The hair master's suave Latin moves and his dazzling costuming couldn't best the grace of sentimental favorite C.C. Conner in Houston Ballet's second annual Dancing With the Houston Stars fundraiser. Wearing white-tie-and-tails and channeling Fred Astaire, the ballet's managing director took top honors on the dance floor Tuesday night.
While ABC had its own competition going at the very same time, nothing could beat the dance floor machinations, hijinks and high kicks that took place at the home of John and Becca Cason Thrash, also site of the first such event last fall. And instead of a panel of fussy judges, the entire cast of guests selected their favorite dance team in open voting.
Neither Dominique Sachse's scintillating cha cha nor Lindsey Love's powerful leaps into the arms of her 6-foot-6 partner nor Cerón's impassioned disco could turn the tide of votes that swept Conner into the lead position. It was a vote that, in the end, everyone loved. The gentlemanly Conner moved with masterful style across the dance floor that covered the Thrashes' expansive indoor pool. His partner, Houston Ballet's Dawn Scannell in flowing gown, seemed to float in his arms.
Also throwing their hats into the dance ring were Melissa Mithoff, who turned her salsa into a wicked white swan/black swan seduction, and Beth Muecke, who employed her college dance studies in evoking a James Bond esthetic for her X-jazz performance with Adrian Ciobanu. Professionals working with the celeb dancers included Linnar Looris, Krissy Richmond, Philip Gutierrez and Joe Modlin.
A costume note: While the ladies' ensembles were certainly worthy of the ABC show, Cerón truly stole the scene in his silver shimmering slacks and knee-length jacket, both embellished with over-sized crystals as were his shoes. The sparklies adorned his face and hair as well. As he swirled and twirled across the floor, crystals sprayed in all directions.
Dancing With the Houston Stars founder and chair Becca Cason Thrash proudly announced to the gathering of 280 that Houston Ballet had adopted this riotously entertaining fundraiser as an annual event.
Taking the edge off the nerves of Tuesday night's contenders was an introductory dance exhibition by the 2010 winning dance team — Phoebe Tudor and Phillip Broomhead. Joining her at dinner tables around the dance floor were last year's contestants Lynn Wyatt, Diane Lokey Farb, Pat Burk and Monsour Taghdisi.
As word of the high entertainment quotient of the evening spread, attendance grew and Tuesday night's crowd included old guard and dedicated ballet supporters such as Jeanie Kilroy, Jay Jones, Pat Breen, Linda McReynolds, Jo and Jim Furr, Sue Trammell Whitfield, Ann Trammell, Sherry and Jim Smith and Ann Bookout.
The call for "elegant supper club attire" inspired a host of white dinner jackets and loads of glitz on the ladies. Standouts included Sue Smith in Oscar de la Renta, Joyce Echols in Roberto Cavalli, Diane Lokey Farb in Dior, Sallymoon Bentz in Valentino, Lynn Wyatt in Valentino beaded jeans with lace, and Becca in black evening slacks worn with beaded T-shirt by hip designer Philipp Plein.
The dancers performed in between courses that were provided by a host of restaurateurs starting with Philippe Schmit, who delivered trays and trays of appetizers from his kitchen at Philippe Restaurant + Lounge and continuing with Eddie V's seared sea scallops, Hotel ZaZa's Monarch Restaurant's beef tenderloin and mashed potatoes and RDG + Bar Annie's panna cotta.
Applauding the food, the dancers and the evening were guests including Houston Ballet artistic director Stanton Welch, Candice and Lonnie Schiller, Terry Wayne Jones, Margaret Alkek Williams and Jim Daniel, Betsy and Tod Eason, Richard Flowers, Nidhika and Pershant Mehta, Rosemarie Johnson, Ginni and Richard Mithoff, Nick Florescu, Tom Roupe and Debbie and Rudy Festari.