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Luau in Tutus

Balletomanes get down with corps of their affection (and a dancing volcano!).

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Just as the name promises, this year’s Dance With the Dancers benefit for the New York City Ballet let ballet benefactors boogie with the betighted objects of their philanthropy. “They live for this,” says soloist Tom Gold, who masterminded the annual show’s customary opening skit (theme: “Hula-la”). “I guess there's this fascination with seeing dancers in real time, like looking into an aquarium. They love that, seeing us throwing our hair in the wind. Seeing us be crazy and wild.”

Gold, who’d already learned the hula from a woman named Makalina at the East Village’s Waikiki Wally’s, sold the NYCB special-events office on the theme by performing a one-man enactment of his plan for the skit, complete with the parts of hula girls, surfer dudes, and, yes, an exploding human volcano. (“I was using sweaters and scarves as props,” he says. “They were just like, ‘Please, don’t hit anything.’ ”) This year’s skit went off smoothly—mostly. Soloist Ask la Cour got hoots for his impersonation of Don Ho; more hoots came for hula-ing corps de ballet girls in bikinis, a grass skirt that fell off, and Gina Pazcoguin as a Hawaii Five-O policewoman. But the highlight of the night was Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’s Thom Filicia’s agreeing at the last minute to rise like the goddess Pele from the volcano’s center. “I’m like, Wait, I’m wearing flip-flops; do I have to actually dance?” Filicia says. “Something explodes and I come out of it? Like, ‘Oh, my God, that was crazy!’ ” The dancers went through two or three costume changes apiece. (“It’s sort of insane, and I think they’re not happy about it,” mused Gold, “but, whatever, it works.”)

Principal dancer Charles Askegard showed up in a coconut bra with his wife, Candace Bushnell, who was wearing a grass skirt. Lindsey and Eric Nederlander were left wide-eyed. (“This is a little different from what I see on Broadway,” Eric said.) Times theater critic Charles Isherwood was perhaps somewhat less impressed: He remembers the Studio 54 theme a couple years back. “It was all about the bartenders. They were wearing underwear, light blue as I recall.” But when Pat Benatar came on, Isherwood danced as well.

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