San Francisco Social Diary

San Francisco Ballet Opening Night Gala.

Trying to head to New York in January, I was “stranded” in California for weeks. But complaining would have been silly.

Instead of huddling in my New York apartment, facing mounds of snow and the arctic climate outside, I was hiking in San Francisco, enjoying views of the Pacific and Golden Gate amid temperatures in the 70s. And there was a lot to do!


Since I was in town, I was able to attend one of my favorite events: the opening night of the San Francisco Ballet.

For San Francisco-centric me, it was fun to see old friends and meet some movers and shakers from south of the city, referred to as The Peninsula. Many had taken city hotel rooms to dress and spend the night, even though it’s only a half an hour drive home.

Alison Mauze (Auxiliary President), Richard Barker (Board Chair), Rada Brooks (Gala Chair), and Marie Hurabiell (Gala Dinner Chair).

Earlier in the day, it seemed that half the Bay Area had crowded into Alex Chases’ salon, getting ready for the big night. Alex last year opened a branch at Rosewood’s Sand Hill hotel in Menlo Palo, convenient for his Silicon Valley clientele.

I ran into the Ballet’s Associate Trustee Erin Glenn, who told me about the new “Allegro Circle,” which requires a minimum donation of $5,000. The Ballet Company hopes to attract members from the well-established younger set.

A group of young mothers from the Peninsula was also there. They had left their husbands home to babysit and organized a “girls’ night out” to dress up, kick up their heels, and celebrate the ballet.

Bill O’Keeffe, Margaret Mitchell, Jennifer Fick, Jeanne Lawrence, and Hooman Khalili.

Caterer Paula LeDuc, George and Charlotte Shultz, and James LeDuc.

Kate Harbin Clammer, Marybeth LaMotte, and Erin Glen.

Gary Shansby and O.J. Shansby, in a Carolyne Roehm gown she first wore at her wedding party 21 years ago.

Rada Brooks (Gala Chair) and SF Ballet GM Debra Bernard.

Marie Hurabiell (Gala Dinner Chair) with Andrew Trader.

Claire Kostic (Gala Launch Party Chair) and Suzanne Thornton.

Patricia Ferrin Loucks (Gala Benefactor Party Chair), Laura Miller, and Elaine Mellis (Gala Patron Party Chair).

Kim Carim, Debra Bernard, Glenn McCoy, and Arshad Carim.

Event designer Riccardo Benavides and Kathy Huber (Gala Decor Chair).

Patrick and Melissa Barber.

The gods smiled on this Gala—unlike the past two years, the skies were clear and the weather so warm we didn’t need wraps.

The sold-out event attracted more than 1,050 for the dinner plus another 3,000 at the ballet. Was it the reviving economy or the excitement generated by the film Black Swan that sparked the large turnout, wondered Marybeth La Motte, founder of Red Carpet Bay Area.

Whichever it was, kudos to Chair Rada Brooks and dinner chair Marie Hurabiell Trader for raising over $1 million, the second highest amount ever.

Joy Bianchi and Executive Director Glenn McCoy.

Dede Wilsey with Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson.

Gorretti Lui, newly appointed Mayor Edwin Lee, Charlotte Shultz, and Jerry Yang.

Deepa Pakianathan.

Sloan Barnett and Steven Volpe.

Shannon and Dan Cronan.

Nate Schierholtz.

The excitement was almost palpable in the Beaux Arts City Hall rotunda, where the evening traditionally begins. Event Designer J. Riccardo Benavides of Ideas and Décor Chair Kathy Huber had visited Paris last spring searching for inspiration and vision—and they certainly got it!

Everyone raved about how the transformed City Hill reflected the glory of the Belle Époque, which was the evening’s theme. “I love how you took care of my staircase,” said Protocol Chief Charlotte Maillard to the designer. It had been covered with carpet in lavender instead of the traditional red.

Angelique Griepp.

George Shultz and Chief of Protocol Charlotte Shultz.

Dr. Tom and Julie Ballard.

Bandel and Paula Carano.

Ballet Masters Betsy Erickson and Bruce Sansom.

Suzanne Felson.

Lucy Jewett and Alex Chases.

Young ballerinas: Ellen Hummel, Jessica Lind, and Lauren Parrott.

Jean Larette.

Bob and Randi Fisher.

Yurie and Carl Pascarella.

Alan Malouf and Lindsay Bolton.

Alex Zeek, Robin Goldman, and Ryan Kimsely.

Suzy Kellems Dominik.

The color palette ranged from pale to deep purple. Under lavender lights, topiary lined the mezzanine balconies. Urns were filled with lilac, hydrangeas, and roses in the most luscious shades of lavender and silver.

