Tuesday, May 14, 2013

American Ballet Theatre Spring Gala

Zang Toi & Julie Macklowe
(All photos: Lieba Nesis)

ABT held its annual Spring gala at the Metropolitan Opera House a week after the Costume Institute Gala took place. One thing is for sure,  punk is not the new trend -- the ladies were dressed elegantly in full length gowns, heavy jewelry, with bright colors making a big comeback. This event is my favorite soiree of the year. Kevin McKenzie, the artistic director, always puts on such an exciting performance; he literally transforms classically trained dancers into full on acrobats with ornate costumes, great orchestral music, and exciting showmanship.

Dancers Sarah Smith, Misty Copeland &  Jennifer Whalen

As a former ballet dancer at the Joffrey School of Ballet, I enjoy the American Ballet Theatre dancers because they are technically masterful; with so many guest dancers from the Russian Mariinsky Ballet this event is hard to resist. The crowd was comprised of celebrities such as Lucy Liu, Christine Baranski and Ashlee Simpson, socialites Blaine Trump, Julia Koch and many others, models Chanel Iman, Coco Rocha and Alek Wek and designers such as Zang Toi and Dennis Basso. There were ladies in stripes, ladies in white, and ladies in pastels. My two favorites of the night were Lucy Liu, in an elegant white Vivienne Westwood gown and Jamie Tisch in a pale green Oscar de la Renta confection.

Jamie Tisch & Cameron Silver

The event was sponsored by Dior with Michelle Obama, Caroline Kennedy and Blaine Trump as the honorary chairs. Unfortunately, Obama and Kennedy were nowhere in sight. The ballet featured small vignettes of ballets that would be shown over the next eight weeks to give the audience a taste of what to expect. This is a clever ploy as it whets the audience's appetite for the approaching season. Another regular feature of this gala is the performance of up and coming dance stars of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. This allows the young dancers to experience being in front of a gala packed audience at a fledgling age. The simplicity of the student's movements was enhanced by their plain blue leotards allowing the audience to focus on the intricacy of their repartee. The coordination of the men's and women's costumes for the other acts in the ballet was perfection with the men mirroring and complementing the colors in the women's outfits providing a harmonious coupling.

Lucy Liu wearing Vivienne Westwood

Lately, I have noticed men stepping up their fashion game with little recognition from the media. Cameron Silver, owner of the vintage clothing line Decades, was there in a vintage Versace tuxedo embellished with diamonds, sparkles and a wild animal print. He said, "I skipped the Costume Gala this year for the first time in six years and I am glad. The Costume Institute theme went against the grain of the Gala which is the antithesis of punk-the Gala is all about elegance and beauty-it just did not fit." Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, was elegant and appropriately aristocratic in a custom made long jacketed tuxedo with studded buttons from his own jewelry collection. Zang Toi showed up in a white skirt and tuxedo jacket with black tights. These men deserve plaudits for their risky and effective fashion choices. Another fashion iconoclast, Suzanne Bartsch, sported a black Mohawk with ripped pants and heavy black makeup - so I guess there are some punks at the ballet.

Suzannne Bartsch & Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia

At the conclusion of the ballet,  the star studded crowd replete with numerous photographers snapping their pictures, made their way to the lavishly adorned tent for dinner and dancing. As Sigourney Weaver said at the beginning of the night, "Spring has not arrived until the ABT Spring gala happens". If this ballet is a harbinger of the season to come, then Spring should be a triumphant return to the elegance of the past.




-Lieba Nesis








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