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Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Exclusive Interview with a Celiac Fundraising Superstar
Alan and I at the 2013 Celiac Gala in NYC
Over the eight years I have been organizing the NYC Celiac Meetup group, I've had the opportunity to meet some really amazing people living with Celiac Disease. These people are everyday New Yorkers with exciting jobs and a passion for raising Celiac awareness. Alan Olshan, the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Paul Taylor Dance Company, is one of those people that I met through our group.

I cannot exactly remember the first time Alan and I met, but I feel like we have been friends forever. Alan comes to each Meetup with a smile and a friendly attitude. Talking hockey and baseball to some members or modern dance and classical music to others. We've shared many delicious gluten-free meals and joked about other flops (tepid rolls, yuck!). He has always leant a friendly ear which is always much appreciated. He introduced me to modern dance and even let me sit in on a prestigious rehearsal of the Paul Taylor Dance Company. He's become a real friend and ally in the NYC Celiac scene.

A few years ago, I started helping Alan with promotion of a Celiac fundraiser he put together with the Paul Taylor Dance Company to raise awareness and funds for the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. This year marks the 9th year of this fundraiser and I wanted to sit down (via email) to ask Alan some questions about the event, Celiac, and what has changed over the years.

Join Alan and I on Tuesday, March 18th at the 9th Annual Paul Taylor Dance Company fundraiser at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for a gluten-free cocktail party and stunning performance by the company itself. Click here for more information about purchasing tickets. 

Photo: Laura Halzack in Paul Taylor's Private Domain,
photo by Paul B. Goode.
Interview with Alan Olshan, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Paul Taylor Dance Company

Gluten-Free Fun: What is the Paul Taylor Dance Company?
Alan Olshan: After studying at Syracuse and Juilliard, Paul Taylor began to dance professionally and choreograph in 1954. He is the last living pioneer of modern dance and ranks with the legendary Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham as a principal founder of this American art form. The Company performs Mr. Taylor’s ever-growing collection of dances, which now numbers 140, around the country and throughout the world.

GFF: How did you get involved with the PTDC fundraiser for the Celiac Disease Center at 
AO: In 2004 I asked a friend about creating a fundraiser to benefit the Celiac Disease Center, and Cynthia Beckman at the Center was eager to work with us. Luckily, Dr. Green is a huge fan of dance.

GFF: How many years have you been organizing this fundraiser?
AO: This year marks our ninth effort.

GFF: Why is this cause so important to you? 
AO: I lived for 50 years with Celiac – eating gluten – before I discovered that contrary to what my parents were told when I was a newborn, one does not outgrow Celiac at six. I want to support the CDC’s efforts to identify those with Celiac so they don’t suffer needlessly as I did.

GFF: What is your favorite part about this Celiac Disease Center fundraiser?
AO: I love the cooperation we get from people like Edena at Pala Pizza, and Ceil and George at Foods by George. And of course the Celiac Meetup has been incredibly helpful in spreading the word of the event and building an audience for it.

GFF: How have things changed since you started organizing?
AO: After the one year when we ran out of pizza in five minutes, we now ration the slices so everyone gets some!

GFF: How can people buy tickets?
AO: Folks just call me at 646.214.5821 with a credit card; I seat the Meetup group together. For more expensive tickets, one calls the box office at 212.496.0600.

GFF: What is included in the ticket price? 
AO: Whether the tickets are bought through Meetup or through the box office, the prices include a donation to the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia, admission to the pre-performance light supper including pizza from Pala and dessert from Foods by George, and of course a performance by the Paul Taylor Dance Company at Lincoln Center. I always choose a program that I think the group would especially like, and this year includes a comedy, a very alluring work and Mr. Taylor’s signature dance, Esplanade.

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