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A glamorous paean to the Academy Awards (as interpreted by the Charleston Ballet Theatre) unfolded on Upper King Street Thursday night. The shrill fervor of a star-studded red carpet was incited by a clutch of autograph seeking fans, or in-character ballerinas setting the stage for the night ahead. Greg Tavares returned to the microphone-wielding Ryan Seacrest role he has so expertly filled in previous years, and the cameras were rolling as gala guests arrived. Seasoned attendees knew to expect the glare of the spotlight, but quite a few newbies flashed a terrified "deer in headlights" expression when Tavares pressed them for an Entertainment Tonight sound bite: Who are you wearing?
Perhaps the only person who didn't stumble over the sartorial interrogation was Mary Porter, a gown designer whose frocks will be shown during Charleston Fashion Week. Although Porter opted for basic black, many of the women adhered to the "Black Tie / Red Dress" apparel request, a nod to American Heart Month. On the heels of Valentine's Day, the effect of this color coded ensemble was Eros articulated in silk and satin.
While the arts thrive as an escape from monotony, a window to something that exists outside ennui, they can also illuminate the raw essence of our shared human drama. This was evidenced when the third dance segment of the evening—a very brief, bittersweet interpretation of Up—evoked a wellspring of emotion from the audience.
"I'm going to cry," said the man seated behind me to his wife.
"It's okay, dear," she replied. "You can cry."
He was not alone. Guests yelled "Brava" between their sniffles.
In all, the dancers performed snippets of dance inspired by Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, Precious, Nine, and the aforementioned Up.
As the performance portion of the progressive evening wound down, guests bundled up for the quick trip across the street to the American Theatre, where the seated dinner, silent auction, and face-to-face time with the corps of dancers awaited. Looking like girls who played dress-up in starlet's steamer trunk, the ballerinas were cocooned in yards of meringue-like organza that billowed around their lithe frames as they swanned around the ballroom.
The tables, too, were decked out. Inspired by a slew of Hollywood hits, the table decor designers appeared to have looted the backlot at Paramount and absconded with some wonderful silver screen ephemera. Each table had its own unique theme, and the tableaus ranged from a visual ode to Harry's world at Hogwarts to Holly Golightly's window shopping at that landmark jewelry store (the table was bathed in Tiffany's signature hue of robin's egg blue). Although each of the sixteen tables was clever in its own right, it was the detail-drenched homage to Bruce Lee designed by the Charleston Flower Market that won the audience's secret ballot "Best Of" nod at the end of the night.
The evening rounded out on a high note with the Have Nots! improv troupe spoofing the CBT interpretations of the Oscar nominated films that opened the gala. Bless his heart, Timmy Finch never met a cross-dressing opportunity he didn't (appear to) love. With abs that would make a Balanchine hard body flinch with envy, Timmy flitted across the stage during a high-kicking number that paid homage to Nine and brought the house down.