Special Weekend Wrap-Up: Dancing, Dining…and Snow?

What an incredible weekend! The snow Saturday had some people staying home instead of venturing to the Touhill, but those that did attend enjoyed an exciting evening. The performances that took place were world class and the house rose to their feet as every number came to an end.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s Friday and Saturday performances were perfect! They were also fitting for our Ballet Ball Gala which took place Saturday evening. We’ve spent weeks preparing for this special occasion, amid the possibility of inclement weather. Friday evening had no hiccups and over 800 people came out to enjoy and applaud an outstanding performance. But the threat of a possible snow storm loomed over us, and, boy, did we get it.

All day Saturday we debated what would we would do. Our policy is not to cancel unless the roads are legally closed. The caterers were setting up, the tables were being placed, the dancers in place and it was decided–the show must go on.

Midday more bad news came our way. Raymond Parks, director of Central Visual & Performing Arts High School’s Dance Department, had been rushed to the hospital with a mild stroke. The CVPA students were to perform at our Ballet Ball a new work choreographed especially for them, during the Tango Buenos Aires residency, and he was bringing the 8 students to and from the Touhill. With the students without transportation, Janet Brown got on her horn and soon she had managed to find two drivers that would bring the kids and take them back. By 6 PM, they had arrived and we had the privilege to watch as their eyes grew with awe and excitement. Seeing their entire demeanor change when they donned their costumes and then become awestruck when watching the dancers of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet get ready. It was truly a fantastic moment. But what was even more fascinating is what took place moments before they were to take the stage.

It has become a theatre tradition for many, if not all, dance companies that visit to gather center stage prior to the start of the show. They encourage one another, give themselves extra power and strengthen their bond for the show to come. As I was delivering opening remarks out front, I was unable to see what took place behind-the-scenes. Kimberly Klearman, our stage manager and lighting designer for the CVPA student’s performance, shared with me how special and emotional the moment had been. The dancers of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet had invited the young performers to join their inner circle. The dancers shared inspiration and encouragement and it rubbed off. Their performance was out of this world! Thank you dancers of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet!

Of course the snow had created havoc. Of the over 1,000 people expected, we had perhaps 600 brave souls that were not going to miss this for the world. And lucky for them, they did not. During Saturday’s show we honored two remarkable women who have made an imprint in St. Louis as Executive Directors of two major arts funding organizations, Jill McGuire with Regional Arts Commission and Beverly Strohmeyer with Missouri Arts Council. They were our 2015 Swan Award honorees.

At the Gala dinner everyone sat down overseeing an incredible Currier and Ives picture like setting as the fresh snow covered the hills that surround the lobby. The large windows allowed everyone to capture the light and feeling of an evening shrouded in elegance and beauty. We purposely shortened the post-performance festivities so as to get everyone out and home safely. Those that came, gave generously and the program is to continue for many more years.

One more touching thing that came out of the snowstorm on the night of the Ballet Ball is that over 50 dinners remained unserved. Instead of trashed, they were taken to an organization that serves the homeless, Feed the People.  As life would have it, a few days ago one of the people living in Tent City, wanting to warm up, started a fire and accidently ignited his tent. He did not survive. He was known as “Hardware” and his memorial just happened to be held the day our dinners arrived. They were served to those who needed them most. So, always some good comes out of something that goes wrong.

Again, I can’t thank you all enough. We look ahead to Compagnie Käfig and Spring to Dance to wrap up this incredible season and then launch head-on to our 50th Anniversary celebration!

What a life!!!!

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