Twenty-three members of the Devenish Group descended June 14th on Lincoln Center for an exhilarating evening of world-class ballet and cultural hobnobbing that began with a dîner gastronomique in the theater’s Grand Tier Restaurant dominated by the spectacular, oversized mural by post-impressionist Marc Chagall. This was followed, of course, by the American Ballet Theater’s magnificent production of Romeo and Juliet choreographed by the legendary Sir Kenneth MacMillan.
This gargantuan mis-en-scene with its mesmerizing sets and costumes – reminiscent of a renaissance painting en movement—featured principle dancers, the handsome, beguiling Herman Cornejo of Argentina and sensually-enchanting Cuban-born Xiomara Reyes, as the tragic star-crossed lovers doomed by fate. The chemistry between the two was profoundly evident in their exquisite pas de deux interpretations. And, if that were not enough, soloist Craig Salstein as Mercutio singlehandedly dazzled the entire audience many times over with his brilliant balletic machismo feats.
The whole of the evening was arranged to perfection by group platinum member Madeline Eckett Oden, herself chairman of the ABT’s Chairman’s Council, and graciously co-hosted by Madeline and Louise Devenish, the group’s founder and driving force, who both ensured all a unique and enthralling soirée. On entering the theater’s grand foyer, the group was greeted by none other than ABT’s CEO Rachel Moore at the foot of the grand staircase. And at pre-dîner, the group was again pleasantly surprised by ABT’s Manager of Major Gifts, Mr. Jon Haddorff, who stopped by briefly to personally welcome everyone to ABT. Later during intermissions, members were treated to a rare visit backstage to view firsthand the intricate sets and state-of-the-art technologies—including the largest stage elevator in the world—of this legendary world-class facility.
As backstage guide, ABT’s Patrick Galvin pointed out a myriad of peculiarities like the stage floor which was sprung (that is, cushioned) to ease dancers feet. On another note, he further pointed out that the company spends $50,000 per year just on new ballet slippers alone. And before leaving, he mentioned that following this eight-week season, every set piece, hand prop and costume for select productions will be crated up and shipped to the company’s next performance destinations of Seoul, Korea and Taipei, Taiwan whose ballet afficianados there are anxiously awaiting this exciting ensemble.
Although the bulk of the Devenish Group’s outings involve visits to various workshops and design ateliers, this rare event for purely cultural enjoyment was, to say the least, a feather-in-the-cap of this unique networking organization from which those able to partake in it benefited royally. Once again, thank you, Louise, for your tremendous ongoing efforts!