The theme of this year's Ballet Austin Fête and Fête*ish could not have been more different, meteorologically speaking, from the Nutcracker-inspired winter wonderland that greeted last year's revelers. Friday's extravaganza was instead the embodiment of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the perfect touchstone for a sultry evening in early September — which is, of course, still very much summertime in these parts.
At the evening's start, Ballet Austin's preternaturally unflustered and friendly Barbara Shack made sure the glamorous passengers emerging from the line of limos, town cars and cabs outside the Driskill Hotel were guided efficiently to the welcome cool and excited chatter inside. Fête guests made their way to the mezzanine, where, after greeting event chairs Alex and Heather Ladage, they enjoyed cocktails, conversation and the music of Divisi strings.
Most partygoers had clearly taken to heart the invitation to "dress for magic," combining chic formalwear with feathers, floral garlands and glittering jewels.
As befits this yearly kickoff to Austin's social season, the crowd was a perfect mix of arty and elegant. Joining artistic director Stephen Mills and executive director Cookie Ruiz were supporters Lee and Carrie Walker, Ryan Moore, Neely Hannah, Catherine and Garry Kimball, Celeste Roberts-Lewis, Tom Farrell, Paul and Clara Bancroft, Lauren Guest, Rick and Melissa Bluntzer, and Hannah Nokes. Most partygoers had clearly taken to heart the invitation to "dress for magic," combining chic formalwear with feathers, floral garlands and glittering jewels that could be said to possess hypnotic powers.
Fête's designers were apparently similarly inspired, their crowning achievement being the lush, floral and – yes – magical forest of wonder they created for the buffet hall, where guests enjoyed a seated dinner followed by a rousing live auction. The gala then drifted across the mezzanine and blended into Fête*ish: a related, slightly more casual and freewheeling party that maintains the high style and abundant atmosphere of the formal event.
On the Fête*ish side of things, midsummer's magic took the form of a dazzling maze of lighting effects that created a forest of shadows on floors, walls and ceiling, along with a wall of flowing, colorful, maypole-like streamers and some aerial bartending courtesy of Cirque USA.
Revelers — including Shelley Berger, Christina Toronyi, Amelia Harvey, Robert Brown, William Jackson, Katie Caplener, Bethany Morgio, Sandra Rascon, Lisa Funay and Trent McCarley — mingled happily at bars and tables as they sampled ample cocktails and creative finger foods. All around them fairylike creatures and human butterflies flitted and floated about — presumably hints of what wonders the ballet's upcoming production of A Midsummer Night's Dream might hold.