Ever on cue, the San Francisco Ballet held its 2016 opening night, embellished by a series of festivities hosted by the Association Board of Trustee and the Ballet Auxiliary. The stated theme was "Provocative," an unusual departure for an institution better known for its excellence in classicism than its celebration of the avant-garde. And while the afterparty was notably sponsored by lingerie brand La Perla, the evening was heavy on the lovely, but low on the provocatively louche. Patrons arrived early in the evening to the Rotunda of City Hall for prosecco and purloined selfies, elegantly adorned in ballgowns which were presumably only provocative in their price tags. The absence of threatened rain kept spirits and spitcurls elevated, with plenty of airkissing and mutual admiration filling the sumptuous space, still the prettiest venue in the City. J. Riccardo Benevides bathed the atrium of the voluminous hall in jewel-colored light, creating cameos to highlight various architectural details in all of their Beaux-Arts beauty. He flanked the stairs with winged ballerina mannequins, and drew interest upward with the tracery figure of dancers suspended in midair, trailing swaths of silk. Shepherding the various tiers of patrons to their appointed dinners was perhaps the most provoked part of the evening, as the balcony and North and South Light Courts found their appointed Lucite perches, and the satisfying, stratifying musical chairs of the Rotunda began. Despite the visually stunning meal of smoked salmon salad, beef filet and shortribs, and chocolate pot de crème provided with professionalism by McCall's, the focus was on one another rather than on dinner itself - friends scooted over and around to check in with one another, and have a little runway moment gliding along the Grand Staircase. All too soon, it was time for the curtain, and in less than sixty minutes, the evening which had been planned for nearly sixty weeks had reached its denoument. It was time for the professionals to do their pirouettes.
There was something strangely satisfying about swanning across Market Street while traffic was stopped on your behalf, and everyone appreciated their moment in the streetlamp spotlight. Then a scramble for seats, a sincere welcome from Board Chair and underwriting sponsor John Osterweis, and then the orchestral National Anthem that marked the official debut. Following last season's sentimental cavalcade of the School of Ballet, the program began with Coppelia's corps of sugary sweet students, two dozen tutu'd ballerinas put through their petal pink paces with ability and adorable effort. Then the premiere of a sexy adagio from Carmen, in which choreographer Yuri Possokhov put real-life couple Lrena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz through some very provocative paces. With thirteen varied pieces in the program, there was something to suit every style, from Balanchine, ("Rubies") to Broadway("Carousel.") Over and over, the dancers and choreographers and orchestral performers demonstrated their caliber, giving the audience ample occasion to applaud this world-class ballet company. Then another swanlike scurry across Van Ness for the Afterparty, a jam-packed jostle of enthusiasm that began the evening for some even as the others were slipping away. The highlight is always the get-down disco dancing of those previously seen on stage - there were plenty of moves like Jagger, and more than a few turns like Tomasson and boogie like Bustamante. There was a dance band in the light court, a dj spinning through silent headphones up on the balcony, with bars and food stations dishing up truffled mac and cheese with meatballs, charcuterie, crudités, sushi, and enough sweets to replace any calories lost to excessive shimmying. Known as one of the best parties of the social season, the music continued well into the night, giving many more the chance to dance - because moving to the music may be the most provocative exercise of all.
And here's a few of who they were and more of what they wore:
Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson, Executive Director Glenn McCoy, and Musical Director Martin West all appeared calm and in control in their classic tuxedos; this was a work night of the highest order, even as they were celebrated for their significant accomplishments in bringing it all together. Event Chair Jennifer Brandenburg appeared in Angel Sanchez, dinner chair Christine Leong Connors courted in Monique Lhullier, and décor chair Rhonda Mahendroo chose a pink Alexander McQueen kimono. BRAVO President Patricia Knight, ENCORE! President Emily Hu, and Allegro Circle Co-Chairs Stewart McDowell Brady and Patrice Lovato all focused on ensuring their various constituencies were engaged, the evening a culmination of hundreds of hours of leadership, diligence, and persuasion. The inimitable and admirable Bernard and Barbro Osher were feted as Honorary Chairs.
