2017 Backyard Ball Performance and Gala

National YoungArts Foundation Honors Artists

Jessica Lang and Jason Moran

The National YoungArts Foundation (YoungArts) hosted its annual fundraiser in Miami, the Backyard Ball performance and gala, to help support the artistic development of the nation’s most promising artists. In addition to recognizing the talent of this year’s 691 YoungArts Winners, the event honored jazz pianist Jason Moran (1993 Winner in Jazz) with the Arison Alumni Award, and choreographer Jessica Lang as the Arison Award Honoree for their vital contributions and commitment to the arts. The event also featured Javon Jones’s acceptance of the inaugural 2016 Max Mara Young Visionary Award presented by Maria Giulia Maramotti, Max Mara’s Director of Retail for North America.

The inspiring evening raised more than $1.5M in support of YoungArts’ programs in Miami, New York, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. The Backyard Ball was presented for the third consecutive year by Italian luxury brand Max Mara, with VIP Host Sponsor UBS, and was hosted by Dr. Kira and Mr. Neil Flanzraich. The joyous evening welcomed more than 700 guests, including renowned artists, alumni, community leaders and philanthropists.

Notable attendees included choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones; jewelry designer Paris Kain; musician Dr. Ronald C. McCurdy; writer Joan Morgan; artist and author Michele Oka Doner; artist José Parlá; choreographer and dancer Desmond Richardson; singer-songwriter Chris Young; Pérez Art Museum Miami Director Franklin Sirmans and Jessica Sirmans; Dennis and Debra Scholl; Sarah Arison and Thomas Wilhelm; Jared and Stacey Galbut; Tracey and Bruce Berkowitz; and Terry Zucker.

Alumni performance

The evening was emceed by comedian and actress Amanda Seales (1999 Winner in Theater), and featured an elegant black-tie reception and seated dinner by STARR Catering Group. Throughout the night, a series of performance vignettes directed by Tony Award-nominated actor, singer and dancer and 1997 Winner in Theater Tony Yazbeck featured YoungArts alumni: Melinda Sullivan (2005 Winner in Dance/Tap), Isai Jess Muñoz (1997 Winner in Voice & Musical Theater), Daniel Winshall (2016 Winner in Jazz), Pascal Le Boeuf (2004 Winner in Jazz), Evan Sherman (2011 Winner in Jazz), Bri Ray (2016 Winner in Voice/Singer/Songwriter and U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts), Mariella Haubs (2014 Winner in Music/Violin) and Madison Hicks (2013 Winner in Dance/Modern).

Celebrating individuality and the power of art to help overcome personal challenges, the show came to a stop with a roaring standing ovation for Melinda Sullivan’s remarkable tap dance performance. Attendees were again brought to their feet following Bri Ray’s original song “Safe”, which closed the show. Additional highlights include Mariella Haubs’s narrative on the violin, and Madison Hicks’s commentary on strength and vulnerability as portrayed through contemporary dance. The evening concluded with the Backyard Bash on the YoungArts Plaza with dancing and dessert to music by DJ Walshy Fire.

Additional support for the Backyard Ball Performance and Gala was provided by Gala Committee Sponsor Deutsche Bank and Raffle Sponsors Braman Motor Cars, Vespa Miami and Seabourn Cruise Line.

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