Schooled by the American Ballet
Last night at the Allen Room for the School of American Ballet's Winter Ballet Ball. Photo: DPC.
Last night in the Allen Room and the Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, the School of American Ballet held its Winter Ballet Ball. The School has a dedicated group of supporters who put this together. This year’s chairs were Somers White Farkas, Joanne de Guardiola, Deborah Norville, Liz Peek, and Cindy Sites. The Corporate chair was John Foley, CEO of Waterford Crystal (whose beautiful crystal and linens were used on the tables). Vice chairs were Bloomberg (the company), Amy Fine Collins (who was wearing one of the last dresses Geoffrey Beene made), Jamee and Peter Gregory, Lionel Pincus, Hilary and Wilbur Ross, and Felicia Taylor. Junior chairs were Allison Aston, Chelsea Clinton, and Jill and Harry Kargman.

The evening began with cocktails in the Frederick P. Rose Hall after which everyone moved to dinner in the Allen Room, which is the auditorium with the glass wall overlooking Columbus Circle.

Two things that suggested a good party from the outset. The energy at the cocktail was fresh and up. You could tell people were glad to be there. Maybe it was because these are devotees of the ballet who love the idea of helping the kids, the students. Then, when we moved into the Allen Room which was decorated in hues of reds and blues with giant pom-poms (my word for it) suspended from the ceiling, all of which faces the enormous glass wall that looks out on Columbus Circle, Central Park, Central Park South and Fifth Avenue to the East. It was a New York magic night.

I saw Dana and Dr. Patrick Stubgen, Marty Richards, Felicia Taylor, Alexandra Lebenthal and Jay Diamond, Lucia Hwong-Gordon, Michael Vollbracht, Georgette Mosbacher with Peter Lance, Hilary and Wilbur Ross, Audrey and Martin Gruss, Anne Grauso, Coco and Arie Kopelman, Peter and Jamee Gregory, Jeanne Lawrence, Michele and Larry Herbert, Jock Soto, Ron and Judy Blaylock, Chelsea Clinton, Allison Aston, Jeff and Liz Peek, George and Sheila Stephenson, Pamela Gross and Jimmy Finkelstein, Debbie Bancroft, Joanne and Roberto de Guardiola, Deborah Norville and Karl Wellner, Catherine Forbes and Thorne Perkin, Louis and Sarah Wolfe, Isabel Wilcox, Gigi and Averill Mortimer, Annabelle and Alberto Mariaca, David Kleinberg, Gillian Atfield, Zibby Tozer with her daughter Farren Brown, Melissa Berkelhammer, Alexis Bryan, Kim Hicks, Susan Baker and Michael Lynch, and Jill and Harry Kargman.

DJ Tom Finn was stationed on the performance floor providing the pre-dinner music. There was a three quarter moon rising in the East and the reflections of the room off the glass made it seem as if the décor was extended out onto Columbus Circle which was blazing with the lights of the apartment buildings and the darting headlights of traffic moving to and fro and around the circle.
SAB students performing the piece d’occasion for the evening
Once we were all seated on the four tiers for dinner, there were brief speeches. Peter Martins, director of the New York City Ballet introduced the committees. After the main dinner course, Deborah Norville explained the genesis and importance of the School and then introduced the SAB students who were performing the piece d’occasion for the evening. She also explained that after the performance, the students would invite the guests to dance with them, admonishing the wallflowers in the room not to turn down the dancers.

The piece d’occasion was choreographed by Melissa Barak who was herself an SAB student and is now a talented choreographer as well as a member of the New York City Ballet corps de ballet. The kids were wonderful, witty, funny and full of joie de vivre. By the time they finished their energetic rock-goes-to-the-ballet, Tom Finn revved up the disco (Barry White, the Stones, Gloria Gaynor) and everyone was psyched.

There’s something contagious about watching the young ballet students performing a mixture of classical ballet and the dance idiom of our time (i.e. rock). The classical articulates the discipline and rigorousness of their training. The rock expresses the now.

When it comes to high culture I’m aware of the fact that it’s not for everyone. The ballet falls into that category. I was never a balletomane although through frequent attendance required by my covering these events and performances, I’ve come to really enjoy it. Having sat in on SAB classes has also enhanced that enjoyment (as I’ve written here before). It’s inspiring and even thrilling to see very young people devote themselves to something so demanding, so disciplined and so focused. You know that it’s ultimately going to be a winning experience (in life) for them.
That said, last night’s party came as an additional surprise. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to go out and have a good time because it was just one hundred percent pure fun. The ingredients in this case were: everyone looking wonderful – men in black tie, women dressed up for the theatrical occasion; a beautiful venue, a New York thrill. Then there was the gift of the kids having fun performing for us. Then there was everyone out there with them dancing. Good times, good times, good times, is what it was. We should all have a little bit of that in our lives once in a while.

They raised $600,000 for the SAB which has an extensive financial aid program and awards more than $1million in scholarships annually. Each year the SAB auditions more than 2500 students in more than 20 cities with approximately 10% gaining admittance. Today about 94% of the New York City Ballet are SAB alumni, and SAB alumni are appearing on rosters of more than 60 US and a dozen international ballet companies.
Karl Wellner, Deborah Norville, and Muffie Potter Aston
The cochairs with SAB students
Deborah Norville, Pamela Gross, Joanne de Guardiola, and Muffie Potter Aston
Ron Blaylock, Alexandra Lebenthal, Judy Byrd Blaylock, and Jay Diamond
Sab students
Jeanne Lawrence and Michele Herbert
Dr. Patrick Stubgen and Dana Stubgen
Debbie Bancroft and Kim Hicks
Melissa Berkelhammer and Lucia Hwong Gordon
Katherine Forbes and Thorne Perkin
Amy Fine Collins
Alexis Bryan
Annabelle Mariaca
Tom Finn
Lucia Hwong Gordon, Peter Lance, and Georgette Mosbacher
Somers and Jonathan Farkas
Marty Richards and Debbie Bancroft
Coco Kopelman, Jill and Harry Kargman, and Amy Fine Collins
Marjorie Van Dercook
Jean Claude Huon and Michael Vollbracht
Deborah Norville, Peter Martins, and Joanne de Guardiola
Jimmy Finkelstein and Pamela Gross
Felicia Taylor and R. Couri Hay
A view of Columbus Circle from the Allen Room
The table setting of Waterford Crystals
Deborah Norville
John Foley
Pamela Gross and an SAB student
Melissa Barak
Saxophonist and bassist play Gershwin
Sheila Stephenson and Isabel Wilcox
Zibby Tozer, Farren Brown, and Sheila Wolfe
Liz Peek
Felicia Taylor

February 16, 2006, Volume VI, Number 30
Photographs by DPC/


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