(All photos Lieba Nesis)
The American Ballet Theatre held its 75th Anniversary Gala at the Metropolitan Opera House to a sold out audience. This event has been on the calendar of every socialite from New York to California for the past six months with the elite of the country waiting for this exciting happening. This evening surpassed even the most jaded New Yorker's expectations with a Who's Who of New York society attending to show their appreciation and adoration for this incredible Company. Kevin McKenzie, the Artistic Director of ABT, continues to dazzle with his jaw-dropping sets and costumes and this evening he outdid himself.
|Amy Fine Collins and Hamish Bowles|
The astounding guest list exceeded expectations including socialites: David and Julia Koch, Amy Fine Collins, Kelly Rutherford, Christine Schwarzman, Di Mondo, Fe Fendi, Alexandra Lebenthal, Blaine Trump, Jean and Martin Shafiroff, Gillian and Sylvester Miniter, Emily Blavatnik, Muffie Aston, Leslie Ziff, Julie Macklowe and hundreds more. There were also fashion heavyweights Hamish Bowles, Giovanna Battaglia, Cameron Silver, Peter Copping, Zang Toi, Jessica Stam and Anh Duong sprinkled amongst the glitterati.
|Giovanna Battaglia in Herrera & Anh Duong in Alta Moda|
The sponsor of the event, Escada, dressed many of the evening's guests including Christine Schwarzman, Jessica Stam and Kelly Rutherford, but unfortunately only distributed free Escada stationery at the conclusion of the evening. There were so many luminaries lining the lobby of the Metropolitan House the normally punctual ballet started 15 minutes late.
|Jean Shafiroff, Zang Toi, and Julie Macklowe all wearing Zang Toi|
This Gala is my favorite of the year as it contains vignettes of upcoming ballets as well as the creation of new dances produced especially for the evening. This is the only event my father agrees to leave his desk for, and this year he appeared in a suit and tie awaiting the excitement of the night (although I wish he had not eaten garlic 10 minutes before), which he had joyfully witnessed one year before.
|Laura Nicklas Mary Snow Despina Yarian |
and Susan Fales Hill
This year our third row seats allowed me to view every muscle protruding from the dancers bodies-and I must say some of the male "muscles" were larger than others. The intensity of the dancers emotions, which I was able to closely witness, left me invigorated; the importance of a front row seat in a highly interactive discipline such as the ballet (last year we were in the last row) should not be underestimated.
|Kelly Rutherford and Di Mondo|
This evening was all about the history of ABT with numerous short films shown while Sigourney Weaver, Joel Grey, Kevin McKenzie and Susan Jaffe appeared on stage to recount the history of the American Ballet Theatre. Choreographers Agnes de Mille, Jerome Robbins, Antony Tudor, Alexei Ratmansky, Natalia Makarova, Twyla Tharp and George Balanchine were paid tribute to and their ballets were performed by the current ABT dancers. When former ballerina Susan Jaffe showed clips of Baryshnikov dancing with ABT, later becoming its artistic director, the audience burst into applause- Baryshnikov's jumps and turns were gravity-defying.
|Christine Schwarzman, Kalliope Rena, and Fe Fendi|
The other choreographed pieces included cowboys, sailors, slaves, and swans, all with costumes and sets executed to perfection-leading me to worry as to how the ballet would afford the extravagance of this extravaganza despite the fact that this evening raised 2.3 million dollars. One vignette even inadvertently paid homage to Bruce Jenner with male dancer Daniil Simkin wearing a white tutu and headdress in a scheme to trick his companion during the Russian Revolution in a piece called "The Bright Stream." A man in drag is about as modern as dance can get and it was a great tongue-in-cheek moment. Simkin astounded the audience throughout the night with his jumps, pirouettes and larger than life stage presence and received thunderous applause in the finale.
|Dancer Diana Vishneva|
However, my favorite sequence of the evening, which had much of the crowd in tears, was "Manon" which was performed exquisitely by Julie Kent, who will soon be retiring, and Marcelo Gomes. The utter romanticism and beauty of this piece was haunting and otherworldly. McKenzie did not miss a trick, performing classics "Giselle," "Swan Lake," "La Sylphide," and "Don Quixote"-staples of the ballet and definite crowd pleasers.
|Principal dancer Marcelo Gomes at the dinner|
This evening, which also celebrated the Jacqueline Kennedy School of Ballet's 10th year Anniversary, saved the students' incredible performance for the latter portion of the evening, with ebullient teenagers in multicolored leotards and a starry backdrop dancing with unbridled enthusiasm. The finale of the Ballet included retired dancers and choreographers as well as current principals arriving on stage with confetti streaming down on these incredible performers. However, the fun had just begun with dancers and well-heeled guests making their way into the tents nearby.
The dining room was the most elegant I have ever seen, with silver tablecloths, pink and white flowers and crystal chandeliers adorning each table. There were so many beautiful "swans" wearing Oscar de la Renta, Roland Mouret, Chanel, Valentino and Zang Toi, it was dizzying. The actress Jennifer Tilly flew in from Los Angeles for the occasion and looked voluptuously divine in a lilac Monique Lhuillier gown.
|Jennifer Tilly, chair Sutton Stracke and Star Jones|
Tilly said her favorite designer was Dolce and Gabbana because their dresses are "good for all shapes and sizes." Tilly wishes she could be skinny like the rest of Los Angeles, and told me she went from movies to Broadway because she finds New Yorkers and the stage more forgiving to full-figured women-especially since the screen adds on 15-20 pounds. Tilly's intelligence and candor were refreshing, expressing an appreciation of the ballet's film footage and historical perspective-a sentiment mirrored by many of the dinner attendees.
Overall the gala was a smash success with socialites enthusiastically dancing to the tunes of the ten-piece band and snapping photos of each other. Kevin McKenzie, who earlier in the evening spoke of the more than 466 works that have been performed by over 1212 of the world's finest dancers, managed the most incredible feat of all - getting my father to ask if I could purchase a ticket for next year's spectacular show.
- Lieba Nesis