By Jenny Berg Posted May 5, 2011, 10:00 AM EDT
CHICAGO “Did you know Rahm Emanuel was offered a scholarship to the Joffrey?” whispered a guest at the ballet's spring gala on Friday night, where the mayor-elect—and, apparently, skilled dancer—was among the sold-out crowd of close to 1,000 guests.
Starting with an hour-long dance performance at the Auditorium Theater and progressing to the Palmer House Hilton for cocktails, dinner, and dancing, the event was chaired by Wendy L. Chronister and Courtney A. Thompson and raised about $1.3 million.
This year, the gala had its first-ever live auction, which consisted of only one item. “A one-lot auction is great idea, as some others drag on and on,” noted auctioneer Leslie Hindman before launching into the bidding process. The exotic lot—a seven-night trip to Bhutan followed by a two-night stay in Phuket— ultimately fetched $30,000.
A cocktail-hour art viewing was another first this year. As guests snacked on passed sliders and mini grilled cheese sandwiches, they checked out Joffrey-inspired paintings that hung in the hotel hallway. The paintings served as a preview for the ballet's All-Star Collection Art Show, which will take place in late May. The artwork at the gala was available for purchase, and a percentage of sales benefited the Joffrey.
Event Creative handled design for the first time, and based decorative elements on a fitting hue: ballet pink. “This is the lovely gala,” lead designer Jeffrey Foster said. “Everything is just beautiful, and there's also a lot of fanfare and fun.” Tables were draped in alternating pink and ecru linens, and centerpieces held spring flowers such as lavender roses, pink tulips, and hydrangeas. At the center of the ballroom, four violinists played on a 16-foot stage with a pink tutu around its base.