Texas Ballet Theater's 2018 Come Dance With Us! Gala was a well-choreographed affair, with multiple events that kept patrons moving around the Bass Hall complex like a high-heeled corps de ballet.
Themed "Pirouettes and Pianos," the mega-gala not only raised vital funds for TBT but celebrated the dance company's first ever partnership with another Fort Worth cultural institution, The Cliburn. The event was chaired by Dana Porter, who has served on the boards of both artistic organizations, and her husband, David.
Upon arrival, guests mingled in the lobby of the Maddox-Muse Center for cocktails and bidding on fabulous silent auction items — a trip to Sonoma wine country, a TBT ballerina birthday party, a "gentleman's toast" package of local whiskey and cigars, and more. When the doors opened to Van Cliburn Recital Hall, about 250 attendees, including Robert and Anne Bass, Mercedes Bass, Tommy Smith, Todd and Melissa Mehall, Leigh and Michael Bornitz, Asad Dean, Bradley and Gaylord Lummis, Capera Ryan, and Hugh Washburne were seated for dinner.
The otherwise plain hall was transformed into an elegant dining room with fragrant white floral centerpieces designed by Jim Irwin Floral, twinkling white candles, and crystal embellishments hanging from the ceiling. (The floral design was so well thought-out that it extended to the restrooms.)
Each dinner place was set with a beautiful small cake decorated with the evening's "Pirouettes and Pianos" artwork in fondant icing by Wonderful Kakes. Before digging their forks into the Grand Marnier dark chocolate confection, patrons dined on pear-gorgonzola salad, Adriatic shrimp, grilled petite filet with brandy peppercorn sauce, asparagus, and potato Dauphinoise by City Kitchen.
The Porters welcomed guests and acknowledged the leaders of both artistic organizations, Cliburn president and CEO Jacques Marquis and TBT artistic director Ben Stevenson and executive director Vanessa Logan, for their shared spirit of collaboration.
After dinner, attendees walked across the street to Bass Hall, where they were treated to the result of the artistic collaboration. In Seven Sonatas, six TBT dancers performed to Scarlatti sonatas played by pianist Sean Chen, third-prize winner of the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. With a single pianist on stage and the dancers — donning simple white costumes — performing Alexei Ratmansky's choreography that was both playful and yearning, the presentation felt more intimate than most staged in big concert halls.
After an intermission pause in the Green Room for prosecco, it was time to settle in for an entirely different performance. Henry VIII, choreographed by TBT dancer Carl Coomer and set to the Gustav Holst's majestic Planets suite, was a lavish production with a huge cast, grand sets, and regal costumes — appropriate for the story of the famous English king and all his wives.
Following several curtain calls, gala-goers headed back across the street for the after-party in McDavid Studio, which had been set with lounge furniture and a dance floor. They wasted no time moving and grooving and turning their own pirouettes to the sounds of The Project Band. Cocktails in hand, guests refueled with noshes like gourmet popcorn and mac and cheese.
The party kicked into high gear once TBT dancers, including Andre Silva, Michelle Taylor, Paige Nyman, Katelyn Rhodes, Valentin Batista, and Kyle Torres-Hiyoshi arrived, fresh from the stage, to keep the dance floor going until the last song was played.
While final numbers are still being tallied, TBT leaders say they exceeded their projected goal at the gala, their primary fundraiser for the year. Funds raised help support Texas Ballet Theater's mission of showcasing the art of ballet, providing for outreach to underserved communities around Dallas-Fort Worth, and educating future dancers.