The ABT Fall Gala-Celebrating 75 Years of Excellence

The American Ballet Theatre held its 75th Anniversary Gala at the David H. Koch Theatre on a night of inclement weather, so it was fitting that the second piece by Sergei Rachmaninoff was called “With a Chance of Rain.” New Yorkers must be commended for their devotion to the arts as they come out in droves, regardless of the harsh climate. This evening was no exception with movie stars, socialites, fashion icons, and plain old billionaires joyfully attending this happening.

Joy Marks, Jean Shafiroff, Fe Fendi principal ABT dancers Maxim Beloserkovsky, Irina Dvorovenko
& Cory Stearns with Chiu-Ti Jansen

All photos Lieba Nesis

There were many notables in attendance including: celebrities Alec Baldwin, Chris Noth, Sonja Morgan, Taye Diggs, Nigel Barker and Star Jones; socialites Fe Fendi, Jean Shafiroff, Chiu-Ti Jansen and Joy Marks; CNN president Jeff Zucker whose wife Caryn co-chaired, sitting with ABC correspondent Deborah Roberts; designer Christian Siriano and style icon and Vogue editor Hamish Bowles, accompanied by famed artist Anh Duong.

Susan Fales-Hill, Bettina Zilkha, co-chair Caryn Zucker & Deborah Roberts

This was a multifaceted crowd who can afford to take advantage of the cultural offerings of New York. The lead sponsor was Clinique with supporting sponsors Piaget and Lanvin, and a bag with Clinique moisturizer and lip gloss was distributed at the end of the evening. This year’s theme was red, white and blue with the red changed to Scarlett in honor of choreographer Liam Scarlett, who produced “With a Chance of Rain.”

The first act featured young dancers from the American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy School accompanied by young ABT apprentices and members of the ABT studio company. These fresh faces dazzled the crowd with their precise movements and spirited energy. The choreography, by Alexei Ratmansky, included an illusory mirror, with dancers magically mimicking each others’s movements. The next piece was “With a Chance of Rain” which was sexy and provocative, the antithesis of the kid friendly opening. The female dancers clad in simple light blue and grey skirts and shorts were joined by men in grey allowing the unadorned lines and movements of the dancers to take center stage. The music by Rachmaninoff, played by piano soloist Emily Wong, was haunting and sparse. The scanty costumes, music and stage sets, wowed the ballet purists in the audience. However, this was a surprisingly risky move for Kevin McKenzie, the artistic director of ABT, who usually awes the gala crowd with elaborate outfits and staging.

Hamish Bowles, Anh Duong and principal dancer Marcelo Gomes

This ballet by Liam Scarlett was spellbinding, with a bare-chested Marcelo Gomes, muscles protruding from every ounce of his flesh, captivating the audience with his bold movements and sinewy physique. The pas de deux between Gomes and female dancer, Hee Seo, was passionate and erotic and Gomes even joined James Whiteside for some man-on-man partnering. Misty Copeland, another ballet star with a perfectly proportioned body, joined this act providing enough eye candy for the male and female audience to last a lifetime. The next pieces were executed thoroughly with a purple light illuminating the stage and female dancers in black and grey ensembles with yellow and pink ribbons on the bottom partnered with black and grey jacketed men. Once again the unembellished costumes and staging left me hungry for a classical ballet extravaganza.

Co-chair Sutton Stracke, principal dancer Misty Copeland, and Star Jones

While the ballet itself may have been simple, the decor where the dinner took place was elaborate. There were red streamers hanging from the ceiling and beautifully decorated tables with red tablecloths, roses and masks at each setting. The 2nd floor of the Koch Theatre is a magnificent venue because the expansive view of Lincoln Center highlights the grandeur of the evening. Anne Tatlock, received a leadership achievement award and spoke of the preeminence of Kevin McKenzie who has a keen eye for recognizing young talent and will successfully march ABT from 75 to 100 years. The importance of the Jacqueline Kennedy School as a feeder to ABT was emphasized and the young guileless dancers took pictures and won over the adoring crowd.

Eva Johansson in a Siriano dress, and Christian Siriano

They then announced that the dinner had raised more than $1.4 million.  On that note, the DJ began to play tunes while the amazing dancers and crowd boogied and socialized. Christian Siriano, who was accompanied by 2 women wearing his designs, told me that his 5-year plan was to design ballet costumes, but he was currently too busy with a new perfume fragrance launch. Siriano whose label is carried at Nordstrom’s and Neiman Marcus lamented the death of Oscar de la Renta who was a great inspiration for him and all young designers. He said that the longevity of Oscar’s brand was noteworthy and he was a role model for many in the fashion industry. As I turned around

I spotted Alec Baldwin and his wife Hilaria engaging in a romantic embrace. Alec enumerated the designer of his wife’s dress (Carmen Marc Valvo), jewelry, shoes, and hair (Warren Tricomi). On a more serious note, Alec said he was “anti-censorship” when it came to the arts. Alec has softened up since his nuptials and slimmed down, looking every inch the movie star in a tuxedo and slicked back hair.

Alec and Hilaria Baldwin

As the evening came to a close I bumped into Cory Stearns, a principal ABT dancer and a muse of Zang Toi. Cory, who was wearing a custom made Zang Toi tuxedo pronounced that dancing was “very tiring.” Cory confessed of the vulnerability he felt in performing with the fear of mistakes and resulting humiliation omnipresent in his thoughts. This was a brutally honest assessment from a talented young dancer, and that is why I love the ballet-it allows us to feel in ways we never thought possible.


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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