Black Tie at the SF Ballet Gala

Watching ballet is like watching embodied calligraphy set to music.  Nowhere else can you see the most precise movements so elegantly executed, with technical feats appearing as effortless as water swirling in a vacuum.  The opening gala for the San Francisco ballet is a special occasion celebrating all of the choreography, set design, and more that goes into each production, a taste of the many talented artists in the city’s gorgeous opera house.  But in addition, it provides an opportunity for those who support it to dust off their finery, and they did not disappoint. 

This perfectly-proportioned, well-fitting double-breasted ensemble caught my eye from afar, and no wonder: it’s a bespoke tuxedo with grosgrain lapels from Sartoria Ripense in Rome, and is worn with a shirt from Budd Shirtmakers.  The bow tie in matching grosgrain and silk pocket square in a casual puff are the icing on the cake, finishing an elegant look with that elusive casual nonchalance.

The show itself included a variety of performances, from the joyful spins and acrobatic leaps of Men’s Regiment from George Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes to my personal favorite, Danielle Rowe’s For Pixie, set to the moody voice of Nina Simone, a tragic and moving duet capturing lovers’ ecstasy of intimacy and the pain of knowing they must part.  

San Francisco Ballet in the “Men’s Regiment” from Balanchine’s Stars And Stripes // Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson
San Francisco Ballet in the “Men’s Regiment” from Balanchine’s Stars And Stripes // Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson
Dores André and Joseph Walsh in Rowe’s For Pixie // © Erik Tomasson
Dores André and Joseph Walsh in Rowe’s For Pixie // © Erik Tomasson

The gala raised over $3,000,000 and benefit a wide range of SF Ballet artistic initiatives, including new works, scholarships for San Francisco Ballet School students, and community education programs.

The cocktail reception and afterparty were held in the City Hall, and what a spellbound place it was, decorated from top to bottom in shimmering lights and lush flora.  If there was an award for best dressed, it would surely have gone to J. Riccardo Benavides for the decor.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – January 16 – Atmosphere at SF Ballet Opening Night Gala 2020 on January 16th 2020 at War Memorial in San Francisco, CA (Photo – Drew Altizer)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – January 16 – Atmosphere at SF Ballet Opening Night Gala 2020 on January 16th 2020 at War Memorial in San Francisco, CA (Photo – Andrew Caulfield for Drew Altizer Photography)

The dress of a few of the gala-goers rivaled those of the performances, but my camera was keen to capture the more subdued and classic.  Some kept to semi-formal canon, but even those that didn’t were absolutely smashing at the cocktail reception and afterparty.  There were festive dinner jackets in velvet and damask, shawl and peak lapels, piquè and pleated shirts, and an abundance of black bow ties. Everyone rose to the occasion and looked fantastic.

A few days later I caught Cinderella, and while the crowd was less formal than the gala, they seemed a bit more dressed up than I’ve seen for the opera.  Christopher Wheeldon’s take on the classic tale gave depth to the characters and added a wonderful side story of a particular step-sister’s redemption — somehow he had you rooting for her all along.  Throughout the evening I was reminded of the very human story of loss, love, and the strength of the human spirit. Other ballets coming up this season that I’d like to see include Bespoke (with a name like that, I have to see it), set to J.S. Bach’s violin concertos, and The Infinite Ocean, which boasts stunning visuals to accompany the story of life itself.  Check out the 2020 schedule on the website here, and wherever you are, do what you can to support the arts in any form.

For more pictures of the attendees, check out the thread The State of Black Tie here.

Eidos blackwatch tuxedo, Borrelli shirt, Berg & Berg silk hose, Dormeuil velvet slippers
Mathilde Froustey and Carlo Di Lanno in Welch’s Bespoke // © Erik Tomasson
Sasha De Sola and Carlo Di Lanno in Lander’s Etudes. (© Erik Tomasson)
Sofiane Sylve and Tiit Helimets in Liang’s The Infinite Ocean. (© Erik Tomasson)
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Peter Zottolo
Peter works in construction, but has an extensive collection of custom suits which he gets so that he can wear suits on the weekend. Even though he lives in San Francisco, he has never used the word "impact" as a verb. He writes about classic menswear and is one fedora away from being a complete dork.
Peter Zottolo

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Peter Zottolo

About Peter Zottolo

Peter works in construction, but has an extensive collection of custom suits which he gets so that he can wear suits on the weekend. Even though he lives in San Francisco, he has never used the word "impact" as a verb. He writes about classic menswear and is one fedora away from being a complete dork.

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