By Jenny Berg Posted May 8, 2012, 3:10 PM EDT
CHICAGO The lobby of the Auditorium Theatre was flush with gowns, tuxes, and champagne flutes on Sunday night during the Joffrey Ballet's spring gala. Starting with a performance at the theater and culminating with dinner at the Palmer House Hilton, this year's benefit marked a milestone occasion for the institution's women's board. The evening drew 800 guests and raised more than $1.2 million.
“The celebration of the 10th anniversary of the women's board is what is truly different about this year,” wrote co-chairs Candace Jordan and Helen Melchior in a collaborative email before the event. “We have a tribute book for the first time honoring our past and present members. ... It is an incredibly successful fund-raising tool with ours bringing in over $50,000 and counting.” Containing archival photos and a history of the board, the program also contained congratulatory messages from sponsors such as Harris Private Bank.
The evening also included a video tribute produced by Donna LaPietra of Kurtis Productions. “We have gone through clips and videos and photographs from 10 years of events, and Donna has masterfully edited and produced something that will be incredible,” the co-chairs said. “The video will include photos and videos of people thanking the women's board for their amazing contributions over the past 10 years. We have raised [more than] $16 million, including our gala revenue, thus far.” Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was present on Sunday night, was one of the featured guests in the video.
For the first time this year, the women's board hosted its gala in conjunction with the junior associate board's “Grand Finale” party, which has traditionally been a standalone event that lets the dancers kick back after the last performance of the season. This year's party struck up at around 9:30 p.m., after the dinner program had wrapped. Held in the hotel's Empire ballroom, the late-night fete had a table of glitter-dusted Magnolia cupcakes, mini grilled cheese sandwiches, and—because ballerinas were in attendance—a dance floor that saw exceptionally skilled moves, as a DJ from Sounds Abound Entertainment spun current hits.
Combining the main event with Grand Finale “was a great [way] to entice a younger crowd and expand the reach of the gala,” Jordan and Melchior said. “The Junior Auxiliary Board is 185 members strong and is the future of our Joffrey. We are all on the same page in our desire to honor our dancers and thought this way would be more inclusive, with everyone who loves the Joffrey involved in some way. We do hope this partnership will become a tradition.”