The Crowd: A slice of the French Riviera in Costa Mesa

A union of culture, history and international business infused an elegant dinner last Saturday evening in the dining room of Leatherby's Café Rouge at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

Representatives of the Principality of Monaco, including the Hon. Maguy Maccario, consul general, joined executives from the Segerstrom Center for the Arts — led by Terry Dwyer and the marketing team from South Coast Plaza — to welcome invited guests for the West Coast exclusive performance of "Cinderella" by Les Ballets de Monte Carlo at the center.

Local celebrity chef Jamie Gwen pressed the flesh of dignitaries coming together for dinner at Café Rouge. Gwen introduced chef Ross Pangilinan to the dining room as he received applause for the presentation of his Monagasque-inspired three-course dinner featuring a delightful sea bass entrée.

The dinner and subsequent performance of "Cinderella" capped 10 days of collaboration between Monte Carlo and Costa Mesa in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of the Princess Grace Foundation-USA. A contingent of dignitaries representing the New York-based foundation jetted out to California to assist in a series of activities designed to promote an ongoing relationship between the citizens of Orange County and Monte Carlo.

It is an effort that the Monaco tourist office takes very seriously, and they are extremely capable when it comes to creating excitement and artistic flair.

The late Serene Highness Princess Grace is, of course, a significant element in the marketing efforts of Monaco. South Coast Plaza produced an exhibit, in collaboration with the European contingent, showcasing memorabilia that recalled the cultural heritage of Monaco and the contribution of Princess Grace with regards to the international artistic arena.

For those unfamiliar, the foundation created in her name 30 years ago finds its sole primary purpose in raising funds to support unknown emerging artistic talent in multiple disciplines, including the performing and visual arts. Over the years, scholarships provided by the foundation have sustained and enabled talent to find their voice in what might otherwise have been impossible circumstances, given the demands of making a living and supporting oneself in a world that doesn't particularly care about artistic pursuits.

Among the artists on hand for the debut of "Cinderella" was artistic director and choreographer of Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, Jean-Christophe Maillot. Maillot supervises a company of 50 dancers taking "Les Ballets" on a contemporary pursuit combining elements of the great classics with the modern world of abstraction. His talent has earned him international acclaim.

Following a final champagne toast at dinner, the crowd walked across the courtyard to Segerstrom Hall to join a sold-out house for the performance of "Cinderella."

The energy in Segerstrom was infectious. The hall was filled with an audience of dance aficionados from all over Southern California who have come to regard the dance programs at the Segerstrom Center as the most outstanding on the West Coast.

Maillot collaborated with music by Prokofiev, scenography by Ernest Pignon-Ernest, costumes by Jerome Kaplan and special lighting by Dominique Drillot to spin the magic of a contemporary "Cinderella" for the adoring crowd.

Principal dancers on stage included Anja Behrand in the role of Cinderella and Asier Uriagereka as the Prince. The stepmother was danced by Caroline Rose and the sisters were performed by Gaelle Riou and Noelani Pantastico.

The evening continued beyond the performance with a very swank after-party held poolside on the upper-level terrace adjacent to the water feature at the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel. This setting is a very chic California-meets-New-York kind of venue, which welcomed the cast and crew of "Les Ballets de Monte Carlo" mingling with Orange County guests, who had come to the performance and also demonstrated their desire to support the Princess Grace Foundation.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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