Arts Program Director Damian Woetzel to be Honored with Inaugural Gene Kelly Legacy Award at July 28 “Celebration of Dance” Gala in Los Angeles

July 24, 2012

Contact: Zlato Fagundes

Oscar Winner Shirley MacLaine Will Also Be Awarded At Annual Gala Hosted by Dizzy Feet Foundation Co-Founders Nigel Lythgoe, Katie Holmes and Adam Shankman

ASPEN, Colorado — Aspen Institute Arts Program Director Damian Woetzel will be honored with the inaugural Gene Kelly Legacy Award at the Dizzy Feet Foundation’s “Celebration of Dance” gala in Los Angeles on July 28, in conjunction with National Dance Day.

Created jointly by the Dizzy Feet Foundation and the Estate of Gene Kelly in honor of the 100th anniversary of Kelly’s birth, the award will be annually bestowed upon an artist who has demonstrated innovative vision and creativity, and made lasting contributions; not only to the art of dance, but also to the world as a whole through the commitment to cultural stewardship that Kelly championed.

“This is a very special honor for me,” explained Woetzel, who performed at a 1992 tribute to Kelly when the dancer was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the School of American Ballet. “Mr. Kelly was dance itself, he made dance out of the things we do every day, he made us all dance in the rain, and the joy he brought to the world resonates strongly and always will. To receive this award in his name is profoundly moving and inspiring; he is a true hero for me.”

“When I met with Damian this past April, I was struck by the similarities between the two men,” said Patricia Ward Kelly, Creative Director for the Gene Kelly Legacy, Inc. “Both represent the epitome of masculinity and grace, and at the same time, share remarkable erudition, a strong commitment to education, extraordinary vision and a belief that it is the artist’s role to serve as a kind of cultural ambassador.”

Kelly added, “If Gene were alive, he would be extremely proud and honored to have Damian Woetzel as the first recipient of a Legacy Award in his name.”

Woetzel was a Principal Dancer at New York City Ballet and frequently performed internationally as a guest star and visiting artist with numerous companies including the Kirov Ballet and American Ballet Theatre until his retirement from the stage in 2008. In 2009, Woetzel was appointed to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities by President Obama. In addition to serving as the Aspen Institute Arts Program Director, Woetzel is the Founding Director of the Jerome Robbins New Essential Works Program and the Artistic Director of the Vail International Dance Festival. Woetzel is also active as a director and producer outside these roles. Among his recent projects, he directed the first performance of the White House Dance Series, and produced and directed an arts salute to Stephen Hawking at Lincoln Center for the World Science Festival.

The award will be presented during the Dizzy Feet Foundation’s gala at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. Along with Woetzel, Oscar-winning actress Shirley MacLaine and philanthropist Henry Segerstrom will also receive awards from the Foundation, presented by a celebrity roster including Maria Menounos, Carmen Electra and Ricki Lake. In addition to the awards, the gala will feature performances by dancers from television’s popular “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” along with some of the Foundation’s scholarship recipients studying at The Juilliard School, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and American Ballet Theatre.

The Dizzy Feet Foundation was established in 2009 by Nigel Lythgoe, Adam Shankman, Carrie Ann Inaba, and Katie Holmes, among others, to support young people in their dream of becoming professional dancers and improve access to dance education in the U.S.

The Aspen Institute Arts Program was established to support and invigorate the arts in America, and to return the arts to the center of the Aspen Institute’s “Great Conversation.” Directed by Damian Woetzel, it brings together leading artists, arts managers, sponsors, government officials and patrons to generate, exchange, and develop ideas and policies to encourage vibrancy and dynamism in all artistic realms, and to enrich civic culture in ways only the arts can do. For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for discussing and acting on critical issues. The Aspen Institute does this primarily in four ways: seminars, young-leader fellowships around the globe, policy programs, and public conferences and events. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

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