Arts Center will Tango for spring fundraiser
Last season, the Westport Arts Center had an epidemic of boogie fever as revelers danced to disco classics at its "Studio 51" spring fundraiser.
This year, the sounds will be more subtle and sultry.
"Viva! Feel the Passion -- A Taste of Tango and Temptations" begins at 8 p.m. and is the center's major fundraiser.
"It's not just about dancing and the music for our upcoming gala, `Viva!' It's about the whole experience," Najarian said. "When you walk into the playhouse lobby at the beginning of the night, there will be sangria available and a quick bite to eat. We want to get you in the mood right away." A pre-show VIP dinner at the Dressing Room Restaurant already is sold out, she said.
Guests are encouraged to enjoy the Latin American jazz at two parties hosted on the playhouse campus following the performance in the Jason Robards Theater.
Dessert and café con leche will be offered in the Dressing Room, where a trio will play light jazz.
The audience may also attend a salsa party in the playhouse's barn. Some of the dancers are expected to offer dancing tips, Najarian said.
"Tango is very hot right now. It's being done everywhere and we know that the community is going to have a lot of fun," she said.
Organizers are encouraging women to wear red cocktail dresses and men red ties to evoke the sensuality and romance of the Latin music and dance.
At the Spring Gala, WAC will honor three longtime Westport residents -- Joyce Thompson and Cindy and John Vaccaro -- for their commitments to the arts in town, said Alyssa Crouse, WAC's marketing director.
Before their philanthropic work in the arts took hold, the Vaccaros had careers on Broadway and off-Broadway stages. Although John became involved in business and finance -- first as a theater producer and later as owner of Westport Resources Management and Investment Services -- Cindy continues to perform with the Mendelssohn Choir of Connecticut and the Three Chicks Who Sing.
The couple's commitment to the Westport community, event organizers said, is demonstrated by their roles in several organizations, such as WAC, the Westport Country Playhouse, Westport Chamber of Commerce and Westport Sunrise Rotary Club, which John founded.
Thompson was a member of the original Westport-Weston Arts Council, which was housed in Town Hall, and is a former president and curator.
She also wrote "A Community of Artists," a book about the painters, illustrators, sculptors and cartoonists living in Westport and Weston from 1900 to 1985.
Najarian noted that last year's '70s-themed fundraiser was atteneded by people wearing platform shoes, bell-bottom pants and mini dresses. "People love to dress up in this town," she said. "They can get as formal as they would like to, but the spring gala is certainly not a mandatory black-tie affair."
WAC board member and local dentist Richard Epstein first approached the committee about focusing on Latin American jazz music and dance for this year's benefit. When everyone agreed on the theme, Epstein was responsible for recruiting the Argentinian-born Ziegler and Torres.
Their performance will include a bandoneon, an accordion-like instrument, used throughout their recordings and live performances. Epstein describes the musical style as "quirky elements of jazz, eccentric rhythms and unusual instrumental effects."
Helen Klisser During, WAC's visual arts director, said the spring fundraiser is the foundation of the group's fundraising. "It's vital that everyone come," she said.
Crouse said that the organization provides more than 100 programs each year, including visual arts exhibitions, chamber music and jazz concerts, film screenings, literary arts programs, lectures and education and events that reach 4,000 children annually.
In addition, she noted, last fall's "Memory" exhibit attracted "an incredibly broad demographic" with more than 2,000 visitors.
Tickets for the "Viva!" concert start at $200. After-party tickets are available for an additional $75 with the purchase of a tiered-performance ticket but are included in the top-tier levels of $500 and $750. Tickets can be purchased exclusively through Westport Country Playhouse's box office by calling 203-222-4177 or visiting www.westportplayhouse.org. Box office hours are Tuesday through Friday from noon to 6 p.m. Tickets are available online around the clock.