- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 12, 2004

“Smash,” “triumph” and “tour de force” were but a few of the accolades tumbling from the lips of glittery guests as they spilled from the Warner Theatre onto the street after Friday’s premiere of the Washington Ballet’s spectacular new production of “The Nutcracker.”

Set in mid-19th-century Georgetown with glorious costumes, dreamy sets and an enormous cast of dancers, director Septime Webre’s take on the classic holiday ballet didn’t fail to inspire an equally grand celebration.

First-nighters who paid a minimum $500 apiece to dine, dance and be merry at the post-performance “Nutcracker Ball” at the Mellon Auditorium were glamorously garbed for the occasion, with many of the ladies in fancy long dresses and jewels that rarely get taken out of the vault.

Event chairwoman Mary Ourisman set the tone in a pale green gown with masses of belle epoque ruffles by couturier Monique L’huillier and a magnificent Cartier art deco necklace of carved emeralds and sapphires set with diamonds. Aniko Gaal Schott’s black hooded Issye Miyake ensemble drew approving glances while Cindy Jones showed off Gucci slippers trimmed in white mink under a slinky silver creation by hot new designer Zac Posen.

Gents in black-tie couldn’t compete with lawyer Vernon Jordan, who wowed the crowd just as much offstage as he did earlier during his “surprise” scene-stealing appearance — in white-tie — as abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Asked by veteran newsman Sam Donaldson if he had waived his customary hourly retainer from Akin, Gump, Mr. Jordan replied, somewhat incredulously, that he had, of course, waived all fees.

“With all those beautiful women I just couldn’t lose,” he said with an “are you kidding?” look. “I would have paid them.”

There was, however, a bit of standing around involved in his role — in addition to the hand-kissing and belle-escorting, that is.

“He thought he didn’t have to go to rehearsal,” his wife, Ann Jordan, said later with a dry laugh, “but he did.”

Ballet chairman Kay Kendall reported that the party raised $300,000 on top of the unprecedented $1.5 million in production grants received from the District government ($700,000, thanks to Councilman Jack Evans and District Arts Commissioner Dorothy McSweeny), real estate developers M.D.C. Holdings ($500,000) and other generous benefactors. (Mr. Webre said later that the company had never spent more than $100,000 to commission a new work.)

Guests mingled with the dancers over peppermint martinis and champagne, then dined on lobster crab timbale and wild game pie at red velvet-topped tables decorated with holiday floral sprays, baby Christmas trees and towering nutcrackers that all disappeared out the door by the end of the night.

Richard Burt and Gahl Hodges Burt did double duty as the parents of “Valley Forge Bunny” Caroline Burt; ditto Robert and Mary Haft, whose daughter, Laura Haft, had one of the children’s roles as well. Also spotted in the high-spirited crowd were Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and wife Karyn, John Damgard and Britty Cudlip, KenCen chief Michael Kaiser, Linda Stern, David and Katherine Bradley, Aldus and Dolly Chapin, Ann Camalier, Davis and Lynda Camalier, Jon Ledecky and ambassadors and/or spouses from Kuwait, Italy, Jordan, Bolivia, the Netherlands, Brazil, Switzerland, Israel, Romania and Uzbekistan.

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