A Night of Firsts for the Joffrey Ballet's (Fun-Filled) 10th Anniversary Celebration Gala (PICS!)

It was a thrilling night in Chicago for The Joffrey Ballet's grand 10th Anniversary Celebration Gala honoring its Women's Board!  I was so excited to chair this event with Helen Hall Melchior (our 5th Joffrey event together!) along with our dynamic co-chairs Kate Bensen, Pamella Roland DeVos, Liz Sharp, Joan Colmar, Mary Pat Burns, Victoria Holdren, Nancy Gottlieb Bauer (whose sister Debbie Beitler inspired the celebration), Leslie Hindman, Anne Kaplan, Jan Melk,  Donna LaPietra and Mary Jo BaslerMaureen Dwyer Smith served as the 10th Anniversary Chair.

The magical evening began at the Auditorium Theatre where Artistic Director, Ashley Wheater, had planned a special celebration performance.  The program began with George Balanchine's  "Stars & Stripes" with Ashley himself participating.  At the end of the number, he stepped forward to surprised applause from the audience to give his opening remarks.   It was very clever and set a delightful tone for the night.  Ashley even had a projection of the American flag on the theater's curtains with the words, "Congratulations to the Women's Board."  (It made all of the WB members feel very warm and fuzzy....:-)

The dazzling program also included a pas de deux with Anastacia Holden and Derrick Agnoletti, an exuberant Exelon Strobel Step Up number ("Chaos"), a pas de deux ("Bells") with Valerie Robin and Fabrice Calmels, a pas de deux ("No Other") with Yumelia Garcia and Matthew Adamczyk (which they also performed on WGN news) and a brilliant piece from "Don Quixote" featuring a pas de deux with Victoria Jaiani and Dylan Guiterrez.

Following the performance, trolleys whisked guests to the elegant Palmer House Hilton where decor genius Tom Kehoe, had transformed the Grand Ballroom into a springtime paradise with white lilies and orchids, crystal and candlelight.   Mayor Rahm Emanuel welcomed guests and then Helen and I thanked the dancers, our co-chairs, the Women's Board, Board of Directors and our sponsors.  Executive Director Christopher Clinton Conway and Ashley presented the Arpino Angel Award to Una Jackman for her contributions to the film "Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance."

For the first time, the Women's Board partnered with the Junior Auxiliary Board to co-host a Grande Finale party following the gala dinner in the Empire Room.   Dancers celebrated the end of their season dancing to a DJ and enjoying photo ops from Photospot, ( Wes Cleaver Photography).

This night of firsts also included a Tribute Book which was presented to all of the gala guests as a memento of the evening.  The book was not only a lovely collection of  photos, history and tribute ads but it was also a brilliant fundraising tool bringing in over $50K for the organization.   Fellow co-chair Donna LaPietra (Kurtis Productions) also created an exciting video that included archival photos plus footage featuring Nate Berkus (who hosted the first two Couture & Cocktails for the Joffrey), the Mayor, dancers, Joffrey events and many other highlights of  the Women's Board's last ten years of fundraising efforts.  The Gala raised more than $1.2 million!  (Stay tuned for their next big event, The Costume Luncheon, coming on June 14th!  Click here for more info!)

Thanks to all who attended and,  for those of you who didn't,  enjoy these delightful photos by Mila Samokhina, Steve Starrand Wes Cleaver and see what you missed!  :-)

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Tags: Aaron Rogers, Abigail Simon, Alan Sax, Alberto Velazquez, Alejandro Silva, Alejandro Silva Jr., Alexis Polito, Amanda Williamson, Ann Waters, Anne Kaplan, Annie Wallis, Arnie Tatar, Ashley Wheater, Bill Farley, Bill Zwecker, Bob Golant, Brian Johnson, Brian Smith, Caitlin Meighan, Candace Jordan, Cheryle Williamson, Chris Long, Christine O'Brien, Christopher Clinton Conway, Chuck Jordan, Corinne Melchior, dance in Chicago, David Brandt, David Gombert, Debbie Beitler, Dick Johnson, Donna LaPietra, Dylan Gutierrez, EB Smith, Emila Silva, Exelon Strobel step Up, Fabrice Calmels, Francois Alouf, Galas, Greg Hyder, Gretchen Moll, Hedwig Golant, Helen Melchior, Herb Migdoll, Jan Melk, Jason Dohmann, Jim Smith, Joan Colmar, Joel Williamson, John P. Walcher, John Walcher, Julia Doherty, Junior Auxiliary Board, Kate Bensen, Ken Shanoff, Kurtis Productions, Laura Silva, Laurie Garwood, Leslie Hindman, Liz Ryan, Liz Sharp, Lydia Alouf, Marina Tatar, Mary Jo Basler, Mary Pat Burns, Maureen Smith, Mauro Villianueva, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Melissa Babcock, Miguel Blanco, Mila Samokhina, Nancy Gottlieb Bauer, Nate Berkus, Palmer House Hilton, Pamella DeVos, Pamella Roland, Paul Iacono, Pierre Lockett, Rhonda Sanderson, Shawna Owen, Shelley MacArthur Farley, Sheryl Dyer, Sonya Jackson, Sophie Bross, Stacy Saltzman, Steve Starr, Temur Suluashvili, The Costume Luncheon, The Joffrey Ballet, Tom Gorman, Tom Kehoe, Una Jackman, Victoria Holdren, Victoria Jaiani, Wes Cleaver

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