Murray, Joan Duncan Oliver, Richard Osterweil, Liane Pei, Tara and Michael Rockefeller, Rosita Sarnoff, Ellen Rubin, Irene Shen, and many more.

Judith M. Hoffmann, Nancy Zeckendorf, and Beverly D’Anne.
Anna Bender-Zeckendorf, Michael Rockefeller, Tara Rockefeller, and William Zeckendorf.
Cornelia Bregman and Sue Bloomberg.
Irene Shen and Stella Abrera.
L. to r.: Artie Zeckendorf and Nancy Zeckendorf; Susan Jaffe and Richard Osterweil.
Liane Pei and Lizanne Potamianos.
Lynn Alexander and Chris Morris.
L. to r.: Sascha Radetsky and Stella Abrera; Christine Dobush and Ailina Fisk.
Max Defrancesco, Kristina Allegra, Anthony Centineo, and Darren Judi.
Nancy Zeckendorf, with Michael and Tara Rockefeller.
Richard Osterweil, Grey Hirschfeld, and Magee Hickey.

Nancy’s book details a life on stage at The Old Met (formally known as The Metropolitan Opera House) at 1411 Broadway, where Nancy unveiled a commemorative plaque. Former Met Opera House stage manager, Herman Krawitz, joined Nancy. Now 96, Herman vividly recollected the many years he spent watching her dance, as well as Maria Callas, Brigit Nilsson, and Lily Pons.

Herman Krawitz, Nancy Zeckendorf, and Richard Miller.

Nancy considered The Old Met “more of a home than my own apartment, spending days rehearsing, taking lessons, and performing most nights of the week for more than 9 years.” President of The Metropolitan Opera Guild and Advisory Director of the Metropolitan Opera, Richard J. Miller, Jr., opened the ceremony by ringing the traditional three tone xylophone, then saying “It is an honor to be here this morning as we dedicate this plaque and commemorate this important building — that was known as the Metropolitan Opera and stood here from 1883 through the Great Depression, and stewarded an art form for so many decades.”

Richard Miller.
Nancy Zeckendorf.

Nancy then pulled back gold curtains to unveil the plaque. The gold curtains and xylophone are traditions that began at The Old Met and continue today at its new home in Lincoln Center.

Nancy’s memoir also details life after dancing; her philanthropic work and her marriage to her late husband, William Zeckendorf, Jr. Nancy and her step-son William Zeckendorf, III, unveiled the second plaque at Zeckendorf Towers by Union Square. Executive Director of the Union Square Partnership, Jennifer Falk, spoke to the importance of community and how Zeckendorf Towers remains one of the most influential draws for the Union Square neighborhood’s continued growth and progressive development. Board President, Melanie Wong, shared that when she first moved to New York, Zeckendorf Towers was a building she passed on her commute daily, and dreamed of one day living in.

Jennifer Falk, Nancy Zeckendorf, William Zeckendorf, and Melanie Wong.
Suzanne Appel, William Zeckendorf, and Nancy Zeckendorf.
William Zeckendorf, Toni DeGidio, Nancy Zeckendorf, and Tomas Crespo.
William Zeckendorf and Nancy Zeckendorf.

Nancy Zeckendorf’s new memoir is the story of a young girl from small town Tidioute Pennsylvania with a big dream that took her to Juilliard, Broadway, summer stock, the stage of the Metropolitan Opera and the Santa Fe Opera, as well as memories of her marriage to William Zeckendorf Jr. and extensive philanthropic work with American Ballet Theatre and Lensic Performing Arts Center​.​

small town, Big Dreams is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon, as well as other major retailers.

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