As emcee of the American Ballet Theatre’s holiday benefit, actress Jennifer Garner told the audience that it had been her “lifelong dream” to be onstage celebrating the ballet company.
Then she jokingly added: “Lucky for all of you, I will not be dancing tonight.”
ABT’s annual West Coast gala celebrated the season Dec. 17 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. Following a cocktail reception and dinner of Pacific sea bass, ABT dancers performed scenes from the company’s repertoire and later mingled with guests over a dessert buffet of macarons, mini cupcakes and petit fours.
Calling her a “beloved friend, accomplished performer, entrepreneur, super-mom and self-professed ballet junkie,” principal dancers Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside introduced Garner.
The Golden Globe-winning actress happily gushed about her love for ballet and spoke of the importance of cultivating young dancers and audiences, “like my 6-year-old son who’s going to grow up and appreciate being an audience member,” Garner said.
Principal dancers Stella Abrera, Misty Copeland, Sarah Lane, Hee Seo, Christine Shevchenko, Cory Stearns, Boylston and members of the corps de ballet performed scenes from “The Nutcracker” and “Harlequinade” by artist-in-residence Alexei Ratmansky, along with excerpts from Jessica Lang’s “Garden Blue” and Michelle Dorrance’s unique and upbeat tap ballet, “Dream Within a Dream (deferred).”
“This is the American Ballet Theatre, and tap dance is the original American art form,” Dorrance said. “I wanted to do something that showed the relationship. It was a lot to ask [of the dancers], but they really sunk their teeth into it. They had to get out of their comfort zone from Day One, but they were incredibly collaborative. And I couldn’t be more grateful to them.”
Dance aficionados filling the ballroom included Lotte Verbeek (“The Borgias”), Sharon Lawrence (“NYPD Blue” and the upcoming “On Becoming a God in Central Florida”), Leslie Ann Warren (“Blunt Talk”) and Nigel Lythgoe (“So You Think You Can Dance”). Andrew and Avery Barth, Stewart Smith and Robin Ferracone, Sarah Arison and Sutton Stracke served as co-chairs.
“This is my favorite event of the year,” said Verbeek, describing the gala as “classy, warm, cultured and elegant.”
“I started out as a dancer — eight times a week on Broadway,” Lawrence said. “I wouldn’t miss this.”
“I absolutely love this event,” said Copeland, joining guests after her performance. “I’ve been here every single year since it’s been happening. It’s really nice to be part of our ABT holiday tradition.”
Tickets for the 300 guests started at $1,000, and tables ranged to $25,000. Proceeds support ABT and its educational outreach programs, which bring ballet to 18,000 children each year.
Although Garner as promiseddidn’t dance, she showed a clip of herself playing the role of Pierrette in a video parody of “Harlequinade.” ABT will present the ballet at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa beginning Jan. 17.
“I will be there,” Garner said. “I’m not going to tell you where I’ll be,” but she suggested people come and find out.