|Dancers with their choreographer|
(All photos: Lieba Nesis)
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The School of American Ballet held its 2014 Winter Ball at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater. The event began at 7 p.m. with a cocktail hour and red carpet on the ground floor.The crowd was a mix of New York's elite with billionaires, socialites, dancers and financiers sprinkled throughout the room. This event was celebrating the 80th Anniversary of SAB and Van Cleef and Arpels was the lead corporate sponsor for the 7th consecutive year, with Gilles Mendel, sponsoring the Winter Ball after-party. The School of American Ballet established in 1934 by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein, is the official training academy of the New York City Ballet and is considered the premier ballet academy in the United States. The proceeds of this event allow SAB to distribute 1.9 million in student scholarships as well as support the faculty and the state-of-the art facilities.
|Jean Shafiroff, Fe Fendi, and Chiu-ti Jansen|
David Koch, and his wife Julia, major supporters of the ballet, were one of the first to arrive, and they were quickly followed by Mikhail Baryshnikov and his wife Lisa, and social luminaries such as Fe Fendi, Jean Shafiroff, Alexandra Lebenthal, Chiu-ti-Jansen, Jill Kopelman and Kelly Rutherford. Mark Green, even showed up, sporting a full beard- I guess he got the memo that facial hair is in style for men. While there were no academy award attendees at the event many of the women looked at least as good as those present at last night's ceremony and some of them were wearing jewels to rival Tinseltown starlets.
The lobby of the theater was replete with photographers and their subjects and yet there was a certain intimacy present in the crowd that I attributed to a common love for the arts and culture. When I asked David Koch, who has donated upwards of 100 million to the ballet why he loved dance so much he humbly stated, "New York is the dance capital of the world. This theater bearing my name is like an old home to me and I have a strong bond with the building. The ballet is so great because it is a combination of so many magical elements: fabulous athleticism, gorgeous music and sets, and beautiful costumes. The youth of the dancers and the audience, as opposed to the opera, also lends an excitement to this art form."
J. Mendel similarly reiterated his love for dance originating from his Franco Russian heritage and much of his Fall 2014 collection was a tribute to the world of the ballet. Mendel one of the sponsors of the event, has designed the costumes for two previous performances and whereas, he compares creating clothing for models to hangers on the runway he dresses dancers to enhance their work and help create their character- he is a tool in telling their story not his own.
|Alexandra Lebenthal in Bibhu Mohapatra|
The other major sponsor, Van Cleef and Arpels, sent Nicholas Luchsinger from Paris, the international retail director at Van Cleef, to attend this important event and collaboration that has existed between Van Cleef and SAB. Nicholas recounted how George Balanchine based his famous "Jewels" ballet where he referred to the dancers as diamonds, rubies and emeralds on his friendship with Claude Arpels and from viewing the gems on display in the window of Van Cleef. This partnership includes collaborative luncheons and ballet performances for Van Cleef clients held throughout the year. This important alliance is critical to Arpels and one they will continue to support.
As the guests headed to the second floor, with its beautiful views and elegant ambience, the room was filled with stars on the ceiling and pictures of the dancers on a projection screen. The dinner which featured, to the dismay of many, beef pot pie and some side dishes, was accompanied by an incredible performance by 27 of the most promising SAB students. The dancers moved with an authenticity and naivete that brought me to tears and had the audience standing on their feet enthusiastically applauding these young artists. The crowd which had now filled up with young patrons arriving for the dessert segment of the night began dancing to the disco portion of the evening with the ballerinas, accompanied by Peter Martins, joining in the revelry. This vast space in Lincoln Center with its magnificent decor and scenery epitomized what makes New York so great; the richness of its cultural life coupled with the sophistication of its inhabitants makes it a metropolis that is in a league of its own.