It was endless applause and cheers for the Dancing With the Houston Stars contestants who boogied far outside of their comfort zones Friday night to entertain a room full of black-tie-attired judges.
No, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli were not there to rate the lavish dance styles of Lynn Wyatt, Diane Lokey Farb, Phoebe Tudor, Monsour Taghdisi and Pat Burk. But the likes of Houston Ballet artistic director Stanton Welch, professional ballroom dancers Sue and Lester Smith and stylist to the stars Ceron put pen to ballot to vote for their favorite. In fact, all 180 guests at the benefit for Houston Ballet voted. And that was no easy task.
Each of the amateur dancers, partnered with retired Houston Ballet figures, completely wowed the contingent that packed the vast pool room in the home of John and Becca Cason Thrash. The swimming pool was covered to create a professional dance floor. Dinner tables ringed the performance area.
From the moment that Dawn Scannell ripped off Monsour Taghdisi's tux jacket to reveal his buff biceps, the sophisticated audience began a journey of verbal support that by night's end echoed the enthusiasm of a
Houston Texans Dallas Cowboys crowd. Whoa, baby! These dancers were hot and the crowd was appreciative. Monsour's fancy tango footwork and his agile lifts of the former ballerina were huge hits.
Phoebe Tudor, who once aspired to be a ballet dancer, had lesser women thinking of slitting their wrists when she did an astonishing high kick over Phillip Broomhead's head and then completed an assisted back flip. With killer long legs and a natural sense of rhythm, this lanky brunette walked away with the most votes for her mambo. While Phoebe was official winner, each of the contestants performed so incredibly well that the praise went on all weekend for each of them.
Who will ever forget Diane Lokey Farb's grand entrance on the shoulders of Damian Schwiethale or the finale angel lift? In between, this lithe lady danced disco with all the heat and precision of one of the real Dancing with the Stars pros. And if she looked as if she just stepped out of the ABC series, it might have been because the gilded, fringed costume that she wore was the exact one that professional dancer Kym Johnson had worn when she performed with former N-Sync-er Joey Fatone.
A crowd favorite even before she dropped the black floor-length coat to reveal a slinky black costume over black tights, Lynn Wyatt was stunning in her performance with Oliver Halkowich. The cha-cha never looked more seductive as Lynn displayed a natural talent for dance and uninhibited showmanship. You seldom see her on the dance floor at charity galas, but this glamorous lady is one fab dancer.
The final contestant, Pat Burk, brought along his own cheering squad carrying official-looking "10" score cards and placards of a bare-chested Pat. With his seductive moves on the arm of Kristine Richmond, Pat's merengue had the ladies swooning. The man knows how to dance and with the ballroom finesse and the swooping lifts of his partner, his cheering squad thought he surely should have won.
By night's end, Becca, looking smashing in an haute couture Dior, had 20 would-be dancers volunteering for next year's event. Next year? Yes, this brilliant evening, Becca's brainchild, turned out the be the first annual "Dancing With the Houston Stars." Those who were there are still raving about the knocked out party, sure to be an early sellout in 2011.
Beyond the dance competition, guests sipped on Dom Perignon 2000 (a special Andy Warhol limited edition) and Belvedere Vodka and sat down to an amazing dinner of seared scallops by Eddie V's at West Ave, to-die-for chicken cacciatori from RDG + Bar Annie and red velvet confections from Sprinkles Cupcakes. Add yummy appetizers from Hotel ZaZa's Monarch. The delicious fare led Becca to declare it the best food ever served in her home.
As is tradition in the Cason Thrash household, the party went on long after dinner. One contingent stayed on until 3:30 in the morning. There was just that much energy generated by the dance competition, though a good number headed to the valet car parkers a few hours earlier.
We can't say who stayed the latest but we can tell you who was in the dinner crowd. That would include Houston Ballet's C.C. Conner, Elizabeth and Gary Petersen, Karen and Mike Mayell, Dancie and Jim Ware, Jay Jones, Ann and Matthew Wolf, Brad Wyatt, Nidikha and Pershant Mehta, Kiki Wilson, Terrie and Mike Turner, Julie Pincus, Candice and Lonnie Schiller and Tod and Dr. Betsy Eason.