Alison Mauze wore a striking full-skirted Carolina Herrera. Suzy Kellems Dominik appeared in showstopping vintage Lacroix for Patou, along with fellow trustees Shelby Gans, Nancy Kukacka, and James and Stephanie Marver, she in a softly mirrored Valentino that revealed a few charms, as did Julet de Baubigny. Andrew Gn was worn by Yurie Pascarella, Norah Stone, Carolyn Chang, and PR princess Alison Speer, while Oscar appeared on Tanya Powell, and a Dede Wilsey, whose rubies were indeed Balanchine-worthy. Jennifer Walske chose a soft-caramel Carolina Herrera, Charlotte Shultz wore a Wilkes Bashford-approved Donald Deal in cobalt. Local designers got plenty of stair-play: Karen Caldwell's distinctive colored satin appeared on herself, Betsy Linder, and in a striking hot pink coat on Kelly Carter, while Vasily Vein escorted Rada Katz in cobalt, and adorned Clara Shayevich in sky-blue brocade. Charlot Malin looked sylphlike in sleeveless McQueen with minaudiere to match. Many guests opted for soft draping, and close-to-the-body silhouettes. Camille Bently's vintage emerald velvet 1930's Nettie Rosenstein was impeccably glamorous, as was Robin Collins' white slink topped off with a marshmallow of marabou. Denise Littlefield Sobel appeared in a soft beaded Monique Lhullier, while New York balletomane Blaine Trump wore Gianfranco Ferre to support her friend, composer Karen LeFrak, whose music was performed in "Gentle Memories." Christine Suppes stayed true to her beloved Rodarte, while Huifen Chan was notable in a grand burgundy confection by Dennis Basso. Vanessa Getty carried a slim Saint Laurent gown with her usual aplomb. The gentlemen were consistently handsome in their tuxedoes, most of a traditional turn, although the big formalwear trend was the number of youngish men in kilts, provocatively accessorized with nothing more than a sporran and a smile, including Matthew Kimball, David Reposar, David Shulman, and Christopher Bently, whose custom stovepipe top hat made a tall statement. Nathan Johnson and Jake Wall wore custom tuxedoes of their own design. Alan Malouf wore a subtle dinner jacket while Joel Goodrich shone in sparkly silver and black. Jacques Pantanzes was a standout in a dramatic Dries Van Noten coat, throwing a nineteenth-century gauntlet down as a truly formal challenge to anyone who wanted a stylish duel.
Also in the corps de soigne: OJ and Gary Shansby, Bandel Carano with Paula Carano in blue Naeem Kahn, David and Mary Beth Shimmon, Elaine Mellis, Barbara Brown, Nicola Miner and Robert Mailer Anderson, Hanne Vastveit, Justin Fichelson, Jennifer Seibel Newsom looking luminous next to her dashing husband, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, Alison Pincus, Victoire Reynal and Owsley Brown, Jennifer Benham, Athena and Timothy Blackburn, Carolyn Chandler, Navid Armstrong, Prisca Geeslin, Jan Zakin, Mainul Mondal, Deepa Pakianathan, Stacey and Ted Dobos, Randi Fisher, Sukey Forbes and Stefan Engst, Nadine Weil, Nancy Livingston and Fred Levin, Keith and Claudia Ross, Alan and Angela Braverman, Rita and Byron Gill, Jack Calhoun, Laura Du Bain, Mark Rhoades, Kai Pang Pan, Shelley Gordon, Hillary Thomas and JP Conte, Shannon Woodside, James Hormel and Michael Nguyen, Alain and Ezmerelda Azan, Sol and Kate Coffino, Brenda and George Jewett, Lucy Jewett, Kat and Tom Steyer, Jane Mudge, Shannon Cronan, Patrick and Melissa Barber, Joy Venturini Bianchi, Nicole Curran, Marybeth La Motte, Karen Kubin, Damian Smith, Liz Curtis, Carole Shorenstein Hays and Jeff Hays, and many more whose evenings were dedicated to the dance, provocative or philanthropic, or both.