Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The School of American Ballet Workshop Performance Benefit


All photos Lieba Nesis

The School of American Ballet presented its workshop performance benefit at the Peter J. Sharp Theater at Lincoln Center. Despite the inclement weather, there was a packed house with the usual suspects of ballet devotees: David and Julia Koch, Hamish Bowles, Jean Shafiroff, Amanda Brotman, James Lipton and many other luminaries. The evening began at 5:30 PM with hundreds of people crammed into a small room for cocktails who then proceeded into the Peter Sharp Theater for the performance.

Jean Shafiroff in Oscar de la Renta

This year's benefit celebrated the legendary Rudolf Nureyev who studied at SAB and who subsequently started a dance foundation which established an annual scholarship to support funding for promising students. Peter Martins, the chairman of the SAB faculty, introduced the ballet and presented awards to three worthy students. Martins noted the vast achievements of the workshops which have produced more than 102 ballets, with more than 800 students, for an audience of more than 38,000. The ballet contained vignettes from "Sleeping Beauty," "Stars and Stripes," and choreography from Balanchine, Robbins, Petipa and Bournonville.


David and Julia Koch, with Dr. Elizabeth Hale

The costumes on the ballet dancers were spectacularly ornate with vibrant colors and intricate embroidery and details. These young dancers danced with such enthusiasm and guilelessness that what they lacked in technical expertise they made up for with genuine eagerness. The second act contained a British narrator (those are the only type to have) who introduced the dancers who portrayed various instruments such as the violin, trumpet and piccolo in separate dance movements. This act was exciting and novel and had the crowd bursting in applause.


Hamish Bowles, Amy (editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue) and Chris Astley

The dress code of the evening's attendees was understated elegance with women in Valentino, Oscar de la Renta and Giambattista Valli cocktail dresses-except for Julia Koch who wore a trendy royal blue jumpsuit. Hamish Bowles, who appeared dapper as ever in a Burberry suit complete with purple tie and socks, was commiserating with Amy Astley, the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, as to the unfortunate length of the CFDA awards the night before.


James Lipton, Kedakai Turner and Stuart Coleman

However, both Bowles and Astley were excited for the ballet performances of the evening which proved, thankfully, to be short and sweet. The conclusion of the ballet had guests shuttling to the Mandarin Oriental for dinner and a live auction. The dining room at the Mandarin was beautifully decorated with white flowers, and red and white checkered tablecloths.


Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin and Couri Hay

The room was so full that the dance floor had to be removed to accommodate the vast crowd. After the entrees were served, a live auction was held which included a tennis match with SAB director Peter Martins and a dance class with his wife, former ballerina Darci Kistler. I reluctantly exited the hotel taking one last glimpse of the majestic views of the dining room lending an otherworldly aura to this great annual event.




- Lieba Nesis

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