Alvin Ailey Gala Surpasses Fund-Raising Goal With Record 830 Attendees

By D. Channing Muller February 8, 2011, 9:10 AM EST

Photo: Neshan Naltchayan for BizBash

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returned to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on February 1 for its 12th annual opening night performance and dinner gala. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ailey’s “Revelations” dance piece, the gala attracted a record 830 guests, nearly 130 more than last year.

“We had an amazing set of co-chairs and vice chairs, who are extremely supportive the company and really got out there, talked to those they knew, and said it was something they needed to support and witness,” said the company’s director of special events and development initiatives, Justin Garlinghouse. “The Ailey spirit is fun and uplifting, and I think that really translates into the benefits that we throw.”

The increased attendance, along with returning sponsors Southern Company and Diageo, helped the gala raise $700,000—about $65,000 more than in 2010. The money will be used to create scholarships for local Washington residents to attend the Ailey School in New York.

To accommodate guests for dinner following the nearly two-hour performance, Garlinghouse made use of Kennedy Center’s rooftop terrace dining space, as well as the adjoining atrium and connecting passage, for the second year in a row. DC Rental provided hot pink, orange, light blue, and steel gray linens for the tables, along with matching seating cushions on the surrounding Lucite chairs. Volanni created two centerpiece designs using white hydrangeas, callas lilies, orchids, and greenery.

Garlinghouse used pink and blue uplighting and plants along the walls of the atrium, which is farthest from the dance floor and stage, to create an intimate ambience for guest seated there. “We didn’t want those who were in that room to feel like they were in a secondary space,” he said.

Free Spirit Band performed throughout the evening, getting many guests on the dance floor from before dinner service began until the event concluded at midnight.

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