The Ballet’s Biggest Night: ‘Spellbound’ Opening Gala

By Drew Altizer Photography

Riccardo Benavides envisioned a twinkle-lit fairy tale forest for SF Ballet’s gala. Not pictured: The Cirque du Soleil-esque performers dressed like plants and walking around on all fours!

Date: January 16

Location: City Hall, War Memorial Opera House

Cause: The annual affair raises funds to benefit a wide range of SanFrancisco Ballet artistic initiatives, including new works, scholarships for San Francisco Ballet School students, and community education programs for thousands of youth, families and seniors.

Party planning wizard Riccardo Benavides outdid himself last month, transforming City Hall into a magical forest for San Francisco Ballet’s most memorable opening gala in recent memory. While running the big-ticket event — no easy feat — Benavides managed to snap photos of women in attendance. (Gotta show that gown on the ’Gram! Riccardo gets it.)

The pre-performance dinner and cocktail reception matched the night’s theme: Spellbound, a nod to the ballet’s 2020 season, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Cinderella. McCalls catered, naturally, and for dessert, guests feasted on chocolate mousse enshrouded in chocolate shells shaped like ballet shoes. Rodney Strong Vineyards and Scharffenberger Cellars provided the wine, and VIPs in attendance stepped out in all their finery.

Paul Pelosi schmoozed with fellow movers and shakers while waiting for his wife, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, to arrive after her flight from Washington, D.C. (Reader, she made it in time for the performance, and hours later, flew to LA for her appearance on HBO’s Real Time. Meanwhile, we still need to pick up our dry cleaning.)

Also spotted in the crowd: the delightful Emmy-winning actor Tony Hale, who’s currently starring in the play Wakey, Wakey at American Conservatory Theater; Deepa Pakianathan, looking like a queen in Zac Posen; Mary Beth Shimmon; Mourad Lahlou; Ivy Getty; Judy Guggenhime; Malin Giddings; Christine Suppes; Dede Wilsey; Jack Calhoun; Jane Mudge; Lisa Zabelle; Paula West; Karen Caldwell; Christopher Lawrie; Jarrod Baumann; OJ Shansby; Elaine Mellis, and Lorenzo Ortona.

All eyes were on Katarzyna Mlyniuk and Anna Tuzhlova at the San Francisco Ballet’s opening night. Their expressions say: “It’s called fashion. Look it up.”
Yuan Yuan Tan. The famed ballerina began her record 25th year with the San Francisco Ballet at the gala, where she performed “Bells.”
Carl Pascarella and OJ Shansby
Paul and Nancy Pelosi, Paula West and Michael Nguyen-Hormel
Judy and Rich Guggenhime
Helgi and Marlene Tomasson
Gala Chair Patricia Roberts is resplendent in hunter green, a perfect complement to her red hair.
Dr. Carolyn Chang, an esteemed plastic surgeon, is a fashion connoisseur and risk taker — and this night, she came to slay in an ethereal goddess gown.
Dede Wilsey and Bob Hill. Can we talk about Dede’s extraordinary dress for a second? This looks like vintage Elizabeth I, and we mean that as a compliment.
Is that Cinderella and Prince Charming? Andrew and Coral Chung took the evening’s fairy tale theme to heart, and it worked for them!
Mathilde Froustey, the ballerina who performed during the gala, was a vision in pastel with gilded accessories.
One of the best dressed of the evening, Tanum Davis Bohen oozed Hollywood glamour in this show-stopper. Elizabeth Taylor vibes!

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