Thursday, October 30, 2008

Washington Social Diary

The musicians of the Spanish Dance Society of DC.
The Many Faces of Romeo + Juliet
By Carol Joynt

Busy days and busy nights here in Washington. Invitations have started to bubble up for election night parties. Is everybody having one? It seems so, though the place to be – if it goes their way – could be the gathering of the national and local factions of the Democratic National Committee. Do I know where it is? You betcha. Will I reveal it here? No sirree. I don’t want my name scratched off the list. The question is, will it be an early or late night?

It was a late (and wet) night Monday for celebrants at the Annual Gala of the Shakespeare Theatre Company at the Harman Center for the Arts. But the rain was merely a textured backdrop to a night of distracting entertainment. The show, and the dinner, and the dancing, were that good. The theme, “A Night in Verona,” was ideal for a campaign year in which the politics often have been personal and feudal. Some very talented people – each a winner of the STC’s Will Award – reinterpreted a slice of Romeo and Juliet for an audience of valued donors who paid upwards from $1,000 for a ticket.
Outside the Harman Center for the Arts during the Shakespeare Theatre Company's annual gala.
Actors from the Shakespeare Theatre Company performed the play’s prologue, there was an excerpt from honoree Chita Rivera’s The Dancer’s Life, Robert Fairchild and Sterling Hyltin of the New York City Ballet danced the “Pas de Deux” from honoree – and birthday boy - Peter Martin’s Romeo + Juliet, soprano Elizabeth Futral sang “Somewhere,” violinist Joshua Bell performed a melting version of “Tonight.”

How could someone so young understand the emotions so well, but then it is a romance of youth, yes?
The white on white with colored lights design of David Stark.
The most unusual and forward performance was saved for last. That was the Hip Hop version of the drama’s final death scene as choreographed by honoree Rennie Harris. It’s called Rome and Jewels. The Rennie Harris Puremovement dancers told the story with pops, locks, headspins, swipes and windmills. You haven’t seen Romeo and Juliet until you’ve seen it danced by these B-Boys and B-Girls.

When accepting his Will award, “Grand Master” Harris revealed, “Shakespeare was actually a hip hop cat.”
The dancers of the Spanish Dance Society of DC.
That spirit carried the hundreds of guests out into the rain on a soggy red carpet for the block and a half “parade” to the National Building Museum. They were rewarded upon arrival. Few buildings are as large or imposing as this great 19th century hulk of architecture, and it’s always a challenge to party designers. But New York’s David Stark seduced the space into a stunning, glamorous pastels-on-white scene. Chris Matthews marveled at the space.

“This building is amazing,” he said, “and it’s heated.” Chris also said he’s come to some decisions about where his professional life is headed, which I took to mean he’s more than casually thinking of a Senate run in Pennsylvania in two years. Will he discuss it? Nope. He can’t say a word until his MSNBC contract is up in June.
A second floor view of the Shakespeare Theatre Company's gala at the National Building Museum.
We arrived to demi-tasse cups of hot soup, mini Mojitos, and a performance by the Spanish Dance Society of DC – musicians and dancers clad in white on a white stage and under a mile high ceiling hung with a thousand streamers. People were too caught up in the performance to take their seats.

Dinner wasn’t served until 9:30. When it arrived the Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Risotto was warming, and the Amish Chicken was moist and well flavored with its accompaniment of Yams, Pumpkin and Portobello Mushrooms. Chateau St. Michelle and Estancia wines rounded out the meal, plus a Kit Kat bar for dessert.
A view down to the dinner. The stairs are wide because when it was the Pension Building in the 19th century, soldiers often rode their horses up to the second floor paymaster's office.
The deejay took over mid-meal and announced Peter Martins birthday and the choreographer obligingly showed off his dance moves with wife Darcy Kistler, and then dozens of others joined them, including Sidney Harman and his wife, California Rep. Jane Harman, who jigged a three-way with gala co-chair Beth Dozoretz. Earlier the Harman Family Foundation was awarded the first ever Sidney Harman Award for Philanthropy in the Arts, which is, I guess, philanthropic synergy.

Dr. Harman said, “What separates us from all the other forms of life are the arts. In the arts I see revelation, to inform and enrich life, and I draw substance from it. I’m delighted to be a participant in it. That’s what makes you young.”
The tables along the dance floor.
Guests included DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, Michael Kahn, British Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald and Lady Sheinwald, Samia Farouki, Rita Braver and Bob Barnett, Kenneth Duberstein, Chris and Kathleen Matthews, Smith and Elizabeth Bagley, Lucky Roosevelt, Matt Hastings, Pamela Sorsensen, Stuart and Wilma Bernstein, Katherine and David Bradley, Gahl Burt, Marcia Carlucci, April and John Delaney, Arnaud and Alexandra de Borchgrave, Rhoda Glickman, Queen Noor, Polly Kraft, Abbe Lowell, Mary and Robert Haft, Ann and Lloyd Hand, Dorothy and Bill McSweeny, David Gregory, Wayne Reynolds, Aniko and Nash Schott, Melanne and Phil Verveer, Jack Davies, Kay Kendall, Lynn Blitzer, Mac McLarty, John Negroponte, Neil Albert, Carol Schwartz, David Catania, Natwar Gandhi, Jonathan Silver and Melissa Moss, Jeri Rayon, Kevin Chaffee, and Stuart Bloch.
Clockwise from top left: The soups with cheese sandwiches that were offered to guests as they came in from the rain for dinner; A view of the bartenders through a red curtain; The silk gardenia at each woman's seat; All the tables were long, each of the women got a bejeweled silk flower for her hair, or wherever.
Jonathan Silver and Melissa Moss Chris Matthews and Joshua Bell
Stuart Bloch - do we think he's ready for election night, or what? The talented Hip Hop dance ensemble known as Rennie Harris Puremovement
Elizabeth Bagley and Chris Matthews at dinner Rita Braver and Bob Barnett
Pamela Sorensen Kathleen Matthews and Smith Bagley
The deejay
David Gregory and his wife, Beth Wilkinson, with Fred and Beth Singer The Shakespeare Theatre Company's Michael Kahn welcomes DC Mayor Adrian Fenty
The Harmans, Sidney and Jane, cut loose on the dance floor The Dozoretz family: Beth, Dozoretz, and Melanne (child in front) with Renee Strelitz and Shari Dozoretz
Peter Martins with his wife, Darci Kistler Yemeni Ambassador Abdulwahab Abdulla Al-Hajjri and friend Kathleen and Chris Matthews
Rennie Harris, Chita Rivera, and Michael Kahn Rennie Harris and Jeri Rayon
Photographs by Carol Joynt and Jim Brantley. Carol Joynt is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.