American Ballet Theatre celebrates Christmas with magical annual holiday benefit

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Nothing captures the magic of the holidays as much as seeing little ballet dancers perform. Seeing grown up ballerinas can be pretty magical too, especially if they are the best of the best from the American Ballet Theatre.

Many darlings of the ballet world gathered for the American Ballet Theatre annual Holiday Benefit on Monday, December 11 at the Beverly Hilton. The evening featured a one-night-only performance by the world-renowned artists of American Ballet Theatre (ABT), including Principal Dancers Stella Abrera, Misty Copeland, Gillian Murphy, Hee Seo, Daniil Simkin and Cory Stearns, in what was called “the greatest hits” from the Company’s repertoire. Of course, it included scenes from the treasured classics The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, but also some modern numbers, such as the mesmerizing Misty Copeland and Blaine Hoven performing “I Feel the Earth Move”—and with them it did move and excite!

Another highlight was discovering new talent with Daniil Simkin, who seemed to channel a young Mikhail Baryshnikov when he performed Jacques Brel’s “Les Bourgeois.” The ABT has been home to many of ballet’s legendary stars including Baryshnikov; now Simkin carries on the legacy.

The performances also included a first look at renowned choreographer Alexei Ratmansky’s full-length ballet Harlequinade, which will have its world premiere during ABT’s 2018 Spring Season at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. At the conclusion of the performance, ABT Executive Director Kara Medoff Barnett thanked the dancers and guests and proudly boasted, “ABT is America’s National Ballet Company, and we travel all over the country and around the world.  Our offices and rehearsal studios may be in New York City, but Southern California is our second home.”

This year’s Holiday Benefit, sponsored by Harry Winston Inc., honored Judy Morr, Executive Vice President of Segerstrom Center for the Arts for her dedication and service to dance and the performing arts community. Proceeds from the event support American Ballet Theatre and its educational programs.

ABT Board Chairman, Andy Barth, welcomed the more than 300 guests and thanked his fellow co-chairs and sponsor Harry Winston. Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie spoke about ABT’s 50-year love affair with Southern California. “ABT has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with our honoree Judy Morr for nearly 50 years,” said McKenzie. “Judy has been single-handedly responsible for curating a world renowned international dance program of the highest quality, presenting more than 1,000 dance performances to more than two million audience members.”

Following the performances, guests enjoyed dinner and dessert with the dancers. Co-chairs of the ABT Holiday Benefit were Sarah Arison, Avery and Andy Barth, Lisa Love, Michael Moser, Elizabeth Segerstrom, Stewart Smith and Robin Ferracone and Sutton Stracke, and the junior co-chair was Hannah Selleck. Also, Katy Sweet and Associates Public Relations, with Pam Giangregorio as Katy’s go-to-gal, deserves kudos for always making sure the red carpet runs smoothly at great events.

Among the notables on hand was Nigel Lythgoe, executive producer, judge and creative force behind Fox TV’s So You Think You Can Dance, which also celebrates great dancers and choreographers and the joy they share.

Joy to the world.

Margie Barron is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 35 years, and was proud to be half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.

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