Monday, February 9, 2009

Washington Social Diary

A mid-party break (for a performance from The Nutcracker) at the Washington Ballet's Jete Dance Party at the Russian Embassy.
A Hot Time in the Old Town
By Carol Joynt

It was Friday night in the nation’s capital. Earlier in the day unemployment hit 7.6 % and the Senate reached a compromise agreement on an $800 million stimulus bill designed to thwart a depression.

The Russian Embassy in northwest Washington.
I can’t vouch for what most Washingtonians were up to after dark, but at a frolic for The Washington Ballet the young social swarm partied like it was February 2008 at, of all places, the Russian Embassy.

Bartenders couldn’t pour the champagne fast enough; the mounds of Smoked Salmon glistened in a buffet that featured Borscht, Chicken Kiev, Risotto and Beef Bourguignon; off the packed dance floor the Blackjack and Craps tables thrived, and everywhere the women, in their minis and stilettos, looked like a kick line from Intermix.

In a pause from dancing, Francesca Craig of The Aspen Institute, observed, “The monied set at the former Communist enclave partying as Wall Street gets wiped out. Au barricades!”
Ballerinas greeting guests upon arrival at the Russian Embassy for the Washington Ballet's Jete Dance Party.
“I’ve never seen so many good looking women out in Washington,” said Peter Pappas. “I didn’t know it was possible. But look at them. Look at all the sequins.” Yes, from where we sat at a small round table in a room that was mostly candlelight, the view was of several young women in blinding sparkle. “The men are good looking, too,” he said, but no competition for the women. “Where are these attractive people from?” Pappas asked. “Virginia?”

I don’t know where they were from, but this crowd usually is found on most weekend nights in Georgetown at Bo Blair’s Rookery Club or Anthony Lanier’s members-only L2. On this Friday night, though, they paid upwards of $95 a piece to support the Washington Ballet, which had to feel, considering the times, that its cup runneth over. The party was sold out. The Russians were generous with comps. The Ballet raised at least $50,000 after expenses. The company’s Artistic Director, Septime Webre, smiled much of the night.
Cups of Borscht. Replenishing the risotto and Bite sized Chicken Kiev.
One of the several well-stocked bars at the Russian Embassy.
Thalia Attinger.
You might think in a vaulted ballroom with the crystal chandeliers turned down low, pumped music and provocative fashion, that there would be some serious hooking up. Au contraire. Instead it seemed most of the women, champagne flutes in hand, danced with other women, and a few able men, but those men were from the ballet company and largely, though not exclusively, on the other team. Later, I asked one of the town’s top party girls, “What gives?” Pamela Sorensen’s reply: “I felt for us ladies, too, trust me. I was like, ‘Where are all the hot guys?’ A question I ask myself all of the time.”

Hot or not, a lot of the men eschewed the dancing for little pods of conversation, with beer bottles, or Red Bull and Vodka (premium Russian, of course), in hand. The endless political chat is a Washington condition and stems mostly from Capitol Hill. The Hill boys can never give it up. You can spot them across a crowded room, too – nice suits, but the trousers always veer a little too closely toward high water. Some men – maybe from the Treasury Department – chose the gaming tables over the dance floor.
Adjacent to the ballroom was a separate room dedicated to gambling.
Warming up pre-Jete Dance Party: Nikki Hill, Christina Wilkie, Corinne Falencki, Ashlee Reid, Danielle Kambic, Marybeth Coleman, Jennifer Wilkie, Gabrielle Malman, captured on camera by Mike Falencki.
A mid-party break for a performance from The Nutcracker.
Pretty women ... watching the ballet dancers. Inset: Washington Ballet Artistic Director Septime Webre welcomes the hundreds of guests at the Jete Dance Party.
Dancing to the band "Burnt Sienna." The Russian Vodka at the Russian Embassy.
Dancing with the lights down low.
Notepad in hand, Stephanie Green, who covers fashion and social life for The Washington Times, wanted to talk about First Lady Michelle Obama’s impact on Washington fashion. “Will she change the way Washington women dress? Will classic come back?” she asked. Looking around the room the only answer was, “probably,” because we’ve maxed out bulging cleavage, crotch-high hemlines and S&M stilettos – even among the young and able. Stephanie wonders if Mrs. Obama can pull Washington into the ranks of real style. Maybe. Give it time.

This happy party, called the “Jete Dance Party,” was at its peak at 11:30, as I headed for the doors through a tide of new arrivals. Parked outside were a row of buses scheduled to take everyone, after midnight, to the City Tavern Club for more dancing until 3 o’clock in the morning. Indeed, so before the deluge or, as The Washington Ballet says on its website, “Do we play? Boy, do we ever.”
Ashley Taylor and "Miss Washington, DC" Kate Marie Grinold. Enter Septime Webre.
Hadley Gamble and Pamela Sorensen. Hunter Young and Kevin Brant.
Peter Pappas and Lorie Peters Lauthier. James Asg Van Wynen, Stacey Lubar, and Greg Lubar.
Leslie Green, sampling the buffet. Ready to dance at the Jete Dance Party.
Rachel Noteware and Rachel Gandell toast with oyster shooters. Ray Kegan and Lauren Kieler.
Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Bennett and Ebonee Stringer. Party co-chairs Michael Saylor, Ashley Taylor, and Winston Bao Lord.
Alina Faye and Robb Whitehead. At one of the many buffet tables.
Sarah Elkins and Garrett Golding. Colleen Leineweber and Dana Richardson.
Kay Kendall and Francesa Craig. Ross Blankenship, George Alafoginis, Coventry Burke, and Davis Berg.
Michael Hill, Amanda Cobb, and Lucas Segovia. Enjoying the dancing from the sidelines, Graham Baker and Larry Akman.
Mary Saludares and Boysie Dikobe. Kate Dahl, Jackie Berger, Kathleen Wells, and Maggie Drake.
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol Joynt is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.