Dancing with the Stars: Berklee Edition Puts the "Fun" in Fundraiser
With each subsequent year, Dancing with the Stars: Berklee Edition sets the bar a little higher, not only as a fundraiser but as a high-energy performance the whole Berklee community looks forward to. This year’s event reached new heights in both regards, with 477 donors contributing a little over $31,000—enough funding to fully endow a new Dance Division scholarship.
Named for beloved former Dance Division Director Yasuko “Yasi” Tokunaga, who led the division from 1989 to 2011, the Tokunaga Scholarship is the second such award to be fully endowed by Dancing with the Stars (DWTS): Berklee Edition. The Dance Division Faculty Award was the first, and it already has proved to be a lifesaver for students who would otherwise be unable to complete their degrees.
“I think many of our donors might be surprised by how a relatively small amount of additional aid can make or break a student’s ability to remain in school,” says Mila Thigpen, chair of dance.
While meeting this important need for students, DWTS: Berklee Edition never fails to bring the fun, she says. Faculty-choreographed performances shine a spotlight on the Dance Division, and give audience members an opportunity to see the “stars”—i.e., their coworkers and teachers—in a whole new light. “I’ve been told by some staff that Dancing with the Stars: Berklee Edition is their favorite day to come to work,” Thigpen says.
This Year’s Winners
With his ginormous rainbow wig, on-point color guard technique, and unflagging enthusiasm, Wayne Malloy, senior project manager in the Office of the President, stole the show—and took home the audience choice award. His routine, “Dance the Night,” was choreographed and coached by Denise Pons, professor of dance.
María Martínez Iturriaga, senior vice president for international learning environments at Berklee Valencia, traveled from Spain to compete in the event, and made the trip worthwhile by winning the Mirrorball Trophy for highest team score. Iturriaga’s routine—evoking vintage Hollywood musicals of the 1940s and ’50s—was choreographed by coach Jim Viera, associate professor of dance.
Maria Goldberg, senior director of global strategy and innovation, earned the Impact Award for most money raised, with nearly $6,200 from 94 donors. She also won high marks from the judges for her sultry ballroom tango with partner and coach Sergiy Georgiev, associate professor of dance.
Honoring a Dance Mentor
Having led the Dance Division for more than 20 years, Yasuko Tokunaga’s impact on Boston Conservatory as a whole—and young dancers individually—cannot be overstated. With a scholarship now endowed in her name, Tokunaga’s legacy will continue to serve dance students for the foreseeable future.
Tokunaga attended DWTS: Berklee Edition as a special guest, along with her sister Emiko, who also taught dance at the Conservatory and coordinated the Radcliffe Dance Program at Harvard University. To commemorate the new scholarship, a donor’s plaque was affixed to chair 105 of row K in the mainstage theater, reading “With love and appreciation for Yasuko Tokunaga, for her invaluable dedication to the Dance Division.”