Washington Ballet Opens Season With New Gatsby-Themed Gala

By D. Channing Muller October 4, 2011, 2:57 PM EDT

Photo: Tony Brown/

Washington Ballet's Inaugural Soiree
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The Washington Ballet’s Women’s Committee reshuffled its fund-raising plan with the launch of the Ballet Soiree on Friday night. The group returned to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce after the success of its wine tasting event there in January, and refocused its efforts from two events per year—one fashion-focused, one wine tasting—to the soiree for 400 people as its new signature gala to kick off the new season.

“[The committee] used to do two smaller events and they took the format of the wine tasting that was really a success last season and created more of a gala kickoff for the fall,” said the ballet’s manager of special events and stewardship Elizabeth Early. “We felt like [a fall kickoff] was really lacking from the event calendar so we plan on this being an annual event.”  

With the effort of the entire 100-woman committee focused on this one event, the group doubled its ticket and sponsorship dollars compared to the January event. Early noted that while attendance increased by 100, the levels at which sponsors donated increased overall, resulting in roughly $94,000 being raised--more than twice as much as was raised at the wine tasting event last year. Montblanc served as the night’s top sponsor with companies Batch 19, Smooth Amber Spirits, Ace Beverage, and Capital Wines stocking the six bars.

The night took inspiration from the company’s first production in November, The Great Gatsby. Organizers turned the rooftop and two interior rooms of the chamber into a speakeasy-style atmosphere. A costumed gangster greeted guests upon arrival at the V.I.P. reception, which started an hour before general admission, asking invitees to recite the password they received after confirming their attendance. Organizers worked with retail window designer Micheal Horton from New York to design a layout upstairs that required guests to weave through empty offices and climb two flights of stairs before knocking on the rooftop door to gain access to the party.

Fedoras, cigarette holders, candy cigarettes, chocolate cigars, long pearls, and feather headbands on the cocktail tables helped the non-costumed guests get into the spirit of the night. Jazz band Hot Club of DC performed throughout the V.I.P. and general admission receptions, the latter of which took place inside a smaller room of the venue adjacent to the main event space. Before turning the night over to the live auction and DJ Pitch One for dancing, members of the ballet company performed an excerpt from the night’s namesake production.

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