Accolade, the belle of the Ball

York University’s Accolade Project was the guest of honour at the 40th anniversary of the Brazilian Carnival Ball.


Sixteen hundred guests, clad in tuxedos and gowns befitting the red carpet at a Hollywood awards ceremony, arrived at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on May 13 to attend what has become one of the top charitable galas in Canada. The ball celebrates the diversity and culture of Brazil and Rio’s Carnival, through costumes, music and dance. Since its humble beginnings out of a church basement in 1966, the Brazilian Carnival Ball has raised over $42 million for charities in Canada and Brazil thanks to the work of Brazilian Ball founder and president Anna Maria de Souza.


Left: Taking a break at the ball are, top row, York Chancellor Emeritus Avie Bennett (left), Kathy Kinnear, York University Foundation Chair Timothy Price, Mary Brown and Covell Brown; bottom row, Helen Griffiths (left), Jim Griffiths, York President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden, Alan Dean and Frances Price.


This year’s ball resulted in a new investment of $2 million into the Accolade Project and fine arts student support. Proceeds from the ball included the sale of raffle tickets, which will be matched two to one by the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) program to assist graduate students in the Faculty of Fine Arts. In addition, a live auction was held, the proceeds of which will be matched one to one by the Ontario Trust for Student Support (OTSS) program, to benefit fine arts students at the undergraduate level.


Toronto Deputy Mayor and York alumna Sandra Bussin (BA ’74) commented at the event that people like de Souza help to make Toronto great, and that de Souza’s dedication and generosity have enriched the quality of many lives. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, another York grad (LLB ’73), brought good wishes and congratulations to de Souza from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.



Right: Brazilian ball founder Anna Maria de Souza with her husband, Ivan de Souza


Phillip Silver, dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, and Paul Marcus, president and CEO of the York University Foundation, presented de Souza with an original painting by renowned Canadian artist and York University Professor Emeritus Ron Bloore in thanks for her support.


“This is a very special evening,” said Silver. “To see the enthusiasm from those who are so committed to this project and who are supporting York University, Fine Arts and the Accolade Project, is just great. We thank Anna Maria de Souza for her support and congratulate her on 40 fabulous years!”


A video, produced by CTV, illustrated the ways in which the new Accolade buildings are improving the lives of students in fine arts and across the University. To view the video, click here.




Right: Phillip Silver (left), Anna Maria de Souza, Paul Marcus, Max Gotlieb, Heather Gotlieb and Sandra Bussin as the painting is presented


“This Faculty is marvelous,” said Lorna R. Marsden, president and vice-chancellor of York University. “It’s the oldest faculty of fine arts in the country, combining theory and practice and for the first time in 30 years, the Accolade Project brings all of the parts of Fine Arts together into one space. They interact with one another; their interdisciplinary nature is just extraordinary.”


Max and Heather Gotlieb, who chaired this year’s sold-out Ball, expressed their gratitude to guests and mentioned their reasons for volunteering.


Left: Brazilian Ball co-Chairs Max and Heather Gotlieb


“I have a significant connection to York,” Max Gotlieb (BA ’72, LLB ’75, LLM ’97) told guests. “I have three degrees from York, I am a former faculty member in the law school and a member of the York University Foundation’s Board of Directors. York has given me much, and this was an opportunity to contribute back. It’s a great school and both Heather and myself are delighted to be involved.”


Opening the evening was LĂșcia Perez who sang the Brazilian national anthem. Vania Chan, a York Department of Music student, sang the Canadian national anthem with operatic flair as the audience sang along.


Supporters of the ball included presenting sponsor Scotiabank Group, represented at the event by Sabi Marwah, Scotiabank’s vice-chairman and chief administrative officer, and premier sponsor CIBC.


“Scotiabank has always had a strong commitment to education and is proud to support students in pursuing their goals and obtaining a first-class education through institutions like York University,” said Marwah. “By supporting a diverse range of educational programs, including the Accolade Project, Scotiabank hopes to give young people experiences to develop their potential, ultimately enriching themselves and the broader community around them.”


Also instrumental to the success of the Brazilian Ball were honorary chairs:



  • George W. & Helen Vari
  • Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan
  • Cheryl & Rob McEwen
  • Dr. Barry & Honey Sherman
  • Ajay & Monica Virmani.

A magnet for high society, the entertainment industry, government, and other high profile individuals, this year’s Ball attracted celebrity guests including CTV News anchor and York Fine Arts graduate Sandie Rinaldo (BA ’73); Brazilian actress and television personality Luciana Gimenez; “Canada AM” co-host Seamus O’Regan of CTV; “House and Home” host Lynda Reeves of Global; fashion journalist Jeanne Beker; and Rick Mercer of CBC’s “The Mercer Report”.


 “I’m not from Toronto,” said Mercer, “but I went online and read about where the money is going in terms of arts and culture, and that’s why I’m here.”


Right: The Brazilian Ball featured elaborate entertainment


The evening culminated in a 30-minute Samba Parade of Rio Carnival, a percussive procession of costumed dancers along a black and white checkerboard floor, beneath chandeliers adorned with hundreds of long, mirrored cylinders. The goal of the samba parade was to “display the colour, excitement and happiness of Carnival and to illustrate the cultural contrasts of the Brazilian people”. Dancers in ornate feathered, bejeweled and hand-beaded costumes travelled on foot and on wooden horses, moving to the hypnotic and infectious beat of the batucada rhythm, while dazzling the audience with a taste of Rio’s Carnival.


After the formal portion of the gala was concluded, the Cocktail Brazil Band and Stars From Rio struck a tropical tempo and caused a chain reaction of conga lines made up of Brazilian dancers and Ball-goers. The party lasted well into the night.


This is the second time York has been the recipient of the proceeds from the Ball. The first time was in 1998, benefiting the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution.


This article was submitted to YFile by Carrie Brodi, senior communications officer, York University Foundation