News & Politics

A Night Out: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Gala

Washington helps one of the country’s premier dance companies celebrate 50 years of excellence

Lyndon Boozer and Luci Baines Johnson rock out during the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Opening Gala. Photograph by James R. Brantley.

What: The 12th annual Alvin Ailey Washington DC Opening Night Gala, which supports local outreach and arts-in-education programs and funds housing stipends and full scholarships for young Washington dancers to attend the Ailey School in New York. This year’s gala also celebrated two milestones: the 50th anniversary of Ailey’s masterpiece, “Revelations,” and the new artistic director, Robert Battle, who will succeed Judith Jamison in July.

Where: The Kennedy Center.

When: Tuesday, February 1.

Ticket price: $500 and up.

Who: Guests came from all over Washington to support the continuation of Ailey’s vision and enjoy the fruits of his labor. The gala’s co-chairs were a who’s who of the area, including AT&T’s assistant vice president and top lobbyist, Lyndon Boozer; Black Entertainment Television CEO Debra Lee; the Washington Post’s Katharine Weymouth; and FedEx’s top Washington executive, Gina Adams. Partners and supporters in attendance included HBO president Henry McGee—who also serves as president of the Ailey board—and Representative Elijah E. Cummings, who served on the benefit committee.

Other noted Ailey fans who came out to cut a rug were Luci Johnson Baines, White House chef Sam Kass, and TV One president and CEO Jonathan Rodgers.

The scene: The dance company opened its Washington run by treating attendees to performances of the Ailey classics “Revelations” and “Cry” as well as new works by Robert Battle and former Ailey member Christopher Huggins. Washingtonians, dressed to the nines, slowly made their way up to the terrace, where they enjoyed a three-course meal at 12-person tables and posed for photos with Jamison and Battle. The dancers joined the guests for dinner, where they were welcomed with another round of applause.

Around 11, Free Spirit kicked off the late-night party with covers of bands ranging from the Black Eyed Peas to Earth, Wind & Fire.

On the menu: Seared-tuna ceviche with grilled pineapple; hanger steak, baked chicken, or salmon with buttermilk mashed potatoes, peperonata, and grilled broccoli rabe; and a dessert trio of chocolate-cognac cake, a bite-size banana cheesecake, and a lemon-meringue-pie shot.

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