Somebody waved a magic wand over Franklin Street. How else would you explain the presence of a fairyland palace, complete with sparkling chandeliers and trees glistening with crystal blossoms, that appeared out of thin air? SF Ballet's Cinderella Ball brought out San Francisco royalty to see it all in a whirl of delight, dance, and dresses. To their credit, the princes were equally turned out, but like the gorgeous moss topiaries that adorned every niche of the tent, they stood at attention to provide a perfect backdrop for the princesses, countesses, duchesses, dames, empresses, baronesses, dames, viscountesses, and marchionesses of blood and marriage arrayed in their finery to pay tribute to Cinderella on Opening Night. Gowns were grand and glamorous, with an emphasis on a soft romantic look that befit the theme. More than a few tiaras topped elaborate coifs; if sooty Cinderella was going to go to the ball, the ladies-in-waiting were going to be swept up in the soiree as well.
Young British choreographer of-the-moment Christopher Wheeldon set the romantic 1945 Prokofiev ballet score to his contemporary-meets-classical choreography for this new production, to exquisite effect and overwhelming acclaim. Co-produced by the Dutch National Ballet, this much-anticipated (and sold out) premiere keeps the familiar tale fresh with a sumptuous visual vocabulary that returns to the story published in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm but gives Cinderella a strong, self-assured sense of destiny. She makes the magic happen for herself.
Riccardo Benavides' transformation of the War Memorial Courtyard (normally known as the space alongside Franklin Street) into a monarch's manse turned the traditional tent into a perfect party palace. After cocktails in the Opera House foyer, guests were guided to dinner through a grand set of gates to the 'ballroom,' which was faced with an enormous image of Hampton Court Palace, past a phalanx of gilded mirrors, the better to spy on a wicked stepmother checking her coif. A moss-covered carriage pulled by topiary stallions under a sparkling cherry tree was only the first breathtaking bower; throughout the tent, banquettes and tables were topped with silk-leaf cloths, gilded chargers, violet votives, and ravishing arrangements of roses, orchids, succulents, and woodland flora. Even longtime balletomanes admitted to being agog, while the younger were tweeting (in the like-magic Twitter Mirror) and texting their approval in new-fashioned form. McCall's dinner did not disappoint, finishing with a pretty pink pistachio-raspberry torte topped with confection pearls. By the time they were shepherded to the performance, the court of Cinderella was victually and visually sated, but the evening had only begun.
Post-performance, the pop-up palace once again became the venue for the rollicking afterparty. With a soundtrack owing more to DJ Clouse than Prokofiev, patrons mingled with afterparty additions; the cast sits down to a delayed gala dinner under the watchful eyes of the audience, continuing a courtier tradition of ages past, while others do the disco and dessert thing. An Instagram-mirror uploaded enough plentiful photos to invoke any wicked stepsisters' envy, while an ice-cream cart provided welcome relief from the heat. By the time the clock struck twelve, starring ballerina Maria Kotchetova was being squired around the dance floor with her prince of a husband Edward King, and showed no signs of having to scurry away to sweep ashes.
Making magic materialize: Event chairs Suzy Kellems Dominic in Cartier sautoir, JAR corsage, and candy-stripe bustled Lacroix and Stephanie Barlage Ejabat in gamine leopard Giambattista Valli, inimitably elegant Dinner Chair Shelby Gans with perpetually positive husband Fred Gans, choreographer Christopher Wheeldon surrounded by his many admirers, Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson and his wife Marlene Tomasson, Executive Director Glenn McCoy and Michael Manning, General Manager Debra Bernhard, Ballet Master and King-for-a-Week Ricardo Bustamante, Patron Denise Littlefield Sobel, Christine Suppes, ravishing in Rodarte, Erin Glenn in a grand duchesse satin sheath adorned with Cinderella motifs, Carole Shorenstein Hays and Jeffrey Hays, Richard C Barker, Nicola Miner and Robert Mailer Anderson, OJ and Gary Shansby, a tiara'd Tatiana Sorokko, Dr. Carolyn Chang and Patrick King, Joyce and Larry Stupski, Robin Starbuck Farmanfarmaian, Cecelia and Jim Hebert, Paula Carano adorned in Monique L'Hullier and a king's ransom of sparklers with Bandel Carano, Afsaneh Akhtari, Jennifer Benham, dashing Gatsbyesque Matthew Kimball, Sue and John Diekman, Prince Charming Principal Dancer Joan Boada, Marissa Mayer and Zach Bogue, Rosemary Baker, Alison and Michael Mauze, Sloan Barnett, Larissa Roesch, Jorje Maumer, Paul Wattis, Elizabeth Fullerton, Betsy Linder, Tanya Powell, Amanda Miller, Elizabeth Bruckman, Shelley Gordon, Charlotte and George Shultz, Melissa and Patrick Barber, Nancy Kukacka, Sandra and James Katzman, Randee and Joseph Seiger, and many, many more who would wear the silver slipper.
To see additional images or purchase prints: Cinderella Ball