Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Diamond Jubilee: ABT's 75th Anniversary Spring Gala

The company of then and now, take their final bows at the end of the magnificent performances of the American Ballet Theatre Monday night at the Metropolitan Opera House. Photo: DPC.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Yesterday, rain was forecast, but although in the first half of the day it was cloudy and grey with the temperatures in the low 70s, by mid-afternoon the Sun was out and it was a beautiful day and early evening.

The night before, Monday, I went over to the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center where the American Ballet Theatre 75th Anniversary Spring Gala hosted a Diamond Jubilee gala performance and dinner dance.

It was one of New York’s more glamorous evenings, made moreso by the perfect late Spring weather. It began at 5:30 with a Champagne Reception on the Grand Tier of the opera house, followed by the performance scheduled to begin at 6:30 (although what with the city’s rush hour traffic and people’s work schedules, it was a little after 7 before the guests were in their seats and ready for the curtain).

The program began with a video of Ambassador Caroline Kennedy recalling her mother’s love and support of the ABT, and her own excitement as a young girl being taken to many of the performances and even meeting some of the great stars.

Ambassador Kennedy’s remarks were followed by brief speeches by Ruth Ann Koesun, Sigourney Weaver, Susan Jaffe and Joel Grey who introduced videos of the history of the ABT (first know as The Ballet Theatre) and its founders in 1939-1940 – including Mikhail Mordkin and Lucia Chase – who actually founded the company in 1937, and Oliver Smith, Jerome Robbins, Richard Pleasant. Chase, Pleasant and Smith, it appears, were most influential in the first three decades of the company. Chase and Smith were the first Artistic Directors (1940 – 1980), succeeded by the great Mikhail Baryshnikov (1980 – 1989), followed by Jane Hermann and Oliver Smith from ’89 through ’92 when Kevin McKenzie came aboard and remains to this day.

The evening featured a one-time-only performance spanning ABT’s seven and a half decades, with film excerpts of historic performances and interviews with major figures in the dance world, and special guest appearances. The dance program was 23 pieces from the company’s repertoire dating back to the beginning, followed by a Grand Finale.
Daphne Groeneveld. Fe Fendi. Nancy McCormick.
Robert Zimmerman and Muffie Potter Aston. R. Couri Hay and Janna Bullock.
Michelle Smith. Hailey Clauson. Lauren Santo Domingo.
Glenn McMahon and Kim Jetnil. Nathalie Kaplan and Tim Landi.
Diana VIshneva. Alexandra Lebenthal. Bettina Zilkha.
Ashley Bouder. Angel Corella.
Katie Ho. Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs. Elina Miettinen.
Sutton Stracke and Alexis Mabille. Leanne Cope and Shannon Rugani.
Victoria Phillips. Despina Yarian. Mary Snow.
Tommaso Devecchi, Elizabeth Segerstrom, and Anton Segerstrom. Susan Fales-Hill and Bristol Hill.
Xaviera Batista. Julie Wald.
After the performance, with one fifteen minute intermission,  guests adjourned to the tent next to the opera house for dinner and dancing to the orchestra and singers of the Hank Lane Orchestra.

The Spring Gala’s sponsor was Escada, and there were many women wearing Escada, such as Hailey Clauson, Daphne Groeneveld, Britt Maren, Coco Rocha, Kelly Rutherford, Jessica Stam, Sigourney Weaver, Sarah Arison, Muffie Potter Aston, Dana Auslander, Susan Fales-Hill, Nancy McCormick, Rachel Moore, Julie Wald, Misty Copeland, Gillian Murphy, Veronika Part, Xiomara Reyes, and Hee Seo.
The staff who kept the evening organized and moving.
Honorary Chair of the evening was Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama was not in attendance.  Diamond Anniversary Chairs were Susan Feinstein, Julia Koch, Glenn McMahon of ESCADA, Victoria Philipps, Elizabeth Segerstrom, Mr. and Mrs. Martin Sosnoff, Sutton Stracke, and Leslie Ziff. Chairs were Linda Allard, Ashley McDermott, Kalliope Karella Rena, Mary Elizabeth Snow. Co-chairs were Avery and Andrew Barth, Audra Carlin, Alan and Laraine Fischer, Lynne and Donald Flexner David and Pamela Ford, Theresa Khawly, Elizabeth and Donald Kramer, Nancy McCormick, Cindy and Chip Murphy, Melissa A. Smith, and Monica Wambold. Muffie Potter Aston, Susan Fales-Hill and Blaine Trump were Anniversary Committee Co-Chairs.
The table setting in the big tent after the performance.
It was a very emotional evening for this non-balletomane who finds he is always mesmerized by the ballet performances. The earliest excerpts had a very strong feeling of mid-20th century America when I was a child and growing up, of an America that now seems plain and simple in memory, yet deep and sweet and now the stuff of fading nostalgia. Watching the ballet I was reminded of the energy of that time before the technological inventions of the century distorted the social contract as well as our communication with each another.

