Society / The Seen

Sensual Ballet Pushes This Elegant Ball to Stratosphere

Shadow Dancers and $1.85 Million for MFAH

BY // 10.11.16
photography ©Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com

Part divine elegance and part sensual ballet splendor, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Grand Gala Ball embraced a Degas oeuvre, heralding the artist’s upcoming retrospective. But it was much more than mere black-tie grandeur.

Consider that late in the evening, gala chair Laurie Morian and pal Karol Barnhart displaced the ballet dancer performing in the shadow box, rising behind the band, to gyrate in their ballgowns for a few beats of the Jordan Kahn Orchestra. And consider that guests packed the dance floor until the bewitching hour.

As ball chairs, Laurie and Reed Morian could not have been luckier with the theme celebrating Degas and his dancers. Traditionally, the gala salutes an exhibition or piece of art in the museum’s collection. The Degas exhibition provided bright inspiration.

While ethereally costumed dancers struck ballet poses atop a rose covered pedestal in the museum foyer, it was the mammoth silhouette projections of a modern ballet dancer pivoting across museum walls that rocked this night. 

In addition, thousands of pastel-hued roses, orchids and hydrangeas dressed tabletops and covered walls and columns while above the dance floor a “chandelier” of ribbons wafted in the air conditioning. A nightclub style atmosphere prevailed with the rare addition of banquette seating and rectangular dinner tables.

“Laurie’s touch has made this year’s event memorable,” MFAH director Gary Tinterow said. “Her knowledge and love of ballet has given the evening a special focus, and her passion literally brought our Degas retrospective alive.”

Tinterow also gave “a big Texas thank you” to Todd Fiscus of Todd Events for creating and donating the splendid decor. As Fiscus explained the unexpected generosity, his company serves three philanthropic causes — the arts, the AIDS fight, and homelessness — in both Houston and Dallas, his home base.

City Kitchen once again presented a remarkable dinner that was extravagantly supplemented by a special selection of wines. Cristina and Lee Hudson donated the white wine from their vineyard in Napa Valley while Lisa and Ralph Eads contributed red wine from their vineyard in Bordeaux.

Relishing the luxe environment were MFAH board chairman Rich Kinder and Nancy, Janice and Bob McNair, Shahla and Hushang Ansary, Cherie and Jim Flores, Courtney and Christopher Sarofim, Diane Lokey Farb, Tina and Joe Pyne, Sarah and Bill Morgan, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, and Cynthia and Tony Petrello.

It seemed the A-listers in attendance was endless with Lynn Wyatt, Jamie Niven, Isabel David, Linda and Dr. Walter McReynolds, Pat Breen, Carol and Mike Linn, Laura and Mike Sweeney, Vesta and Dr. Pedro Frommer, Lucinda and Javier Loya, Dancie and Jim Ware, Nancy and Butch Abendshein, and Heidi and Sen. Ted Cruz.

In the end, the vibrant gala raised $1.85 million for museum coffers.

Here’s a quick clip of the scene:


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