- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - Socialites, models and actresses in brightly colored, sparkly spring gowns packed into the audience, and ballet stars in brightly colored, sparkly tutus packed onto the stage - all to celebrate the 75th anniversary of American Ballet Theatre.

The company’s spring gala at the Metropolitan Opera House is always one of the biggest events on New York’s social calendar, and Monday night’s event took on added meaning, since it was designed to cover the company’s entire history - from its first performance in 1940 at Rockefeller Center.

Sigourney Weaver and Joel Grey were just two of many speakers giving the audience a primer in the company’s repertoire, which includes over 460 works by over 150 choreographers: from Marius Petipa to George Balanchine to Aaron Copeland to Antony Tudor, from Agnes de Mille to Jerome Robbins to Paul Taylor, from Twyla Tharp to Jiri Kylian to Alexei Ratmansky.

Among the highlights of a whopping 24 dance excerpts performed Monday was a quick glimpse of Misty Copeland, a growing celebrity in the company, playing Odette/Odile in “Swan Lake” - a role she will dance for the first time on ABT’s home stage in June. Copeland, a soloist and longtime company member, has become a forceful voice for diversity in dance as one of the few prominent African-American dancers in ballet. She recently was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.

Also on display: three ballerinas who will retire this season after long ABT careers. Julie Kent, who joined ABT in 1986, drew huge cheers after her bedroom duet from “Manon” with fellow principal Marcelo Gomes. Xiomara Reyes, who was born and raised in Cuba and joined ABT in 2001, danced the comedic Cowgirl part in de Mille’s “Rodeo,” and Paloma Herrera, from Argentina, danced an excerpt from Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (Herrera joined ABT in 1991).

There were also veterans who appeared only onscreen; a video of former ABT star (and artistic director) Mikhail Baryshnikov drew some of the biggest applause of the night.

Among the younger talent, rising star Joseph Gorak, a soloist, earned loud cheers for his virtuosic turns in “Etudes,” along with veteran Gillian Murphy. And principal Daniil Simkin was a crowd-pleaser in several numbers, including on pointe shoes and in full tutu for a lighthearted excerpt of Ratmansky’s “The Bright Stream.”

Turning heads on the red carpet were Weaver in a bright ruby-colored gown, actresses Jennifer Tilly in lavender and Yaya DaCosta in brilliant green, model Coco Rocha in deep purple and dancer, in pastel pink.

The gala, in addition to being a showcase for spring black-tie fashion, is also a major fundraiser: The evening’s festivities raised over $2 million, according to a news release.

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