The curtain officially rose on Houston Ballet's spanking new Center for Dance Thursday night with a glamorous dinner party for mega donors — those contributing $500,000 and more. The festivities continue through Saturday when Mayor Annise Parker officiates at the public ribbon cutting for the $53 million building that stands only a stone's throw from Wortham Theater Center.
For ballet managing director C.C. Conner, the reality of this expansive new home for the company is an almost unbelievable dream after five years of planning and construction. "It's exciting," he said. "There's a real sense of accomplishment, a sense of awe and wow, we really did do it."
Conner, who stewarded the project from the start, couldn't stop beaming as he guided guests around the fourth floor for views of studios and the ballet exercise room. Already dancers were using the spaces.
Houston Ballet artistic director Stanton Welch was equally gleeful as he escorted Margaret Alkek Williams into the dance lab that bears her name. On this night, the space was set for the dinner that Jackson & Co. would serve for some 75 heavy-hitters.
"I feel a little like everything is new," Welch said, "and I don't want to be the one to get the first scratch on anything. It's a bit like having a new car."
While guests such as ballet board president Karl Stern and wife Anne and board chairman Joe Hafner and wife Merrill welcomed the intimate group, Conner escorted a contingent, including Jay Jones and Terry Wayne Jones, to the fifth floor to view the Mary Gibbs Jones Studio.
In the mix was Minnette Boesel, who headed the Downtown Redevelopment District TIRZ when the ballet held out its hand for the $1.5 million needed to build the skybridge connecting the center to Wortham. Melza and Ted Barr, who have an academy studio in their name, were expected for dinner that included representatives of the 17 foundations and individuals that made the mega gifts.
The celebration continues tonight with a seated dinner for campaign donors of $50,000 and above and on Friday a cocktail buffet is scheduled for donors of $10,000 and above.
Prior to the public ribbon cutting at noon on Saturday, Houston Ballet Guild and Ballet Barre members will be treated to a reception on the fourth floor. A reception and meet-and-greet with the dancers follows the ribbon cutting for invited guests and those contributing $1,000 or more.
Rounding out Thursday night's group were individual donors, ballet board members and representatives of various foundations that contributed. Count Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Anne Chao, Tony and Isaac Arnold, Ann Trammell, Anne and Don Graubart and Elise and Russell Joseph in the mix.
When visiting the ballet's new home, check out the donor wall in the foyer for the names of the individuals and foundations that contributed at varying levels.