Balletomanes gather each fall, winter, and spring season to catch the Washington Ballet at the Kennedy Center or Sidney Harman Hall, depending on the production. However, the man usually sitting among friends in the orchestra section will be missing. And dance, like all the local arts, will never be the same.
Victor Shargai, known to his many fans as “a champion of the arts,” died at the age of 83 on Christmas Eve at his home in Washington, DC. And words can’t begin to capture his brilliance, especially his insight into both the visual and performing arts, especially dance.
Washington Post obituary can be found here
But Victor was more than that. He was a great guy. He was egalitarian, generous and open-minded. He enjoyed watching young people progress as singers and dancers.
“Victor Shargai never looked down at any theater he liked,” said Toby Orenstein on a recent call from her Toby’s Dinner Theater office. “He was a great fan for all, and over the years saw almost every one of our shows. He came to the matinees and said our ‘Les Miz’ was his favorite. I loved him.”
See 2014 Helen Hayes tribute to Victor Shargai.
Victor was one of the first to point out the significance of “cultureless” in the performing arts. As a board member of the Washington Ballet, he traveled to Cuba in 2000 where WB founding director Mary Day re-united with prima ballerina Alicia Alonso at a Hemingway haunt. Victor, of course, was front and center and it was a joy to behold his enthusiasm.
Read article on the ‘Bald’ Ballerina.
He urged the traveling critics to make the reviews substantial so the world could appreciate our work but not cruel to turn away future generations from entering the performing arts.
Looking back over the many years our paths have crossed, I am reminded of his support for “A Labor of Love” AIDS benefits that began in Columbia in 1988. Whether it was a financial donation or an unexpected appearance, the singers, dancers, and this producer approved graciously.
On a personal note, I taught Victor to tap dance a la Broadway – truth me told, he already was a hoofer and could show off some fancy step at a now-torn-down bar near the Anthem, home of his beloved Helen Hayes Awards.
Watch MD Theatre Guide’s interview from 2012. It is 20:15 into the video.