ABT Spring Gala 2017 Debuts the Delicious “Whipped Cream”

The American Ballet Theatre (ABT) held its annual gala on Monday May 22, 2017 with its performance of “Whipped Cream” beginning at 6:30 PM at the Metropolitan Opera House. Tonight was all about joy, with Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky revisiting this work of art which was entitled “Schlagobers” in 1924 when choreography by Heinrich Kröller and a score by Richard Strauss was devised to bring merriment to Vienna after it was left recovering from the devastation of the first World War.

Ballet benefactors left to right: Amie and Tony James-President of Blackstone
and Lisa and Dick Cashin

This evening, Ratmansky chose as his creative collaborator masterful visual artist Mark Ryden who produced a feast for the eyes that was nothing short of spectacular. The production was lavish beyond belief, with over 150 costumes, numerous props and elaborately designed scenes embellished with Swarovski crystals. Swarovski was the sponsor of the evening and they impressed.

Junior Chairs Toby and Larry Milstein with Alexandra Lebenthal

Fantasy and humor abounded in this production where adult dancers played children with Ryden outfitting the adult characters with giant outsized heads. The first act contained Principal Stella Abrera as Princess Tea Flower dancing with a syrupy lightness-accompanied by David Hallberg as Prince Coffee, Blaine Hoven as Don Zucchero and Daniil Simkin as “the boy”. Simkin is a favorite with spellbinding jumps and pirouettes wowing the audience time and time again.

Designer Malan Breton, Christian Zimmermann, Richard Kielar, Ballet Star Gina Pazcoguin wearing Malan Breton and Dancer Savannah Lowery

The night’s repertoire was a bit risky as in prior years Kevin McKenzie, the artistic director, chose vignettes from signature ballets such as “Romeo and Juliet” and “Swan Lake” for the pivotal gala. However, the audience enjoyed the playfulness of this evening with a cohesive storyline and a child -friendly vibe that will ensure a similar audience to “The Nutcracker.” In fact, much of the costumes, music and plot reminded me of “The Nutcracker” with candy and condiments replacing the ornamentation of Christmas.

Ken and Jill Iscol, dancer Wendy Whelan and Tommy Tune

Misty Copeland and Marcelo Gomes emceed the evening, introducing the 77th season by noting the 63 performances that will take place over the next 8 weeks. Gomes who is celebrating his 20th year with ABT, remains one of the best dancers in the world and welcomed Caroline Kennedy. Looking svelte in a black and white floral gown, Kennedy said she was glad to be back from Japan to enjoy this gala.

Dancer Blaine Hoven in Gucci

Tonight’s honoree was Hamilton James, President and COO of Blackstone, who committed more than $3 million to the company making it the most successful gala ever by more than double the highest amount-raising a total of $3.4 million.

Dani Behr and Sutton Stracke

Additional contributors and guests included: Christine Schwarzman, Elizabeth Segerstrom, Janna Bullock, Ken and Jill Iscol, Alexandra Lebenthal and Jay Diamond, Ali and Monica Wambold, Dick and Lisa Cashin, Jeff and Liz Peek, Sutton Stracke and Emily and Len Blavatnik.

Katie Holmes in Zac Posen

There were also a smattering of celebrities with Katie Holmes, Blake Lively, Maggie Gyllenhaal and fashion influencers Hamish Bowles, Anh Duong, Amy Astley, Nicky Hilton, Malan Breton and artist Rachel Feinstein gracing the gala. There was so much eye candy between the fantastical ballet costumes and the beautifully clad audience members it was hard to absorb.

Craig Dix, Anka Palitz in Tony Ward and Conductor Ormsby Wilkins

Speaking of beauty and colors, Anka Palitz, was both elegant and dazzling in a turquoise and silver Tony Ward gown with a blinding diamond necklace. Anka is a staple in the New York and Palm Beach social scene having served on the American Ballet Theatre board for 28 years when Jackie Kennedy was a fellow member.

Nicky Hilton in Oscar de la Renta

Anka recalled Jackie’s great sense of style and remembered her wide set eyes making her extremely photogenic. Tonight Anka bought box seats and a table for a price tag of more than $30,000 – I hope she’s not reading this. Moreover, I learned that while most tickets for the dinner went for a paltry $2,500 (just joking) there were box seats of ten that cost $150,000 – more than the salary of 99.9% of the population.

Christine Schwarzman in Jenny Packham

Some of my favorite dresses of the evening on these well-heeled guests included Christine Schwarzman in a sequined Jenny Packham gown and dancer Gina Pazcoguin who wore a show-stopping couture Malan Breton design whose train went on for miles. Actress Katie Holmes was also dynamite in a red Zac Posen gown and Nicky Hilton looked smashing in a sequined Oscar dress.

Jeff Peek, Liz Peek wearing Oscar, Artist Anh Duong in Dolce
and Gabbana and Hamish Bowles in Dries Van Noten

Others who always bring their fashion A game included Anh Duong who stunned in Dolce Gabbana alta moda and Hamish Bowles who was dapper as ever in a Dries Van Noten tuxedo. Hamish was still talking about the great fashion at the Costume Gala on Rihanna, Amanda Harlech, and Cara Delevingne especially considering the difficulty of this year’s Rei Kawakubo theme. Even dancer Blaine Hoven stepped up his fashion this evening in a floral Gucci tuxedo –
which was on loan.

Elizabeth Segerstrom and Alvaro de Marichalar

The dinner which was held on the second floor of the David H. Koch Theater contained polka-dotted and striped pink-and-white tables with pink ceiling ornaments and pink flowers. Guests fraternized and danced while a delicious meal of steak and salad was served.

Dancer James Whiteside, dancer Gillian Murphy and Milk

Kevin McKenzie announced they had raised a total of $10 million toward their campaign of $50 million; with more nights like these it is safe to say their ambitious goals might come to fruition imminently.

 – Lieba Nesis

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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