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The recession has resulted in an interesting schism in the way nonprofits approach fundraising events. One camp has shrewdly scaled back the fluff—Crisis Ministries' recent "no item auction" that raised $130,000 is a perfect example. The other side of the coin has embraced a party-while-Paris-burns laissez-faire affection for puffery—ACBA's Red Party waltzes to my mind if only for the sight of a guest dressed as Marie Antoinette, in drag no less! Thursday night's Circle of Light gala fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

Hosted by Darkness to Light, this gala is typically the most styled out party of the year with intricate themes parlayed into detail-drenched panoramas of lighting and color. And with the price of admission ringing in at $300 ($400 for VIP), it is also one of—if not the—priciest gala ticket in town. This year, Tara Guerard of Soiree brought Bollywood to Marion Square—the second party to celebrate India in as many weeks (the recent Fur Ball was sari friendly).

There is always something special about arriving at this particular party. The crisp November air, the city's white holiday lights blinking from the branches, and the makeshift bedouin-style camp needed to accommodate the sprawling affair (guests weave through a veritable village of tents during the course of the evening, including coat check, food prep, staged photo opps, cocktail party, and seated dinner) all creates an aura of magic.

Bubba, a portrait happy camel, greeted guests as they drifted into the cocktail party tent. Inside, the flavor of the subcontinent continued with a sitar player, chai tea cocktails, henna tattoos, ceremonial parasols, and belly dancers. At the dinner hour, the several hundred attendees paraded into the main tent for fine cuisine prepared by 39 Rue de Jean, Charleston Grill, COAST, Fat Hen, Wild Olive, Hank's Seafood, Peninsula Grill, FIG, Grill 225, j.b.c, Halls Chophouse, Langdon's Restaurant and Wine Bar, McCrady's, MUSE Restaurant and Wine Bar, Oak Steakhouse, The Ocean Room, Sea Island Grill, Tristan, Wentworth Grill, and Virginia's on King. The tent was swathed with tangerine and florid-hued draping, the tables were set with low tableaus that featured earthen crocks, candles, and marigolds, an auspicious matrimonial flower in India.

The late night portion of the party turned into a show stopping Hindi cinema "item number" as guests of all ages (and a dozen or so party crashers) piled onto the dance floor. The music didn't stop until the stroke of midnight, and the frenzied crowd nearly staged a riot with its demanding "one more dance" mantra.

From a sartorial standpoint, aubergine reigned supreme. Hop over to Ayoka's style blog for the complete run-down on who wore what!

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