By: Lieba Nesis
The New York City Ballet (NYCB) 2022 Fall Fashion Gala celebrated its 10th Anniversary on Wednesday September 28, 2022 with cocktails beginning at 6 PM at the David H. Koch Theater. The breaking news of the evening was Sarah Jessica Parker going AWOL despite being the only honoree and spearheading this collaboration between fashion and dance for the past ten years. The trend of absentee chairs and honorees is deplorable; Parker’s colleagues Michael Patrick King and Scott Wittman explained Parker had suffered a devastating loss in her family. The night before Sarah Jessica attended a “Hocus Pocus 2″ premiere casting doubt on the legitimacy of her excuse-hopefully her non-attendance wasn’t the result of exhaustion. Some of her friends were there including Kristin Davis, Andy Cohen, Lizzie Tisch, Jill Kargman, Laverne Cox, Aerin Lauder, “Sex and the City” love interest Mikhail Baryshnikov, Zac Posen, Jordan Roth, Steven Kolb and Claire Danes.
The electricity of the evening was palpable as attendees gathered at the $2,500 a ticket shindig for an outdoor cocktail party and lavish red carpet containing dozens of photographers disappointingly waiting to see what actresses Sarah Jessica and chair Diane Kruger (who was also not there) would wear. There were other sartorial stars to capture including the usually fashionable Solange Knowles who appeared in a daring double breasted suit that was oversized and boxy with a white pocket square and sleeve-this “Wolf of Wall Street” look was a major fashion misstep.
Solange, whose sister Beyonce supposedly attended, is only the second Black woman in NYCB history to score a ballet. Her commissioned piece for the world premiere of Gianna Reisen’s “Play Time” was greeted with thunderous applause-tonight Solange stepped out of her sister’s musical shadow. Some other disappointments included principal dancers Ashley Bouder injuring her foot during rehearsal and being replaced by Megan Fairchild, and Sara Mearns supplanted by Unity Phelan. The evening contained some virgins of this event including the dapper honorary chair and CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America Steven Kolb, barely recognizable rapper ASAP Ferg, Olympic snowboarder Shaun White, the dynamic Queen Latifah and sinewy editor-in-chief of Women’s Health Magazine Liz Plosser. Style stars Laverne Cox and Billy Porter debuted demure looks while “go big or go home” attendees Jean Shafiroff, Jordan Roth, and Gilbert “Bolden” wowed.
Following a cataclysmic pandemic the daring fashion choices of attendees was astounding; this was the New York A-list that could easily compete with the Academy Awards red carpet: ladies and gentlemen in bows, sequins, jewels, flowers and plaid. The actual performance scheduled to start at 7 PM was delayed until 7:30 with lines snaked around the Lincoln Center Plaza. Attendees were greeted with a speech by chair of Board of Directors Diana Taylor, sans boyfriend Michael Bloomberg despite his daughter Georgina chairing, announcing that a record-breaking $3.4 million had been raised. A lengthy video was presented where designers of the evening Alejandro Gomez Palomo, Raf Simons, and Giles Deacon were introduced along with a history of the gala’s past collaboration between 30 designers and 18 choreographers. While relishing the outstanding fashion of the audience and dancers as a former ballet dancer I was equally disappointed by the mediocrity of the performances.
The first Act was a paradigm of banality as Balanchine’s “Symphony in C” was excerpted with dancers Emilie Gerrity and Chun Wai Chan expertly outfitted by NYCB costume designer Marc Happel in shimmering black and white. Happel is an irreplaceable master of his trade as he quarterbacks all the costumes for the evening.
After a brief pause we were treated to the epic designs of Alejandro Gomez Palomo who stole the show with jaw-dropping costumes containing more than 800,000 Swarovski crystals. Unfortunately, the choreography by Gianna Reisen along with dancers India Bradley and Christina Clark was average despite Solange Knowles’s obvious talent in composing musical scores. Another pause ensued while the audience awaited expert choreographer Justin Peck’s well executed premiere of “Solo” which was danced underwhelmingly by Anthony Huxley who donned corresponding lackluster attire produced by the esteemed Raf Simons-the biggest let down of the night.
With exciting intermissions no longer in the playbook of galas another pause heralded the much ballyhooed finale-the world premiere of “Love Letter”. The captivating music of James Blake along with choreography by Kyle Abraham and costumes by Giles Deacon left me hopeful this would contain the knockout dancing I had been anticipating. Despite breakdancing moves, and man-on-man couplings galore this modern dance ballet act performed by Harrison Ball, Jacqueline Bologna and Naomi Corti was “much ado about nothing.” Giles Deacon’s dizzying Renaissance silhouetted costumes were more chaotic then attractive and the dance numbers failed to awe.
At the late hour of 9:15 PM the dancers took their bows to muted applause-the savvy audience recognized the tedious dance sequences were not the bombshells expected. Nonetheless, guests excitedly headed to the Second floor of the David H. Koch Theater where a dinner sponsored by Wells Fargo was enjoyed by the glitterati of New York. Andy Cohen, Deborah Norville, Karl Wellner Lesley Stahl and hundreds of others enthusiastically fraternized amidst the lavish decor. After a lengthy 2-year period some remained dubious as to whether New York would maintain its reign over the world’s cultural scene-a doubt easily quelled by the evening’s massive turnout of impeccably clad luminaries.