2009 May 14

Dresses and Variations

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(NEW YORK) “We missed the first performance by a few minutes,” quipped Elise Øverland at last night’s Spring New York City Ballet Gala, as she arrived with best friend Hope Atherton. “We're working girls!” But the duo had plenty more to savor during last night’s six-hour program that included a cocktail hour, three separate productions (including crowd favorite Theme and Variations), a full dinner, and dancing portion helmed by Samantha Ronson. And the guest list was just as packed as the festivities. Vanessa Williams, Edward Norton, Sean Avery, Al Roker, Alexandra Kerry, Magnus Berger, Fiona Scarry, and Allison Sarofim joined the dapper fundraiser and traded in their Blackberries for Balanchine for the duration of the evening.

Candace Bushnell, whose husband is the company’s principal dancer, Charles Askegard, was more than familiar with the setting, the David H. Koch Theater. “After being married to a ballet dancer, I certainly feel like I have more of an insider view during the performances,” she said. “I don't claim to know more than others, but I certainly have a better appreciation for the art.” So did Zaldy, an avid ballet fan who helped to concieve the Gala. “I was so happy with the program tonight because I have more of a classical taste,” he shared. “And Fall was more of a hoedown to me. It was too close to Broadway in my eyes.”

Besides the dancing, there were the dresses that got people talking during the dinner of poulet and asparagus soup. There were seas of Balmain jackets, Valentino gowns, and Cartier jewels. Alexandra Lebenthal managed to attend a few benefits in one night in her column dress; star dancer Ashley Bouder showcased a red dress by Bibhu Mohapatra, and Dr. Susan Krysiewicz stole the show in her giant blue Oscar de la Renta. “I had to be normal mommy today and do homework with my eight-year-old before I came here,” she smiled. “But my daughter told me there was a theme going on with my outfit, so I decided to finish it off with all the sea-inspired jewels.”

There was plenty of nostalgia between seatmates Hamish Bowles and Anh Duong, who both used to sport ballet shoes of their own. “I studied it pretty extensively when I was 7 or 8, until my parents forced me to stop because my teacher retired,” recollected Bowles. “I danced until about my early twenties,” offered Duong. “So there's a great deal of emotion that comes with me watching the performances. And it’s addictive, too!”

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