San Francisco Social Diary: SF Ballet 72nd Season Opening Gala

City Hall goes Venetian.


The San Francisco Ballet celebrated the opening of its 72nd season with “A Masked Ball” theme that set the tone for an opulent Venetian-esque evening of romance and revelry.

The dazzling gala also marked Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson’s 20th anniversary leading the ballet company that is the third largest in the US and certainly one of the most innovative. You might remember Helgi from his 15 years as a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, not to mention his work with the Joffrey and Harkness Ballets.

It took several venues to accommodate the sell-out crowd. About 950 benefactors and patrons dined in City Hall amid Venetian and Veronese backdrops while across the street in the War Memorial Opera House Café, 350 members of the Encore group (young professionals) partied in an Italian villa setting.

Not to be outdone, the women of San Francisco donned their most glamorous evening gowns for this sublimely stylish soirée.

The A-list crowd included socialites, members of the old and new guard, the business world and Hollywood including: actors Sean Hayes, Hector Elizondo, and director Garry Marshall (The Princess Diaries), Kathy and Nick Hilton with starlet daughter Paris Hilton, gala chairwoman Alison Carlson, Mayor of Oakland Jerry Brown, SF Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein (Sharon Stone’s ex), Chal de Guigne, contemporary art collectors Nora and Norman Stone, Frank and Daru Kawalkowski, Ballet Auxiliary President Lis Petkevich, Yuri and Carl Pascarella (President of Visa), Malcolm and Therese Post, Lucy and George Jewett III, producer Carol Shorenstein Hays and Dr. Jeffrey Hays, symphonic benefactors Dr. Timothy Blackburn and his wife, Athena Troxel Blackburn, businessman Alex Mehran, Chandra and Bob Friese, vintners Andre and Gretchen de Baubigny, Ingrid and Ruben Hills III (Hills Coffee), Ann and Bob Fisher, grand dame Denise Hale with Sharper Image founder Richard Thalheimer, and Hearst Magazines’ Claudia Ross.

Gala Chair Karen Caldwell in Lily Samii.

Gala Chair Alison Carlson in Carolina Herrera.

Dede Wilsey.

Yurie Pascarella in Christian Lacroix.

Claudia Ross.

Paris Hilton in Ellie Saab.

Alexis Swanson.

Daru Kawakowski.

Opulence on display.

Cheryl Baxter and Jenny Baxter in Badgeley Mischka.

OJ Shansby.

Kathy and Rick Hilton with Rosalina and Martin Lydster.

Masked revelers.

Donna and Chuck Huggins.

Suzanne and Charles Thornton.

Frank and Daru Kawalkowski with Peter Brandenhoff.

Festive Flora.

Celebrating San Francisco Ballet’s 72nd season.

After dinner, the guests hastened to the Opera House where the Company performed 13 classical and contemporary pieces. The program began with San Francisco Ballet School students performing Irina Jacobson’s Polonaise and included the world premiere of Tomasson’s Bagatelles. The finale from George Balanchine’s Who Cares? was performed to George and Ira Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” featuring 24 dancers.

Those with energy to spare were treated to a post-performance party that lasted until the wee hours, with a buffet highlighting the skills of 20 Bay area chefs, drinks galore and live music from The Zippers, Tim Hockenberry, and the Back Burner Blues Band.

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