The New York City Ballet Hosts a Fall Gala to Remember With Costumes by Gareth Pugh
Oct. 9, 2018
BY: LILAH RAMZI
At the start of last night’s New York City Ballet Fall Gala, spirits were as low as a prima ballerina’s grand plié. Under normal circumstances, gala-goers might have had an easier time shedding the heaviness of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings to slip on a ball gown, but the times, as we’ve come to learn, are far from normal. The celebration came in the wake of sexual harassment allegations naming three principal dancers of the company who have since been let go, proving no organization is immune to the male abuse of power. Audience members took their seats feeling somewhat unsettled, but the mood shifted soon after the performance began.
With choreography and couture printed on the invitation, the red carpet—a parade of taffeta and tulle—did not disappoint. NYCB board member Sarah Jessica Parker appeared in a pillowy crimson confection on the arm of husband Matthew Broderick; meanwhile Indre Rockefeller, Chelsea Leyland, and Jacquelyn Jablonski injected the evening with a dose of youthful charm. All of the attendees were treated to three world premieres: choreographer Matthew Neenan’s The Exchange, Gianna Reisen’s (a 19-year-old choreographer wunderkind) Judah, and Kyle Abraham’s The Runaway. Each piece came to life with costumes designed by Gareth Pugh, Giles Deacon, and Alberta Ferretti—adding to the long roster of alta moda names (Valentino, Oscar de la Renta, Rodarte) who have collaborated with the company’s renowned wardrobe department led by Marc Happel.
First up was Pugh’s poetically brutalist costumes—no tutus here! Men wore wide-legged trousers and and strappy, body-baring harness-style tops while women wore a simplistic high-necked red dresses, the skirts of which splayed out in strips with each twirl. All wore heavy panda-eyed makeup mimicked by the designer himself, who was in the crowd. Next up were Ferretti’s balletic costumes, ribbons of frilled chiffon pieced together on the bias to gorgeous effect. Onstage, the dancers, in their highly romantic ensembles, stood in contrast with the string-heavy music, slightly angsty in tempo with plucked strings and awry-sounding draws of a violin. And then came the final performance. Deacon’s mishmash of bloomers, codpieces, and 16th-century ruffs made of false hair was equal parts Fred Flintstone and Tim Burton. The performance began with a spotlit Taylor Stanley, who elegantly convulsed before initiating a full-on dance party with the aid of seven other dancers. This was set to a remix of song by Nico Muhly, Jay-Z, and Kanye West, but mostly Kanye West. The spirits in the room immediately lifted (or was that the older patrons’ eyebrows?) and guests began bouncing in their seats to the rhythm of “I Love Kanye” and “Premeditated Murder.” It was a riot; at one point Abraham delivered us a very un-balletic dance move, the “fish and hook.” What would George Balanchine think! It didn’t seem to matter because for the first time that day, we all seemed to have a bit of fun.
The sentiment carried over into a beautiful, topiary-filled gala dinner, courtesy of event producer Raúl Àvila. Finally, Sarah Jessica Parker took to the stage to deliver poignant remarks which acknowledged the company’s most recent scandal. “Though it has weighed heavily on all of us, it has been the ballet dancers whose hearts, spirits, and emotions were of far greater concern, and far more importance than our own. And so I would like to address them on behalf of all my fellow board members: Please know what a privilege it is to stand in support of you all and of all your artistic endeavors. And we do so,” she continued, wrapping up a serious matter on a high note, “for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.”