Society / Featured Parties

Breathtaking $1.4 Million Ballet Ball Brings Out Houston’s Most Stunning Costumes Ever: These Social Swans are Real Birds of a Feather

BY // 02.19.18
photography Priscilla Dickson, Jenny Antill Clifton

Oh yes, the swans were out literally in fine feather for the Houston Ballet Ball as the Saturday night salute to the company’s upcoming production of Swan Lake inspired all manner of feathered frocks. The fashion prowess, however, took a backseat to the black-tie fundraising effort which surpassed $1.4 million, setting a ball record.

On this grand evening, no one was more spectacular than ball chair Hallie Vanderhider, who dressed for the first part of the evening in a couture Naeem Khan gown composed of 3,500 hand-sewn, black coque feathers (rooster tails) flowing with a mammoth train. (The dress was delivered to the party tent where Vanderhider donned it before guests arrived as it was too large even for a Bentley.) Then, as Party on the Moon took over the stage for dancing, she changed into a fuchsia Monique Lhuillier organza gown plumed with matching ostrich feathers.

In a fashion pas de deux, Vanderhider channeled the ballet’s Black Swan while her BFF, Tootsies’ Fady Armanious, released his not-so-inner peacock by portraying the White Swan. He dressed in a bespoke white dinner jacket from India and a feathered tulle cape, which he made himself as the Monique Lhuiller cape he had ordered did not arrive in time for the gala. Happily for ballet board chair Phoebe Tudor, her white gown and feathered cape, both by Monique Lhuiller, were in hand well before show time.

The ball chair’s wardrobe wasn’t the only breathtaking element of the spectacular evening which raised much-needed dollars for ballet coffers. With the Wortham Theater Center still under repairs from Hurricane Harvey damage, the company has had to relocate its productions and on this night moved the ball from its traditional home in the theater center’s Grand Foyer to a celestial two-tiered party tent in the parking lot next to the Houston Ballet Center for Dance. (Ballet creative director Stanton Welch recalled the dreadful August day when he waded through three feet of water, cars floating around him, in this very space.)

The Events Company, on the chairwoman’s request of honcho Richard Flowers, created a foyer where Houston Ballet Academy students, dressed from Swan Lake’s corps de ballet, welcomed guests and posed for selfies. Wait staff from City Kitchen circulated with silver trays of wine, champagne and hors d’oeuvres. Focal points were the massive swans — Odette and Odile — suspended overhead and the bevy of petite black and white swans which floated in a pool flanked by packages from the Galleria. Merchants had donated must-have items, valued from $100 to $,5,000, tagged to numbers on the swans. For $250, guests had their pick from the flock.

While that added the to bottom line, a magnificent auction of to-die-for baubles from Tenenbaum Jewelers raised the bar. Close to  20 beautiful pieces were offered in the dazzling silent auction.

From the reception, the 500 guests moved to the stunning dinner space which was divided down the middle by a mirrored walkway — to the right, White Swan esthetics and, to the left, Black Swan decor. Above the bandstand, a massive swan, half white and half black, commanded diners’ attention. A short program, dinner by City Kitchen and then dancing to Party on the Moon, the band once again underwritten by ballet patron Diane Lokey Farb. This is a lady who loves to dance and has already booked the band for the 2019 ballet ball as she has done repeatedly in recent years.

Among the swans gliding through the scene in feathers were Duyen Nguyen in a Ralph Lauren ostrich feather cape, Jerry Ann Woodfin-Costa in vintage feathery Oscar de la Renta gown updated by hubby  Victor Costa, former Ballet Ball chair Beth Muecke with feathers in her hair wearing a black and white gown by Houston’s Becky Hollands, and Mary Ann McKeithan in feather-trimmed cape in black cape.

Balletomaines: Lynn Wyatt on the arm of Welch, ballet managing director Jim Nelson, Anne and Albert Chao, Tony Bradfield and Kevin Black, Leigh Smith, Kelley and Stephen Lubanko, Bobby Tudor, Pat Breen, Jay Jones and Terry Wayne Jones, John and Becca Cason Thrash, Joanne King Herring, Courtney and Bill Toomey, Rose Cullen, Heidi and Marcus Smith, Jennifer and Josh Gravnor, Bill Baldwin, Sharon Grant, Shawn Stephens and Jim Jordan, Melanie and Jerry Martin, Alican and Troy Thacker, Stephanie and Frank Tsuru, Ann Trammell and so many more notables.

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