Tuesday, May 13, 2014

American Ballet Theatre Gala

"Some Enchanted Evening"

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Ballet
All photos: Lieba Nesis
(Click on images for larger views)

The American Ballet Theatre held its opening gala featuring an astonishing 14 principal dancers at the Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center. This evening is my favorite event of the year because it manages to perfectly execute 3 incredibly difficult feats: the costumes are lavish and spectacular utilizing Christian Lacroix and David Walker; the music featuring scores by Prokofiev and Mendelssohn is breathtaking, and most importantly, the dancing is simultaneously arresting and dazzling.

 Sigourney Weaver in Lanvin

Kevin McKenzie, the artistic director of ABT, is an expert in showmanship and manages to astound with each gala satisfying ballet connoisseurs and laymen alike. Knowing what a crowd pleaser this evening is I asked my father, who abhors anything but his computer and hard drive, to join me for an evening of wonderment (more on his response later).

Coco Rocha and Karlie Kloss in Lanvin

The gala includes vignettes from ballets such as "Don Quixote," "Coppelia," "Cinderella," and "Manon" as well as 2 ballets specially created for this evening; this format is perfect for those of us who have attention deficit disorder-which includes almost every New Yorker. The performance which began at 6:30 PM, or more precisely 6:42 PM, had an audience consisting among others: actresses Selena Gomez, Emmy Rossum, Zoe Kravitz and Sigourney Weaver; socialites Fe Fendi, Star Jones, Jean Shafiroff, Alexandra Lebenthal, and Julie Macklowe; models Coco Rocha and Karlie Kloss;

Steve and Christine Schwarzman, Amare Stoudemire
and Alexis Welch

businessmen Steve Schwarzman and Valentino Carlotti; and the only basketball player I spotted- Amare Stoudemire. The sponsor for the event was Lanvin with many luminaries such as Rossum, Kloss, Rocha, Weaver and Stoudemire wearing his designs-which were a study in understated elegance, a perfect complement to the evening.

Chiu-Ti Jansen, Jean Shafiroff and Fe Fendi with dancers

The first performance was an abridged "Don Quixote" with lavish sets, full costumes and a thrilling performance by Paloma Herrera. Sigourney Weaver, then came out to praise ABT, which has been performing for over 75 years, for starting programs such as Project Plie to support talented dancers of color because as she stated, "every snowflake is different."

Claudia Szerer & Alexandra Lebenthal in a "Claudia Szerer" dress

She then introduced the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Ballet, comprised of a globally diverse student body ranging in ages from 4-18 years old. These students were polished and professional, dancing almost as well as veterans in the industry. The other sequences in the first act including "Cinderella," and "La Bayadere" were received enthusiastically by the eager audience.

Diana Vishneva and Ivan Vasiliev principal dancers

The second act was equally riveting with Julie Kent and Roberto Bolle bringing the audience to tears during the Pas de Deux to "Manon"- it was haunting and unrelenting in its tortured love scene. However, my favorite of the night, which had some gasping in disbelief, was the specially crafted ballet "Nuages" performed by Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes. Vishneva, crumpled like a folded leaf, with flexibility and sinewyness so captivating the hushed audience, it allowed the movements of these masters to fill the room.

Julie Macklowe, Nina Rennert Davidson, Claudia Bassols,
 and Jennifer Creel

The audience was then regaled with a last act called "Gaite Parisienne" which was a feast for the eyes with dancers garbed in ebullient colors performing the "can-can" and incredible acrobatics. The levity and playfulness of this excerpt was a perfect contrast to the more austere previous sequence. Kevin McKenzie knows how to achieve the perfect balance by presenting disparate ballets back-to-back, increasing interest and decreasing monotony.

Emmy Rossum the actress in Lanvin

The conclusion of the ballet, replete with confetti and screaming audience members was exciting and uplifting. The more affluent participants then headed to the tent which contained a 10 piece band and tables of trees and light ornaments. The photographers feverishly snapped the entering diners with soloists from the ballet streaming in barely recognizable to either the press or the public.

The chairs for the event

The co-chairs announced that over 1.7 million dollars was raised this evening and thanked Kevin McKenzie for his 20 years of distinction and Michelle Obama for being an honorary chair (whatever that means). When I left the tent to find my father, he had a minor grin on his face-the night was an astounding success and even someone as untutored in the ballet as my father was able to recognize it.

Lieba Nesis

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