Thursday, October 22, 2015

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

The ABT Fall Gala-75 Years of Perfection

Young dancers
All photos: Lieba Nesis
Click on images for full size views

American Ballet Theatre (ABT) opened its fall season with a gala at the David H. Koch Theater last night, Wednesday October 21st. I thought fall started a month ago but who am I to complain, especially when their winter gala is in March. I was a bit skeptical as to the turnout and my fears were confirmed when I arrived to a less than crowded room with publicist Couri Hay commenting on the sparseness of the audience.


Hamish Bowles in Tom Ford, Anh Duong & Amy Fine Collins in Zac Posen

I wondered where David Koch and Leonard Lauder were, and why they would miss this spectacular evening which featured the New York premiere of choreographer Mark Morris, the company premiere of "Monotones I and II" by Frederick Ashton, and the revival opening of Twyla Tharp's Brahms-Haydn Variations. However, the evening which started at 6:30 pm with a less than spectacular beginning ended up being a smash success with a varied crowd that spanned all decades, races and genders.


Choreographer Mark Morris, Jean Shafiroff in Oscar de la Renta
and Isaac Mizrahi

There were socialites such as Susan Rockefeller, Fe Fendi, Jean Shafiroff, Joy Marks, Nicole DiCocco and Zani Gugelmann there as well as fashion icons Amy Fine Collins, Hamish Bowles and Anh Duong. Moreover, "femme fatales" Jennifer Tilly, Nicole Scherzinger and Laverne Cox sat obediently in the audience as publicist Peggy Siegal looked on.


Anthony Spikes, Mia Lolli, John Utendahl, Hope and Robert Smith,
with Seren & Michael Shvo

The evening's sponsors were JPMorgan Chase and Co. and the honorees were Toni and Martin Sosnoff who accepted the Melville Straus Leadership Achievement Award-they must have given a lot of money.


Joy Marks in Maggie Norris, Tivia Kramer in Chanel and Nicole DiCocco
in Juan Carlos Pinera

The gala co-chairs were Sarah Arison, Melissa Smith, Sutton Stracke, Monica Wambold and Leslie Ziff all of whom are prominent philanthropists and donate time and energy into supporting the arts.


Choreographer Mark Morris with principal dancer Marcelo Gomes

American Ballet Theatre has been injected with a new excitement with the recent appointment of Misty Copeland as the first African-American woman to be named a principal in the 75-year history of ABT. As the ballet began, I rushed to my front row seat barely making it on time for the curtains to open and hear Kevin McKenzie announce the electrifying program we were about to witness in celebration of ABT's 75 years. Act 1 which was choreographed by Mark Morris and costumed by Isaac Mizrahi was colorful and fluid.


Principal dancer Daniil Simkin in Ann Demeulemeester tuxedo

The dancers in gypsy looking outfits in orange, pink and yellow danced to music by Johann Hummel, with an enthusiastic lightness. There was some man-on-man partnering which I have noticed is becoming a trend in the dance world. Being in the front row allowed me to view every facial expression and movement of the dancers which was thrilling;



I must say the male dancers were very handsome with boyish looks and thick hair. Isaac Mizrahi did a nice job on the costumes which were simple and utilitarian-the dancers in bright colors looked like life savers jumping across the stage. After a brief intermission, Frederick Ashton's "Monotones I and II" was presented which is a one-act ballet in two parts. This was my favorite act of the night with dancers Stella Abrera, Isabella Boylston, and Joseph Gorak performing the first section in lime green unitards with matching turbans bedecked with crystals.


Richard Keilar & Principal dancer Hee Seo in Oscar de la Renta and Ethan Lim

The next chapter was sublime and breathtaking; Veronika Part was accompanied by Thomas Foster and Cory Stearns in one of the most sensual pieces I have ever viewed at the ballet. The threesome clad in white unitards with white headpieces, both of which contained embedded crystals danced with a provocativeness that cannot be described. Every muscle of Veronika was bulging with a sinewiness that was shocking, and a flexibility that was remarkable. I wish I could have recorded this movement to relish each step for its full splendor-this was a moment worthy of reliving.


Actress Laverne Cox in Dee Hutton


It was time for another intermission where I had the opportunity to speak to Laverne Cox who urged me not to shoot her feet as she had just changed into flatter shoes after wearing 6.5 inch heels-no one asked her to become a woman. Cox was in a blue Dee Hutton dress and ready for a fun evening out.


Jewelry designer-Pamela Love in Chanel with model Crystal Renn
in Armani

There were some fashion choices that were outstanding and those women deserve to be mentioned: Jean Shafiroff was in a lovely pink-and-gold Oscar de la Renta dress with floor length ruffles; Amy Fine Collins dazzled in a one of a kind Zac Posen that was fit to perfection; Crystal Renn stood out in a cutout Armani gown with a black bob hairdo; and finally, Zani Gugelmann astounded in a Valentino blue embroidered gown.

Liz Peek in Oscar de la Renta and Fe Fendi in Fendi dress

As these lovelies headed to their seats a revival of Twyla Tharp's "Brahms-Haydn Variations" was performed with dance attire by Santo Loquasto. The costumes were nude and white leotards with matching skirts aptly described by Jennifer Tilly as similar to a Yeezy (Kanye West) fashion show. While nude and beige may be the non-color of the moment this coupled with the indistinguishable dance variation, was a disappointing conclusion to a 75th anniversary presentation. However, the music by Johannes Brahms was delightful with great dancing by Daniil Simkin and Herman Cornejo.

Sutton Stracke, Cameron Silver, Jennifer Tilly in Dolce and Gabbana, Kay Fernandez in Ted Baker
 and Susan Rockefeller in Morgane Le Fay

A dinner was set up on the second floor of the Theater where the well-heeled patrons and dancers could interact in a social setting.  The actress Jennifer Tilly, in a one of a kind Dolce and Gabbana dress that she picked up in Milan, expounded on the ballet describing it as highly traditional in terms of dance moves, and highly untraditional in terms of costumes. She is a highly intelligent woman despite her ditzy stage persona.

Principal dancer Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland, a slight figure compared to her larger than life media persona, entered the arena to a bevy of admirers while principal dancer Daniil Simkin took his seat with little fanfare. Simkin, in a print Ann Demeulemeester tuxedo, told me his ideal dancer is a mixture of Baryshnikov and Nureyev with his father's work ethic (his dad was a professional ballet dancer).


Singer Nicole Scherzinger in Marc Bouwer

As the dancing began to the Madonna tune "Express Yourself" the young apprentices with ABT showed some vibrant "expressive" moves while Fe Fendi, Hamish Bowles and Amy Fine Collins boogied nearby. The balmy weather outside was a perfect complement to this pleasant, serene and otherworldly evening.





- Lieba Nesis

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