The New York City Ballet Raises Over $2.5 Million in Record-Breaking Gala

The New York City Ballet (NYCB) held its 2016 Fall Gala on Tuesday September 20th with cocktails starting at 5:30 PM. This is my fifth year going to this annual happening; and I must say this year surpassed all others.  There were a number of firsts that added to the excitement starting with the appearance of Broadway star Matthew Broderick who accompanied Sarah Jessica-a highly unusual occurrence.

Matthew Broderick

In fact after hearing about the Jolie-Pitt split and seeing Broderick turn up with a very young looking blonde-I was thankful it was Sarah Jessica Parker-this woman ages in reverse. Parker was wearing Narciso Rodriguez and her faux “Sex and the City” boyfriend Aleksandr Petrovsky aka ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov, was also in the house.

Sarah Jessica Parker in Narciso Rodriguez

Some other thespians included Diane Kruger, who is quickly becoming a fashion icon, wearing a puffy sleeved Giambattista Valli dress and Julianna Margulies running by in a black dress by “Self Portrait”. Another first was the introduction of choreographers Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Peter Walker and Lauren Lovette creating their first works for NYCB.

Diane Kruger in Giambattista Valli

As I entered the lobby, a display of couture ballet costumes including those crafted by Iris Van Herpen, Carolina Herrera and Sarah Burton greeted me on both sides. I was unaware tonight was celebrating the five-year collaboration of “Choreography and Couture” that began at the New York City Ballet in 2012 with Valentino’s highly acclaimed costumes for “Bal De Couture” blowing the crowd away in 2012 with its’ beautiful impracticality.

Costume designer Marc Happel with Nazee Moinian in Michael Kors

This evening had celebrated designers Narciso Rodriguez, Dries Van Noten, Jason Wu, and Rosie Assoulin continuing this tradition by designing the costumes in collaboration with genius Marc Happel. The list of socialites/philanthropists at the extravaganza, many of whom were dressed by the aforementioned designers, was overwhelming.

Jean Shafiroff in Victor de Souza with Victor de Souza
& Patricia Mears in Jean Yu

They included: Fe Fendi, Nazee and Joseph Moinian, Robert Kraft and Ricki Lander, Julia Koch, Jean and Martin Shafiroff, Gilian and Sylvester Miniter, Ulla Parker, Emily Blavatnik, Jill and Harry Kargman, Anh Duong, and supermodels Anna Ewers and Constance Jablonski.

Left to right Choreographer Justin Peck, Catherine Beck in Carven, Ronald Beck
and Jeremy Bronfman

The ballet opened with a short film detailing the collaboration between choreographer Lauren Lovette and Narciso Rodriguez. Lovette said she enjoyed working with Narciso since he is all about “clean movement” and showcasing the dancer’s bodies. Lovette is a 24-year-old prima ballerina and it was her first choreographed piece for the company. Peter Martins, artistic director, gave her one restriction and that was to make it a 15-minute piece.

Narciso Rodriguez

With her work “For Clara” Lovette used a cast of 17 dancers set to Robert Schumann’s “Introduction and Concert Allegro, Op. 134.” The piece was exciting and complex with Rodriguez’s costumes allowing the dancer’s to move swiftly without enhancing their appearance. After all Narciso is the guy who gave Carolyn Bessette a white slip dress to wear to her wedding in 1996.

 Sterling Hyltin in Rosie Assoulin with Richard Kielar
and Choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa in Les Femmes

The next world premiere was “The Dreamers” and featured choreography by Justin Peck with costumes by Belgian designer Dries Van Noten. A video was shown where we were told Dries was reclusive but used Mark Rothko as one of his guides for creating the costumes. Dries, who did not attend the ballet, said that he wanted to “surprise himself” as a designer. He surprised me with his lackluster color-blocked dress; however, dancers Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar regaled the audience with their romantic pas de deux adagio.

Editor Amy Astley in Peter Pilotto, with Elizabeth Tnt in Chanel,
Mark Guidicci, and Chris Astley.

Following generous applause, designer Jason Wu and choreographer Peter Walker were featured in a film where they spoke of collaborating on “Ten in Seven” with costume designer Marc Happel stating that they both contained strong personalities. Wu said that he liked the modernism of the Walker choreography and sought to mimic this with his neon costumes combining them with lace to pay homage to the more traditional side of the ballet.

Rosie Assoulin with Zani Gugelmann and Leandra Medine
all wearing Rosie Assoulin

The Wu attire was my favorite in neon green, pink and blue with elaborate lace however, he did not sufficiently “Woo” me like Peter Copping and Zuhair Murad did in past years. During a brief intermission I bumped into Rosie Assoulin who had dressed Zani Gugelmann, Leandra Medine and herself for the gala in colorful, showstopping attire so I was excitedly anticipating her costumes featured in the last act.

Courtney Crangi and Jenna Lyons – both in J Crew

Marc Happel referred to Rosie as a “tornado” and choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, the second female choreographer of the night, said she loved working with her. This premiere entitled “Unframed” was all about the ladies with guest solo cellist Sara Sant’Ambrogio performing with a soulfulness that was riveting – I found myself crying.

Anabella Murphy in Temperley, Dana Auslander in Alberta Ferretti
and Dori Cooperman in Oscar de la Renta

The costumes by Assoulin had the first dancers looking like stewardesses in blue and white ensembles, and the following dancers in blue and white underwear with flowing hair resembling Calvin Klein undergarment ads. Yes the dancer’s bodies were beautiful but a bulge or two left out of the picture creates some mystery.

Dancer Amar Ramasar in Dries, Julia Koch in Oscar de la Renta
and dancer Zachary Catazaro

Just as I was about to leave, Sarah Jessica Parker appeared in a film heralding her brainchild – the 18 designers who have worked with a roster of 12 choreographers in combining fashion and dance.

Owner of the Patriots Robert Kraft with gala chairwoman
Ricki Lander in Narciso

Valerie Steele, director of FIT, said she especially enjoyed the 2013 costumes created by Iris Van Herpen with plastic shards corresponding to the musculature of the dancer’s body and sequined boots worn over their pointe shoes.

Fe Fendi in Herrera and Olivia Flatto in Paule Ka

Tonight’s designers produced no such spectacles however, in the final premiere we were once again treated to the lavish, elaborate and magnificent costumes that Valentino, the master, produced in 2012. The palette of black and white with red and fuchsia as accent colors combined with Valentino red in the underskirts and toe shoes was breathtaking.

Harry and Jill Kargman in Chanel

I wish Narciso, Wu, Assoulin and Noten had followed suit instead of producing practical, pleasant attire-who cares if the dancers can barely move. Sarah Burton and Peter Copping had the right idea when they created colorful gowns and furs in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Lisa Rinehart and Mikhail Baryshnikov

As the guests headed to dinner with surrounding trees and gold-set tables it was announced by dinner chairman, Ricki Lander, that they exceeded their goal by raising over $2.5 million. Peter Martins, then thanked Sarah Jessica and “hero” Marc Happel and all the choreographers for their great work before the crowd danced to the tunes of Madonna and Michael Jackson.

Supermodels Anna Ewers in Chanel & Constance Jablonski
in Jason Wu

If this night, which ushers in the upcoming gala period, is a harbinger of things to come then get ready for one of the greatest seasons in the City of New York home to the New York City Ballet.

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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