We have just successfully completed our annual fund raising gala at the Fairmont Southampton Resort last Saturday night, which I must say immodestly is the best social event of the season. In the past we coerced several of Bermuda's leading business and government leaders to compete in Bermuda's version of "Dancing with the Stars"… Last year we honoured legends in tap dancing and this year through our partnership with world renowned American Ballet Theatre we simply wowed the audience with sheer talent and the true beauty of dance. It was a stirring program and our audience loved it.


Our wonderful Board member and loyal benefactor Catherine Zeta-Jones continued her active support for the National Dance Foundation, taping a message to our guests because she is currently engaged on Broadway in the leading role in Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music".


    In her stead we were most fortunate to have the wonderful co-creator of the very popular television program "So You Think You Can Dance" and one of the original producers of "American Idol", Nigel Lythgoe.  Nigel was simply wonderful as a host, inspiring as a speaker and passionate about getting young people engaged in dance. In many ways, Nigel is a real live "Billy Elliot" the fictional young English lad from a coal mining community who overcame his parents' rejection and became a dancer. He came from a poor family in Liverpool, started dancing at 14, and blossomed into one of the most successful producers of show devoted to dance. And in true Rotary fashion.Nigel decided to give back. He created the Dizzy Feet Foundation, a not for profit organization that provides scholarships and training for young dancers. 

On Saturday night, we gave our guests an update on how four of our scholarship recipients are doing as they attend dance institutions overseas. These students - Anna Clifford, Courtney Lopes, Rikkai Scott and James Waddell- are in schools in New York, London and Glasgow. They're approaching professional level standards and in the next couple of years will be making decisions about which direction they want to take their dance career. It's exciting and deeply moving to watch these young people work hard to achieve their dreams.

For a variety of reasons, but mainly because of the stigma attached to men dancing, not many boys summon up the courage to study dance. This point was made forcefully by Nigel Lythgoe.

Generally, the performing arts - with their grace and artistry - are seen to be a feminine pursuit, and sports - with their brute force and strength- are still thought to be best suited to boys.

When it comes to dance, we know that it requires great strength, athleticism, and stamina to develop a level of proficiency. We've all heard stories of football players who take ballet class to improve their coordination and balance and then discover that they're more exhausted from 15 minutes of leaps and pirouettes in a studio than they are after a two hour game on the gridiron.  But the stigma lingers: Real men don't dance. Why does this matter? Why should we care whether boys dance ?  For two reasons:   The first: because young people should be encouraged to pursue activities that interest them. Our kids need focus. They need experiences that challenge them. And they need encouragement. If a boy wants to dance, let's support him.  The second: dance expresses how we feel, how we interact and how we relate- to each other and to the environment.

Fortunately, Nigel is truly passionate about the constructive qualities of dance for both men and women. So therefore we were pleased to announce that we will be partnering with Nigel Lythgoe's Dizzy Feet Foundation to provide scholarships for talented boys to study at Dance Bermuda this summer.  The new program is an exciting addition to the robust scholarship program that the Foundation already has in place.

During the last five years, we've awarded $ 400,000 in scholarships and bursaries to Bermuda dancers for study here and abroad. These awards have been available to anyone who qualifies but most of the grants have been made to girls.  Now with our partnership with Dizzy Feet, we have a program designed to further encourage boys to study dance, and we're thrilled.

I hope that by sharing some of this with you I can inspire the same felling among the member's of Rotary whose principal mission is to bring benefits to local society.