Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Terpsichore (tûrp-sĭk'ə-rē)
Fundamental fact of Art:  Art is art.  Soup is soup. Sometimes Soup can be Art.  But,  Art  can never be soup. JKJ
The Professional Dancers Society, PDS, is a non-profit group that is associated with the Actors Fund. Their moto is Dancers helping Dancers. Along with the actors fund the PDS has been able to provide millions of dollars for dancers in need. Sometimes they need medical support for the injuries they have sustained dancing, sometimes they need what every one needs when they get to a certain age, security and a safe place to live. PDS provides dancers with that kind of help. I think they are doing a great job.  I am a proud supporter. This is not a paid endorsement. I am all for the world of dance. I am invested in that world as much as the world of ventriloquism. 
I married my way into the world of professional dancers. I will never be a gypsy but slowly I have become accepted in Sandi's dancing community and it has become part of my own world as well. There is one thing to say about the Gypsy chorus, dancers know how to have fun no matter what age they are.  There is a personality that is common to those who use movement as their instrument and art. I fell in love with that personality trait and a woman who embodied it.  I found my gypsy love and married her quickly.
Sandi always said her goal was not fame or fortune (obviously... cause she married a ventriloquist), she wanted to be the best dancer she could be.  She wanted the respect and the acceptance of her peers, other great dancers. To watch her work constantly with so many celebrated dancers on television, movies and in the theatre was proof to me that she certainly had that peer respect and acceptance. 
However, the definitive acknowledgement of Sandi's career came Sunday at the PDS Gypsy Luncheon fund raiser honoring Julie Andrews.  This is the 25th anniversary of the PDS and most of the past honorees were there. It was a star studded event with Carol Burnett, Ann Margret, Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, Mitzi Gaynor, Marge Champion and Nigel Lithgow, not to mention the honoree Julie  Andrews. Also taking a bow on that stage was Sandi Asbury-Johnson. The show sold out the Golden Globe room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. It was a very special event and day.
But first there needs to be some explanation so one can fully appreciate Sandi's honor. To be clear, a dancer in the chorus of a Broadway musical is lovingly called a gypsy. 
There is a lot of cross over between Broadway dancers and LA dancers. In fact most of the dancers on television and in the movies are also Broadway gypsies. When the PDS was chartered on the west coast they borrowed a tradition from Broadway... the Gypsy Robe. 
The Gypsy Robe goes back 53 years as a superstition and ritual of Broadway musical theatre. No musical on Broadway has opened since 1959 with out the presentation of the Gypsy Robe. The legend is that a robe was worn in the 1920's on opening night by Ziegfield Follies starlets for good luck.
The Professional Dancers Society Gypsy Robe
worn by 2012  Recipient  Sandi Johnson
Here is how it goes even today. On the opening night of every Broadway musical the current keeper of the Gypsy Robe will come to the theatre and present it to the next in line.  That would be the gypsy dancer who has the most Broadway credits, usually one of the older dancers in the chorus. There is a time honored ritual participated in by the entire cast. The gypsy robe gets decorated by attaching a symbol of that show and is passed on during the opening night of the next new musical to open. Mementos and  show logos keep getting added to the robe. Only gypsies are eligible to receive and wear the robe, neither principle actors nor stars of the show are qualified. It is an honor bestowed on gypsies by gypsies themselves. This year Sandi's brother Cleve was the recipient of the Broadway Gypsy Robe on opening night of "How to Succeed in Business". Finally, when there is no more room to attach anything, a new robe is created and the old one is retired to a vault for  safe keeping and posterity at the Actors Equity office in New York City. 
So,  25 years ago the PDS began a West Coast version of that tradition.  The only difference is that the PDS robe is decorated with items from the honoree's career. The PDS robe honors the  person, the gypsy his or her self, not just the show.  Now Sandi has been awarded the LA Gypsy Robe and she will add her name to the legendary Gypsy Robe . 
I could not be more proud of my favorite dancer, acclaimed princess of the gypsies, my forever love, the spirit of Terpsichore, mother of my children, my way shower  and wife... Sandra Asbury-Johnson.
As you were,


P. Grecian said...

What a great honor! My congratulations to Sandi. My congratulations to you for having her in your life.

Bob Conrad said...

Congratulations to both you and Sandi.

Roomie said...

Mandy and I are also VERY proud of your "Gypsy Princess," Sandi Asbury-Johnson and so glad that you married each other....it appears that your combination has done pretty well in our book....
Love to you all,
Carry on,

Tiffany Cox said...

MARVELOUS! Sandi should be very proud... as should you. :)