School of American Ballet Winter Ball Kicks-off NY Party Season

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The School of American Ballet (SAB) held its annual Winter Ball celebrating its 85th Anniversary on Monday March 11, 2019 with cocktails beginning at 7 PM at the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center. SAB, the official yet independent training academy of New York City Ballet, was established in 1934 by legends George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein, who were 29 and 26 at the time, as an academy to rival that of the long established companies in Europe and Russia.

Harry Kargman, Coco Kopelman, Jill Kargman and Hamish Bowles

The success of this school exceeded all expectations as it remains the foremost academy in the world with dancers from all over congregating at Lincoln Center to study with the renowned faculty and student body. More than 1,000 students, selected from 3,000 that audition, ages 6 to 19 are trained annually with over 46% of the students benefiting from $2 million in financial aid.

This glamorous event has taken place for the past 14 years and it is a must on the calendar of socialites and philanthropists as Julia Koch, Jean Shafiroff, Jill Kargman, Indre Rockefeller, Coco Kopelman, Amanda Brotman and Hamish Bowles joined in their finest threads to toast the young dancers.

This year was also welcoming new Artistic Director Jonathan Stafford who is replacing Peter Martins – who was forced to retire after serving 30 years. Martins was accused of verbal and physical abuse with a joint inquiry finding no corroboration of harassment or violence. The charisma and expertise of Martins dominated the halls of the Ballet School for three decades as he was one of the most respected dancers of his generation. Martins close friendship with George Balanchine was legendary and in 1983 he was handpicked by Balanchine to be his successor.

It is safe to say the “shoes” of Martins will be nearly impossible to fill with Stafford up against indomitable odds. I can remember attending this event in 2017 when Martins was at the helm, and how the energy of the room transformed when he entered with his sequined tie as Chelsea Clinton and David Koch stood excitedly nearby.

Stafford was similarly a soloist at New York City Ballet (NYCB) from 2007-2014 but failed to live up to the storied career of Martins who partnered Suzanne Farrell in one of the most epic couplings in ballet history. Stafford is a non-controversial choice and his expertise and polite demeanor might be the perfect fit for SAB and NYCB at this chaotic time.

The evening was sponsored by First Republic and Epoch Estate Wines who lacked the glamour of prior sponsor Van Cleef and Arpels who lent their jewels to numerous dancers. Gala Chairs were Kathryn Beal, Joyce Giuffra, and Sally Shreeves, with Young Patron Chairs Amanda Brotman, Joshua Greene, Kylie van Hoek and Stephanie Sharp. Tickets for the event started at $1,500 and climbed to $5,000 for the best seats as attendees were treated to a delicious steak dinner and better service than nearly any four star restaurant.

The night began with Executive Director Carrie Hinrichs announcing that more than $1 million dollars had been raised for the scholarship program. Hinrichs welcomed Jonathan Stafford who said he was humbled and excited to assume his new position.

We were then shown a film where the young dancers spoke about the opportunities the generous scholarship program provided – admitting they would have not been able to attend SAB without it. The film would have been more effective if the names of the dancers were given as they spoke so as to personalize their experience on a more intimate level.

We were then treated to a 9 minute ballet danced by 35 of the dancers ranging in age from 12-16. Emily Kikta who is a member of NYCB’s corps de ballet choreographed the piece with her father Thomas composing the music-remarking that he listened to all of his daughter’s instructions as any composer would do. Emily has been working on this short dance since November and the simple movements and choreography were delightful; the students danced with a pride and enthusiasm that brought tears to my eyes.

The dance concluded with the DJ spinning some Madonna and Cardi B tunes as the dancers took to the floor.  Worth noting was the absence of Michael Jackson in this year’s DJ set-paradigmatic of the ballet’s shift to a more politically correct era.

Lieba Nesis

My love of fashion, writing and photography were something that always dominated my lifestyle however it wasn't until I was approached by the editor of Lookonline that I realized I could utilize these three skills in combination.

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