Joffrey gala puts performance on pointe

June 14, 2011
The Doings
Lee Litas


The Event: There were no opening night jitters for the Joffrey Ballet’s annual Spring Gala held April 29 at the Palmer House Hilton. Organized by co-chairs Courtney Thompson of Hinsdale and Wendy Chronister, the event ushered nearly 1,000 black-tied and evening-gowned patrons through a multipart evening that included seven private performances of this season’s masterpieces at the Auditorium Theatre. The potpourri was personally selected by Joffrey Artistic Director Ashley C. Wheater.

From there, guests were whisked away by trolley to the historic Palmer House Hilton to enjoy a lavish dinner, dessert stations and dancing inside the hotel’s State, Grand and Red Lacquer ballrooms.

The Players: Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel, himself a former danseur during his New Trier days, came out to show his support for the Joffrey.

“I love ballet. I used to be a dancer and this is a great company with great lines,” Emanuel said.

Melissa Babcock of Kenilworth, incoming president of the Joffrey Ballet Women’s Board, called the Joffrey a cultural institution.

“Chicago has been a great support to us making the Joffrey the success that it is and (the city) is blessed to have it,” she said.

Gala sponsor Harris Private Bank Midwest Regional President Zachary Lazar of Lake Forest stressed how proud Harris is to have the opportunity to show its support for the arts in the current economic climate, which has seen a marked decrease in arts funding.

“Harris has been a huge supporter of the arts, donating several million dollars per year to their local communities around the country (and)we’re very proud of that because it is important for this to be available to everyone,” he said.

The Bottom Line: The gala raised $1.3 million for the Joffrey.

“Now the work really begins,” Wheater said.