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Gorgeous Dancers, Stevie Wonder and More Make This Mansion Gala Live Up to Grand Expectations

The Last of Its Kind?

BY // 09.12.17

“Gorgeous dancers and Stevie Wonder?! Oh my gahhhhhh … !” That kind of enthusiastic, O-M-G tone effused by Dallas Theater Center associate artistic director Joel Ferrell, following the world-premiere TACA-commissioned performance of “Celebration,” was one that permeated the entirety of TACA’s 50th anniversary Gala.

Expectations were high for the black-tie evening at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek for two reasons: Most notably, it was the exclamation point on a year of celebratory events, led by 50th Anniversary chairs (and newly engaged couple) Wanda Gierhart and Dean Fearing. Then, of course, there were bittersweet murmurs, for it was known that this would be TACA’s last Gala — an announcement that came late summer, noting the gala would evolve into a benefit to celebrate and thank top donors.

(Admittedly, we will mourn the loss of one of our favorite black-tie nights on the fall social calendar, as TACA and the Mansion have time and again set the bar undeniably high with regards to everything from the elite status of the crowd to the high quality of the evening’s cuisine and the covetable nature of the live-auction items. Fret not, however, as we’re told TACA’s popular Party on the Green and beloved Silver Cup Luncheon will remain intact.)

But back to the Gala. When we first met with Gierhart last year to discuss her plans for TACA’s golden year, she had one goal in mind: Incorporate more arts into each of TACA’s annual events. After all, TACA’s mission is to fund the performing arts in Dallas, so why not let its fund-raising events double as venues.

Gierhart succeeded in spades, bringing live performances to TACA’s Silver Cup Luncheon and Party on the Green this spring, plus a grand finale of epic proportions at the Gala. Curated by TITAS executive and artistic director, Charles Santos, “Celebrate” brought dancers together from Bruce Wood Dance, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, and Dark Circles Contemporary Dance in a spirited, jovial piece choreographed by Dallas Black Dance Theatre artistic director Bridget L. Moore. Set to a compilation of Stevie Wonder tracks, it was just the thing to spice up cocktail hour — and entice attendees to generously raise their paddles in the raucous live auction that followed.

With several glasses of champagne and the live auction behind us, next came dinner. This is the portion of the evening TACA is most famous for: a coursed, seated dinner throughout the Mansion’s restaurant, bar, and upstairs suites that feels less like a fundraiser and more like an old-world, opulent meal held in someone’s beautiful home.

A few familiar Mansion-ites couldn’t be missed. Of course, there was Fearing, the hotel’s former executive chef who joked, “I only know a little bit about this place …” He could be seen chatting with Deborah and John Scott, who recently moved back to Dallas after a stint in London. John was a former CEO of Rosewood Hotels, and now has his sites firmly set on the opening of his private, members-only club, Park House, in Highland Park Village. Deborah, his partner in the project, sported her signature look — a jumpsuit, this one in sexy red lace.

Also on the TACA scene were guests including TACA’s incoming board president Michelle Thomas, who will succeed current board chair Donna Wilhelm; TACA executive director Wolford McCue; the Nasher Sculpture Center’s director Jeremy Strick, with wife Wendy Strick, and the museum’s new Nasher Store director Donald Fowler; longtime arts patrons Diane and Hal Brierley; plus Robert Weatherly, Lisa and Bill Ogle, Andrea and John Weber, Lynn and Allan McBee, Laree Hulshoff and Ben Fischer, and Nick Even.

Home, chic home.

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