Friday, February 22, 2008

Keeping a politically correct face, DIstrict Mayor Adrian M. Fenty — a declared Barack Obama supporter — said that of course, he had no problem concentrating on the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s fine dancing just as election results were coming in from Wisconsin’s Democratic presidential primary Tuesday night.

“I always stay focused wherever I am,” he deadpanned during cocktails at the gala event’s post-performance dinner at the Kennedy Center. Michelle Fenty, whose law firm represents the Ilinois senator’s campaign, then asked eagerly for news and numbers while recalling the time Mr. Obama called her husband to offer congratulations on winning his 2006 mayoralty race.

Benefit committee member Vanessa Reed, a glittering “Obama 2008” Ann Hand pin adorning the top of her ball gown, said she thought it was her husband who had been instrumental in introducing the two men long ago, but Mrs. Fenty couldn’t confirm that.

In another part of the room, German Ambassador Klaus Scharioth was surrounded by a group that included his wife, Ulricke, and Marc and Jacqueline Leland, who listened while he read off the latest stats on his PDA. He would be returning to work between 11 p.m. and midnight to write a dispatch that would reach Berlin at dawn. He would be reporting on U.S. politics, however, not the ballet’s spectacular achievements in its 49th year of existence or its ninth such Washington benefit.

“I hadn’t seen them for 19 years,” he volunteered about the troupe, adding that he found it “amazing how they have maintained their high standards. Not many companies can do that.”

Pomegranate-and-gin martinis named “Fireballs” circulated widely among the likes of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and other notables before guests took their seats to hear greetings from evening co-chair Debra Lee, the president of Black Entertainment Television, as well as the Ailey company’s artistic director, Judith Jamison, who had welcomed the opening-night audience earlier from a podium onstage before the curtain went up.

“I love the fact we keep coming [to the Kennedy Center]. This is our home away from home. There is something about this red velvet — like being in a jewel box. So many jewels,” she said warmly while remembering the late Mr. Ailey, “a man from a tiny town in Texas [who] had the vision that dance should be for everyone …. You are going to feel differently when you leave here. I know I will.”

There were resounding cheers and standing ovations throughout. British Ambassador Sir Nigel Sheinwald couldn’t recall ever having seen the company perform, although Lady Sheinwald took some issue with his memory on that. He, too, had been closely watching recent American primary race proceedings, even traveling to New Hampshire as an observer at one point. The evening’s two topics were well matched, he suggested, as “politics is a bit of a dance” — one of the occasion’s better sound bites.

Keeping calm amid the political talk was Ann Jordan, an active supporter of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: “Let’s just say we have two good candidates.”

“Good and good,” rallied Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Corporate names were out in force as well, with Southern Company, the underwriter, and Altria Group, the sponsor of the Kennedy Center’s contemporary dance season.

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