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Instead of splitting its annual benefit gala into separate pieces for the performance portion and the dinner portion of the event (as in the Mark Morris Dance Group's recent benefit), the Parsons Dance Company chose to incorporate both into the same space at the same time.
In a continuous switch-off between dancing and eating at the Hammerstein Ballroom, guests were treated to short performances by the company and special guests Susan Jaffe and Angel Corella of the American Ballet Theatre. The event was organized by its chairwoman, Linda Stocknoff, a member of the company's board of directors, with technical production by Ken Maldonado, the company's director of special events.
The evening began with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres on the ballroom's top balcony. Guests were then coaxed onto the first balcony to watch a short dance piece, and then were invited by the dancers at the conclusion of the piece to come down to the main floor to take their seats at the dinner tables, which were pre-set with a salad of field greens, roasted portabello mushrooms, tomatoes and parmesan crostini from the Catering Company. Guests quietly ate their salads until another performance began--which mesmerized the crowd to the point that the salad was all but forgotten until the end of the dance.
The decor for this event was limited; after all, the designers didn't want to detract from the performances. Carolyn Buckley, a designer for the Catering Company, chose shimmering, iridescent rainbow tablecloths from ASAP Linen to adorn the tables. Candles in frosted glasses placed at the center of each table created a warm glow for the guests (and enough light to see their dinner plates) when the room was dark for mid-meal performances. For the entree, Chef Vladimir Zivkovich from the Catering Company prepared half-roasted duck in a cherry and orange sauce served with risotto pancakes and baby vegetables.
More performances followed throughout the night: One highlight was a performance by David Parsons of Bounce, in which he continuously bounced, twirled and flipped through the air on a huge trampoline set on the Hammerstein's main stage, set to music by John Adams. Another fun performance featured a musical selection that combined Vivaldi and Donna Summer, and featured dancers Jaime Martinez and Robert Battle in Donkey Show-esque 70's wigs and costumes. (Most of the music for the dances was provided by the Eos Orchestra, which doesn't usually perform at special events, but appeared through a special arrangement with the dance company.)
The final performance ended with dancers plucking dinner guests from their tables to join them on stage. It took less than a minute for the dance floor to fill, with everyone from young partygoers to several elderly couples eager to dance after watching the evening's program.