Arriving at the David H. Koch Theater Thursday night for the New York City Ballet’s Spring Gala, one could be forgiven for thinking they were at a Hollywood premiere or fashion soirée. The evening’s honorary chair, Natalie Portman, posed on the red carpet with her fiancé Benjamin Millepied, whose ballet "Two Hearts" was having its world premiere. The costumes were designed by the Rodarte team of Kate and Laura Mulleavy, also in attendance. Inside the theater, a very pregnant Drew Barrymore slid into her seat alongside fiancé Will Kopelman. And Gilles Mendel, who created the costumes for Peter Martins’ "Mes Oiseaux," also having a world premiere that night, came with a glamorous gaggle that included the models Carolyn Murphy and Bette Franke. Not to mention the evening was sponsored by Dior and Swarovski.
“I feel like I’m on vacation,” said Mendel, who was enjoying his sophomore effort collaborating with NYCB. “Because there’s no competition. You just create. There’s no economic reason for it.”
“Thanks to my husband-to-be’s family, I’m getting to go a lot more often,” offered Barrymore of her dance outings (Kopelman’s parents, Coco and Arie, are loyal supporters of the ballet).
It’s not the first time the NYCB has simultaneously courted film and fashion: their fall 2011 gala featured a ballet with a score by Sir Paul McCartney and costumes by his daughter, Stella, who brought along pals like Liv Tyler and Naomi Watts for the evening. How stalwarts feel about this glitzier side to a more traditional art form—and event—remains to be seen. But it certainly added some sparkle to the affair. And intrigue.
“Do we do this?” said one teenage boy to his friend as they climbed the stairs to the post-performance dinner.
“We have to. We’ll be talking about it for the rest of our lives,” said his friend.
“What do we say?” asked the first, voice quivering.
“Umm, we’re really big fans?” offered the other.
Whether they had their sights set on Portman or Barrymore was unclear (I hope for their sakes it was Barrymore, who graciously answered questions, as opposed to the former, who despite being the honorary chair refused all queries). But it was not a conversation you would have heard two years ago.
That said, the night’s theme was not “Famous People.” Instead, it was “A la Francaise,” a celebration of France. Martins’ ballet featured a score by Gallic composer Marc-Andre Dalbavie (and Mendel’s designs); Millepied is francais, and the third part of the dance program was a revival of Balanchine’s “Symphony in C,” originally created for the Paris Opera Ballet and with a score by Georges Bizet (the costumes, by Marc Happel and covered in Swarvoski crystals, sparkled like jewels).
As such, dinner on the theater’s Promenade was like eating in the midst of a French garden. Floral trestles hung from the ceilings, huge white vases replete with more blossoms dotted many tables and both ends of the room were flanked by huge white statues and blow-ups of verdant photos taken by gala co-chair Charlotte Moss.
After a bucolic-friendly meal of asparagus and roast chicken, many headed to less green pastures—a ballet evening, after all, is a long one. Not Jill Kargman.
“I need to get in at least two dances before I leave,” she exclaimed, making her way to the dancefloor. “Even if it’s the robot.”
Photos: Sherly Rabbani & Josephine Solimene