The dancers carried the message serenely and often thrillingly. Misty Copeland in “Swan Lake” evoked that. “Manon,” for example recalled the era of dramatic and sweet romance which brought down the house with thunderous applause. “Rodeo” recalled the earnestness that was the national code of behavior, even when devilish synergy in our relationships with one another prevailed.  Jerry Robbins’ Fancy Free with its epochally boisterous Bernstein score reminded of the national relief and excitement that prevailed in the post-World War II years when America was a land of small towns from which the most adventurous and ambitious migrated to and discovered the Big City, New York New York. There must have been many hearts dancing in the Metropolitan Opera House audience on Monday night, recalling that now fabled springtime.

In our cavalcade, we're showing you photos on the red carpet from Patrick McMullan and his merry gang, and the post-performance photos in the tent by Billy Farrell and his team (along with a few of ours mixed in).
Elizabeth Segerstrom and Sutton Stracke, two Southern California ladies who are major supporters of the ABT.
Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Tang with Daisy Soros.
The boys surrounding Mme. Stracke
Giovanna Battaglia. Adrienne Arsht and Joel Grey.
Kyle Ridaught and Sigourney Weaver. Daisy Soros.
Sarah Arison. Rachel Moore. Indre Rockefeller.
John and Violaine Bernbach. Francesca and Chris Beale.
American Ballet Theatre dancers.
Nicole DiCocco.
Bonita Stewart. Jill and Alan Fischer.
Amy Astley and Anne McNally. Kalliope Karella Rena, Anh Duong, and Christine Schwarzman.
Julie Wald, Katie Ho, and Julia Gover. Madeline Eckett Oden.
Olivia Millot. Coco Rocha. Jessica Stam.
Cristen and Nigel Barker. Christian Siriano.
Jack Rosenberg, Linda Allard, John Murphy, and Kirsten Peckerman.
Cameron Silver, Jake Deutsch, and Brian Atwood. Sharon Patrick and David Lansky.
Star Jones, Sutton Stracke, and Jennifer Tilly.
Jamee and Peter Gregory. Hamish Bowles and Amy Fine Collins.
Steve Simon and Blaine Trump. Jennifer Creel and John Demsey.
Stella Abrera. Dana Auslander and Alexandra Lind Rose.
Djassi DaCosta Johnson and Yaya DaCosta. Fe Fendi.
Hailey Clauson and Jullien Herrera. Alex Manolaros and Stella Matzari.
Nathalie Kaplan and Claudia Szerer. Christine Shevchenko and Alex DiMattia.
Maxim Belotserkovsky and Irina Dvorovenko. Devon Teuscher and Alexandre Hammoudi.
Kevin McKenzie. Ilya Kolotov and Scout Forsythe.
Misty Copeland and Olu Evans. Misty Copeland.
Susan Gutfreund.
Marcelo Gomes. Di Mondo and Gillian Miniter.
Jean Shafiroff and Patricia Shiah. Joey Maalouf and Ashley McDermott.
Bibhu Mohapatra, Dana Auslander, and Ritu Sahai-Mittal. Jennifer Whalen.
James Whiteside and Kyle Ridaught. Cassandra Trenary and Kyle Ridaught.
ABT Dancers.
The program was as follows: “Billy The Kid (first episode), choreography by Eugene Loring, music by Aaron Copland; “Fancy Free” (excerpt), choreography by Jerome Robbins, scenery by Oliver Smith; “Rodeo” (excerpt from Saturday Afternoon – the Corral), choreography by Agnes De Mille, music by Aaron Copland, scenery by Oliver Smith; “Black Tuesday” (“Brother Can You Spare a Dime,” by lyricist E. Y. “Yip” Harburg and music by Jay Gorney, danced to the original 1932 recording by Bing Crosby); choreography by Paul Taylor; “Push Comes to Shove” (Movement IV), choreography by Twyla Tharp,  music by Franz Joseph Haydn (“Symphony No. 82, Fourth Movement); “Fall River Legend”  choreography by Ms. De Mille, music by Morton Gould, scenery by Mr. Smith, danced by Gillian Murphy, Luciana Paris, Duncan Lyle, Roman Zhurbin; “Les Noces” (A Dance Cantata) Second Tableau, choreography by Jerome Robbins, music by Igor Stravinsky, scenery by Mr. Smith, danced by Jonathan Klein, Stella Abrera, Thomas Forster, Sterling Baca, and members of the Corps de Ballet; “Pillar of Fire” (excerpt), choreography by Antony Tudor, music by Arnold Schoenberg; scenery and costumes by Robert Perdziola, danced by Julie Kent and Corey Stearns, with Melanie Hamrick, Isadora Loyola, Jennifer Whalen, Gray Davis.

