The Washington Ballet held its largest annual fund-raiser, for nearly 500 people, on Thursday night at the Embassy of the Russian Federation. Held in a tent behind the home of a Swedish ambassador last year, the benefit changed venues and themes for 2011, pairing ballet’s historical origins with inspiration from the company’s “Rock & Roll” show that ran earlier this year.
“It’s hard to ask an embassy to host 500 people every year,” said Liz Early, manager of special events and stewardship for the Washington Ballet. “We’re starting to form a relationship with the Russian embassy and since Russia represents ballet so well, it fit.”
Early turned to Syzygy Event Productions to execute the rock-inspired decor, which centered around oversized Andy Warhol-style paintings of icons like Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger, and Janis Joplin in each of the three dining rooms. Two large screens flanking the main stage, and flat screen televisions in each of the two adjoining dining rooms, showed black and white photos of recognizable rock stars from the '60s and '70s like the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.
When it came to entertainment, four company dancers performed two excerpts from “Rock & Roll” to songs by the Rolling Stones. Early also added a third ballet performance before dinner this year by students from the ballet’s community outreach program. Throughout the cocktail reception, J.P. McDermott and Western Bop performed a mix of '50s and '60s tunes. Later, New York-based the Dexter Lake Club Band kept the dance floor full until 1 a.m.
The event raised approximately $340,000, about $80,000 more than last year. Early attributed the increase to a lower production budget as a result of the indoor venue compared to last year's outside affair, as well as the increase in sponsors from 135 in 2010 to 174 this year at the $15,000 and $1,000 levels.