By: Lieba Nesis
The past couple of years has seen a dearth of celebrities appearing at major cultural events. Despite a massive red carpet and dozens of photographers most galas have two or three luminaries at best. The exception was the New York City Ballet (NYCB) Fall Gala which took place Thursday September 26th with a star-studded crowd that was so over-the-top Andrew Garfield, Laverne Cox and David Schwimmer weren’t even seated at the head table. The center table, with Sarah Jessica and her partner-in-crime Andy Cohen contained Ali Wentworth, Brooke Shields, The Tisch’s, Ryan Seacrest, Kelly Ripa, Jenna Lyons, Carri Ann Inaba, David Muir and dozens of others. Why was this night different from all others?
Firstly, having Sarah Jessica Parker, Stephen Galloway, Mazdack and Zanna Rassi, Kelly Ripa and Lizzie Tisch as your Gala Chairs doesn’t hurt. These are the insiders of the fashion, art and entertainment world and when they tell their friends to show up they come. Furthermore, with celebrity favorites Zac Posen and Anna Sui designing the costumes it’s nearly assured the night will be a hit. Clad in Posen was Laverne Cox, Zanna Rassi, Sarah Jessica, Kelly Ripa and many others. Sarah Jessica showed in a massive fuchsia gown from Posen’s Winter 2019 collection. She was definitely in Carrie Bradshaw mode with her boobs spilling out and her mismatched sandals. Parker is always the centerpiece of this evening and she rarely disappoints.
Another guest who deserves plaudits is uber socialite Jean Shafiroff who arrived in a Posen gown with just the right amount of décolletage showing. Her gloves, pulled back hairdo and size zero figure completed the Audrey Hepburn effect as her magnanimous gown required three seats minimum. Now let’s talk about the men: style star Jordan Roth wowed in a Posen getup; Stephen Galloway was dashing in Tom Ford:; Andre J. was just the whole package; and Laverne Cox proves each and every time she is a massive style star. There were men in skirts, men in gowns, men in sequins but very few men in black.
The electricity surrounding the evening was palpable with a cocktail party that began at 5:30 PM at Lincoln Center and a red carpet replete with swans. This is the 8th year that Sarah Jessica’s idea of merging choreography and couture has been the theme of the Gala. Whether there is actually a legitimate connection between fashion and ballet is immaterial; this evening gets people involved in the arts who would normally never attend and creates a contagious excitement as guests anxiously anticipate what designers have in store and who will hit a home-run.
The performance began at 7 PM with a film depicting a behind-the-scenes look at the costumes of Anna Sui, Zac Posen and Marc Happel. Zac said he grew up in Soho and always loved dance while Sui said she was hoping to bring some Rock’n’Roll to the clothing (she did not). Happel who is the official costume designer for the ballet supervised the entirety of the costumes as well as creating the outfits for the last act-Symphony in C. He noted that constructing a costume specifically for a dancer hopefully adds an extra dimension to their performance.
The film also introduced dancers Lauren Lovette and Edwaard Liang who choreographed the First and Second World Premieres. The first act featured a solo violin performance by Kurt Nikkanen with Tan Dun’s “Fire Ritual” chosen as the music accompaniment. Lovette utilized 25 dancers for this piece entitled “The Shaded Line” and the music was startling with long silences and obvious mood swings. The night was all about celebrating dancers who have become choreographers and Lovette proves she has what it takes with her effective usage of the bold Georgina Pazcoguin who stole the show with her magnetism donning a Meghan Marklelike white shirt and black pants ensemble. The gender neutral costumes by Zac Posen were functional and unique as tutus were gathered into wings and completed halfway-producing an exciting edginess.
The Second Premiere by Edwaard Liang, who was born in Taiwan and joined NYCB in 1993, was an homage to Balanchine and his Georgian roots with a piece entitled “Lineage.” Collaborating with Anna Sui on Georgian wood cuts and fabric patterns Liang gave the act a very folksy feel. The swift choreography and inventive moves were dynamite as one group of dancers were quickly replaced by another. After a brief pause, there was no official intermission, we were treated to the most conventional piece of the night Balanchine’s “Symphony in C.” The costumes designed by Marc Happel were reminiscent of “Swan Lake” with women in white tutus with sequins and men in black velvet adorned costumes. The dancing by Joseph Gordon was perfection and the night ended with enthusiastic applause.
The conclusion at 8:45 PM had guests who had paid a minimum of $1,500 heading to dinner on the promenade of the David Koch Theater. The room was filled with columns of red roses and packed tables from one end to the other. I bumped into Michael Gelman who produces “Live with Kelly and Ryan” and whose youthful looks belie his 58 years of age. He said he followed a diet consisting of protein and vegetables and works out a minimum of six days a week after putting in 12 hour days. I have seen him practice Pilates and his moves are those of a professional. As luminary after luminary went whizzing by it was announced that $2.6 million had been raised. The dinner of steak or vegetables was finished with an odd dessert of pumpkin cake and vanilla and chocolate gelato. At 11 PM DJ Kissey began playing tunes as dozens of dancers took to the floor agreeing to retire only when they were forced to do so at 12:30 AM-an excellent harbinger for what awaits during the upcoming gala season.
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