Misty Copeland's Banker Backer Brings New Donor to Ballet Gala

  • Tech investor Robert Smith makes American Ballet Theatre debut
  • Murphy dances, Baldwins snuggle; Sosnoff remembers Gus Levy

The race for patrons to support American Ballet Theatre clocked a fast lap Wednesday night at the opening of the dance company’s fall season in New York. 

If a Ferrari could be turned into a fundraising event, it might look like this one, with red roses and shiny lanterns and guests like Robert Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of Vista Equity Partners, and his wife, Hope, a former contestant on Celebrity Apprentice and 2010 Playmate of the Year in Playboy magazine.

Hope and Robert Smith with ballerina Misty Copeland and her sponsor at American Ballet Theatre, Valentino Carlotti

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

The gala was Robert Smith’s debut as a patron of American Ballet Theatre. “My friend Valentino Carlotti introduced me,” Smith said of the ABT board member. “We worked at Goldman together -- a long time ago.”

Radmila Lolly and John Utendahl

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Smith signed on as a diamond vice chairman of the gala, which earned him a table right off the dance floor and a visit with Misty Copeland, the first African-American woman to become a principal at ABT. Smith’s guests included John Utendahl, a Bank of America vice chairman, and Radmila Lolly, an opera singer.

Copeland, who sat with Carlotti for the dinner of kale salad and steak, said she’s dancing Saturday in “Company B,” choreographed by Paul Taylor, as well as “The Brahms-Hayden Variations” by Twyla Tharp. The fall season’s more contemporary works mean the dancers are wearing athletic gear in rehearsals rather than tutus, so yes, she’s been sporting gear by Under Armour, whose commercials have helped spread her fame.

At the gala, Copeland wore a Roland Mouret gown and Louis Vuitton shoes. She said she’s excited to be able to focus on preparing for principal roles as she moves through the fall season. “It’s a nice way to start the year, because it’s paced evenly,” she said.

Seren and Michael Shvo

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Meeting Copeland, Seren and Michael Shvo got to show off Seren’s baby bump. She’s due in January. In the meantime, Shvo tends to his real-estate babies, projects like the Crown Building at 730 Fifth Avenue.

Smith’s tech-investing projects include last month’s deal to buy Solera Holdings Inc., a seller of risk-management software for insurers, for about $6.5 billion.

Smith said supporting nonprofits “is our duty.” He’s especially drawn to programs that prepare young people for success, like The Opportunity Network, which honored him in April. He’s on the board of Carnegie Hall; the arts are “a platform for what makes life beautiful,” he said.

He is drawn to beautiful objects, like the cameo rings made by Amedeo Scognamiglio. “He’s the seventh generation in his family to make them,” Smith said, holding out his own ring with a delicately carved king. Smith also ordered rings featuring images of knights and princes to give to his groomsmen on the occasion of his wedding in Ravello, Italy in July.

Ariana Rockefeller and Matthew Bucklin

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

There was plenty of fashion and jewelry to admire at the event. Ariana Rockefeller, a clothing designer, doesn’t make long gowns, so she wore one by Alice + Olivia with drop earrings by Jennifer Miller and a bracelet from her mother. As for her own line, she manufactures in New York’s garment district and sells online, at trunk shows in small boutiques, and -- perhaps her favorite venue -- horse shows like the Hampton Classic.

Ariana Rockefeller’s stepmom, Susan Rockefeller, sat with ABT board member Sutton Stracke (wife of Pimco’s Christian Stracke), actress Jennifer Tilly and Fredrik Robertsson, editor-in-chief of Boy magazine.

Susan Rockefeller, Sutton Stracke and Fredrik Robertsson

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Even with one arm covered by tattoos, Robertsson wasn’t the male making the most powerful fashion statement. That honor belonged to vintage fashion guru Cameron Silver who wore a Turnbull & Asser long coat featuring a playing-cards pattern. Liz Peek introduced him to the more conservatively dressed Dick Cashin of One Equity Partners.

Cameron Silver and Dick Cashin

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Toni and Martin Sosnoff

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Money manager Martin Sosnoff gave remarks as the honoree, recalling the lesson in giving he received from Gustave Levy. Sosnoff said he had “gone down to kiss Gus,” seeking his blessing as he started his own Wall Street firm. Levy reminded him that he would be seeking a donation for UJA-Federation of New York and that he expected the gift to increase from the previous year.

“That concept stayed in my mind: you don’t just give, you have to increase what you give,” Sosnoff said. He joked that he’d given all his money to ABT, who “gives me back an allowance so I can buy a tomato sandwich every week.”

The gala performance featured choreographers Mark Morris, Frederick Ashton and Tharp. The Morris work, a world premiere, had costumes in sherbet colors by Isaac Mizrahi.

Isaac Mizrahi, far right, with spouse Arnold Germer, Fiona Rudin and Kate Peck

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

As far as revving things up, no one can handle sharp turns and spins like ABT principals Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside. The moves on stage inspired Hilaria Baldwin to hop on her husband’s lap during intermission.

Alec and Hilaria Baldwin

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg
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