“The Bright Stream” (Excerpt) choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, music by Dmitri Shostakovich, danced by Daniil Simkin and Clinton Luckeett; “Manon” Act I Pas de Deux), choreography by Sir Kenneth MacMillan, music by Jules Massenet, danced by Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes; “Swan Lake” (Act IV  Excerpt), danced by Misty Copeland, James Whiteside and Patrick Ogle. 

La Bayadere (Adagio from “Kingdom of the Shades,” Act II), choreography by Natalia Makarova, after Marius Petipa, music by Ludwig Minkus, danced by members of the Corps de Ballet; “Sinfoneetta” (Third Movement”), choreography by Jiri Kylian, music by Leos Janacek, danced by Devon Teuscher, Veronika Part, Isabella Boylston, Thomas Forster, Blaine Hoven, James Whiteside; “The Leaves are Fading” choreography by Antony Tudor, music by Antonin Dvorak, danced by Hee Seo and Cory Stearns; “Piano Concerto #1” (Fourth Movement), choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, music by Dmitri Shostakovich, danced by Christine Shevchenko, Calvin Royal III, Skylar Brandt, Gabe Stone Shayer, and members of the Corps; “Etudes” (Excerpt), Ballet and choreography by Harald Lander, music by Knudaage Riisager (after Czerny), danced by Gillian Murphy and members of the company; “Giselle” (Act II Excerpt), choreography by Jean Coralli, Jules Pererot, Marius Petipa, staged by Kevin McKenzie, music by Adolphe Adam, danced by Polina Semionova and Stella Abrera with members of the ABT Studio and students from the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School; “La Sylphide” (James’s Variation, Act I); choreography after August Bournonville, staged by Erik Bruhn, music by Hermann von Lovenskjold, danced by James Whiteside; “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux” (Variation), choreographed by George Balanchine, music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, danced by Paloma Herrera; La Bayadere, choreography by Makarova after Petipa (Solor’s Variation Act I, Scene III) danced by Herman Cornejo and (Gamzatti’s Variation, Act I, Scene III) danced by Hee Seo; “Le Corsaire” (Ali the Slave’s Variation, Act II), choreography by Anna-Marie Holmes after Petipa, music by Adolph Adam, danced by Daniil Simkin;  “Don Quixote” (Coda from Act III Pas de Deux), choreography by Petipa and Alexander Gorsky, Staged by Kevin McKenzie and Susan Jones, music by Ludwig Minkus, danced by Isabella Boylston and Cory Stearns; “Theme and Variations (Grand Polonaise), choregraphy by George Balanchine and music by Tchaikovsky, danced by Sarah Lane and Joseph Gorak, and the ABT company.