Over cocktails, Carl Pascarella (former president of Visa) told me that he’d end the evening by flying to New York. Another storm was brewing, but I realized his flight wouldn’t be cancelled: he was flying privately.

Trumpets called guests to dinner, by Paula LeDuc Fine Catering. The courses included salads of Dungeness crab (a local specialty), fillet of beef, and pistachio cheesecake, accompanied by William Hill Estate wines.

Jonathan and Dr. Janice Zakin.

Brian Gougherty and Patrick Barber.

Patti Rock and John Fetzer with Suzanne and Charlie Thornton.

Dancers Val Caniparoli, Lorena Feijoo, and Vitor Luiz.

Phoebe Cowles and Robert Girard.

Kaitlin and Brendan Dyson, Nune Evans, and Beth and Brian Grossman.

Young dancers from San Francisco Ballet School.

Marin Ballet School students.

John Capobianco announces dinner.

I was seated between ballet masters Bruce Samson, recently of the London Royal Ballet, and Betsy Erickson, accompanied by her husband Jeff Nemy.

Conversation turned to the Academy-Award nominated film Black Swan which Bruce described approvingly as “A piece of theatre, a horror film. Natalie Portman is so ultimately vulnerable.”

Betsy preferred Mao’s Last Dance, based on the life of Li Cunxin, who became an internationally acclaimed principal dancer at the Houston Ballet. Betsy worked with Li, whom she recalled as “an elegant dancer and a gentleman.”

Frances Chung and Jaime Garcia Castilla in Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill Of Exactitude.

Sarah Van Patten and Tiit Helimets in Caniparoli’s Double Stop.

Vanessa Zahorian and Taras Domitro in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote.

Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz in Possokhov’s Talk To Her.

Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith in Liang’s Somewhere In Time.

The Gala selections are always chosen to highlight the company’s artistic and technical skills. The ten in the repertoire included two world premieres: Talk to Her, composed by Alberto Iglesias and choreographed by Yuri Possokhov, and Double Stop, composed by Philip Glass and choreographed by Val Caniparoli.

There were also two company premieres, Ravel’s Somewhere in Time and Don Quixote. Choreographed by Edward Liang, the Ravel featured Damien Smith and Yuan Yuan Tan, whose parents came from Shanghai for the occasion.

In Don Quixote, Vanessa Zahorian and Taras Domitro won the biggest applause, especially from the young ballet students in the balcony.

Dressed in quilted satin with lavender skirts, set with silver chargers and crystal, the tables suggested Belle Époque opulence.

Urns were filled with lilac, hydrangeas, and roses in the most luscious shades of lavender and silver.

The color palette ranged from pale to deep purple. Under lavender lights, topiary lined the mezzanine balconies.

As it’s Dungeness Crab season, we dined on Crab Salad.

Stephanie Ejabat.

Larissa Roesch.

The traditional after-party at City Hall, transformed into the “Moulin Rouge” for the occasion, attracted the energetic set. Though I had planned to step in for a moment, I stayed on, entranced by watching the young ballet corps members on the dance floor.

Stoked with plenty of food to sustain their energy, many partied on until security gently nudged us all out the door after 1 a.m.

After dinner, city police officers kindly blocked traffic so the ballet-going crowd could scurry across Van Ness to the Opera House.

Everyone seemed to be in a good mood for the night.

After the ballet performance, the tireless headed back to City Hall for the after-party.

After-party entertainment was wild.

Gina Milano and friends.

Members of the Ballet Corps, Isaac Hernández, Vanessa Zahorian, and Davit Karapetyan.

Young ballet dancers are a joy to watch on any dance floor (even when injured!).

Guests were tempted with an array of desserts and mixed drinks.

Balanchine’s Coppelia will premiere in March.

Karen Caldwell, the successful new fashion designer, drove home to Napa after the performance, as she had to get her children off to school the next morning. “It’s not a bad drive (1 hour 15 minutes) as I play vintage Madonna and Dave Brubeck on the drive home,” she said.

I hope to be in town in March for the premier of Balanchine’s Coppélia that Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson danced in almost 40 years ago. It’s getting a lot of buzz.

Kerri Zaldestani, Marybeth LaMotte, Jeanne Lawrence, and Michelle Cheatham (Chair of After-Party) resting their feet at the end of a long night.


Photographs by Erik Tomasson, Jeanne Lawrence, and Drew Altizer.

*Urbanite Jeanne Lawrence reports on lifestyle and travel from her homes in San Francisco, Shanghai, and New York, and wherever else she finds a good story.

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