WHAT DO YOU THINK OF AMERICA HONORING THE ARTS? Oh my God! Music, dance, art — it's totally necessary to a human being, to their heart, to their passion. They can find themselves through the arts. We'd be a sad case if we didn't have the arts. Dancers touch space, they cover space, they attempt to fly, they give you the feeling of elation; beautiful ballet dancers like Baryshnikov just take flight.

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH THE SWELLEGANCE BENEFIT? Jeannette Neill [co-director of Boston Youth Moves] I've known for many, many years. She's one of those people that we need desperately to teach our kids the right way. That basic training is what keeps you strong; that foundation can never be changed. It's thrilling to see it done right. It gives [students] the longevity, it lets them feel positive about themselves so they can express themselves and be recognized. And I think Swellegance is a fabulous name! "Elegance" and "swell" and all of that put together.

YOU'RE RETURNING TO BROADWAY AS PRINCESS PUFFER, THE MADAM, IN THE REVIVAL OF THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD. Yes, I did say yes to that!

YOU COULD STAY HOME LOOKING AT SCRAPBOOKS. YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO BACK TO EIGHT SHOWS A WEEK. I still have a lot to say, a lot to feel, and a lot to express. I like working with good people, they inspire you. To sit home looking at articles and pictures, that's a pretty sad place. You still have a life to live. No one should ever give up on everything just to sit and stare. ^

CHITA RIVERA HEADLINES THE SWELLEGANCE GALA MAY 4 AT THE SHUBERT THEATRE

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