Basketball-Dribbling Ballerina Inspires Guests at French Surrealist Boston Ballet Gala

By Lauren K. Terry April 3, 2012, 6:22 PM EDT

Some 600 guests sat to dinner at long, white tables.

Photo: Eric Antoniou

Boston Ballet Gala
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The 1960s French surrealist film Last Year at Marienbad inspired the design at this year's Boston Ballet gala, which was called “Le Bal du Diamant” (or “Diamond Ball") and took place at the Park Plaza Castle on Saturday. The 600-guest, black-tie affair marked the 10th anniversary of artistic director Mikko Nissinen’s tenure at the ballet and sold out before the invitations even hit the printers. The event significantly beat its $1.5 million fund-raising goal, raking in $2.2 million.

“This year's attendance for the ball is unprecedented,” said director of partnerships and events Linda Jones. “We received an overwhelmingly positive response for Le Bal du Diamant, which is a tribute both to [the evening's honorees, top donors] Tom and Lisa Blumenthal, and Mikko Nissinen and the company he has built.”

Silent, live, and paddle auctions took place throughout the evening. The silent auction showcased lots by displaying sepia-tinted pictures of the items in white frames. Ballet company members promoted live-auction lots by donning costumes and interacting with guests. The “Celtics Pride” experience, for example—in which the highest bidder won courtside seats to a Celtics game, club passes, and team memorabilia—was promoted by a ballerina in a Celtics T-shirt and tutu dribbling a basketball while en pointe. During the paddle auction, sketches of the company's revamped Nutcracker, premiering in November, flashed across the TV screens as individual guests pledged donations as high as $10,000.

Along with raking in significant funds to support programming, the festive evening aimed to salute the work of the 49-year-old company through video murals, performances, and auctions. “We created a very unique evening for our guests that [will] deliver a memorable experience,“ said Jones in the days before the gala. “If everyone leaves the evening with a better understanding of the work that Boston Ballet does … as well as having had a great time, we’ll have done our job well.”

Working in collaboration with Altieri Events, Jones hinted at a synchronicity between Nissinen’s vision and the magical, enigmatic nature of the French film by shooting a sepia-toned, Degas-inspired video especially for the event. In the video, shown on four large screens hung around the circumference of the room, silent, tilted images of the company’s dancers blurred and blended together. Some of the dancers in the video could be seen later in the evening’s performances, which included excerpts from Nissinen’s fall program.

Adjacent to the stage and in between the drop-down screens, curtains printed with muted images of topiaries referenced a scene in the film that takes place in a geometric garden. The setting was also brought to life with live greenery in white flower pots and Winston Flowers' arrangements of white roses in hourglass-shaped vases.

French inspiration also influenced the food and beverages. The signature cocktail, dubbed “Cocktail du Diamant,” mixed champagne with peach nectar and a hint of a lavender. Max Ultimate Food's bistro-inspired dinner included pan-roasted filet of beef with caramelized onion and a goat cheese tart. A cheese-and-nut course preceded classic patisserie sweets including chocolate bouchons, palmiers, and coffee éclairs.

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