2009 May 19

The First Lady of Ballet

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(NEW YORK) The American Ballet Theater’s Spring Gala is an event that the chic set and A-listers alike won’t miss each year, but this year, the crowds were even buzzier than usual over one particular special guest: First Lady Michelle Obama. “I like the idea that maybe she can focus some attention here at ABT and remind people that it’s here and that everyone should come see the ballet,” said Kelly Ripa, before gushing, “I love her whole physicality. She’s tall and statuesque and good looking, and she’s got a certain self-assuredness that you can’t buy in a store.”

Francisco Costa, who arrived with Calvin Klein-clad Dree Hemingway and Amanda Brooks, has designed costumes for the ballet but was never a dancer himself. “I’m terrible!” he laughed. Costa was equally effusive about the First Lady. “She’s proven that she has great sensibility, great tastes--she’s feeling her way around and doing an amazing job.” Though Costa has yet to outfit Obama in his designs, he revealed his game plan for the evening. “Of course I will try to talk to her!” he said. “Why do you think I’m here? I bought a tuxedo for her!”

“I think I’ll be too shy to go out of my way to meet her, but I’m happy to be in her company!” said Lindsay Price. The actress had a more emotional reason for her first ABT experience, though: “I was a dancer,” she said. “I studied from the time I could walk until I grew six inches in one year and lost all my grace! I miss it a lot.”

Models Iman, Veronica Webb (who came as the date of Rachel Roy), Hilary Rhoda, Sessilee Lopez and Coco Rocha (who, although she has danced for 15 years, admitted to never having been to an ABT production) took their seats in the Metropolitan Opera house along with the likes of Renee Zellweger, Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy, Mariska Hargitay, Lynda Carter, Sigourney Weaver, Ivanka Trump, and Carolina Herrera--who, as one of the honorary chairs of the night, outfitted many of the attendees in her gorgeous gowns. Showgoers took in pieces like Mozartiana, La Sylphide, the hunt scene from Sylvia, the balcony pas de deux from Romeo and Juliet, and more--but it was The Procession (“La Defilé”) that guests may have been most struck by. The first-ever performance at the Opera house by students of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis school was introduced by Caroline Kennedy and Obama. “I’m thrilled to be here to support the American Ballet Theater,” she said. “One creative dance class can open up a whole world of creative experiences.”

After the performance (which included a piano number by Herbie Hancock, who performed himself), the gown and tuxedo-clad massed decamped to dinner on the Lincoln Center grounds…followed by some dancing of their own.

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