On a recent Sunday, festive folks enjoyed dance, ethnicity and senior hobnobbing, all within social formats and within a few hours.
“Celebrate” was the beckoning on the invitation extended by the Board of Directors of the New Orleans Ballet Association and the Ballet Resource and Volunteer Organization (BRAVO). The occasion? To mingle (and dance) with the artists of Cuba’s Malpaso Dance Company at “A Festive Soiree” in Gallier Hall on a Sunday afternoon. Cuban cocktails, mojitos and Cuba libres, and hors d’oeuvres initiated the conviviality that fused into a dinner and dancing format. Guests delighted in cuisine by Churros Café (such as lechon asado, ropa vieja, platanos maduros, and flan) and Mulate’s (red beans, bread pudding).
Upon arrival at “A Festive Soiree,” guests received small Cuban flags. Decorations included images of Cuba hung throughout Gallier Hall, photographs provided by Kate Elkins, and posters of vintage Cuban postcards and album covers from Dagmar Vichot, who, along with Cuqui Moore, Elena Countiss, and Maria Leon Vallejo, furnished books, photographs, articles, and a Cuban flag.
Kappa Designs, LLC, provided a fruit cart and table centerpieces of palms and white gladiolus in tall trumpet vases. Centering the buffet was painted-gold sugar cane, with palms and gladiolus in a large vase, supplied by Adolph Farms in Napoleonville.
The partying came at the culmination of a week-long residency of classes and workshops by NOBA and The NOCCA Institute with the Havana-based Malpaso Dance Company. Three performances unfolded in NOCCA’s Freda Lupin Memorial Hall. Atistic director Osnel Delgado showcased his choreography alongside that of renowned American choreographers Ronald K. Brown and Trey McIntyre.
“Soiree” stars included Councilman Jason Rogers Williams; event advisory committee cohorts Helen Flammer (with husband Raul Fonte, originally from Cuba) and the above Mmes. Vichot, Moore, Countiss, and Vallejo; Dottie Belletto and Ashley Stagg, who tended to a slew of details; and NOBA executive director Jenny Hamilton, who along with board member Belletto and Councilman Williams, gave welcoming speeches to the MDC and congratulated them on their three successful performances. Company members then introduced themselves.
Still others within the evening’s constellation were BRAVO President Kathleen Mix Diamond with husband Jim Diamond, board Chairman John Duck with Renee, Lauren Buggs (from sponsor Chevron), Mulate’s owner/NOBA board member Tiffa Boutte, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana President Mayra Pineda, and NOBA board members Carlos Mickan with Jan, Teresa Guzzetta with Dr. Don, Monique Gougisha Doucette with Jason, and Deborah Alciatore-Empey with John Empey.
Dozens more — coming from the “Celebrate” Advisory Committee, the NOBA and BRAVO boards, and the Bravo Steering Committee – were lured to the dance floor by Julio & Cesar. Salsa, anyone? Everyone!
It was a sartorial smorgasbord. Suggested attire was kilts, kimonos, lederhosen, guayaberas, or accessories of French berets, Irish derbies, tropical leis, Gypsy shawls, English ascots or Spanish fans. All would fit in the celebratory kaleidoscope bannered by Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge New Orleans Chapter for its most recent fundraiser and auction that raised money for students to attend leadership conferences in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The late-afternoon bash was titled “Celebrate Ethnic Diversity in the History of the United States.”
Thematic accents at the venue, the Southern Yacht Club, included individual table centerpieces of U.S. flags surrounded by flags of various countries. Greek salad, Italian pasta, weinerschnitzel, trout amandine, and Irish crème chocolate mousse provided culinary ethnicity. All good!
Musical deserts came from pianist Alice Mayberry and vocalist daughter Nancy, who entertained with songs from various countries.
Auction action is always fun at FFVF. Recent top bidders included Shannon Walgamotte, Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Church, Marvin and Suzie Russell, Lynn and Ross McClave, and Robyn and Steve Edwards.
Headliners included co-hostesses and sisters Amie Harllee Seba (a recent birthday girl) with Richard and Betty Trachtman with Dr. Louis; FFVF President Betty Glancey with retired Judge James Glancey, Col. Frank and Eileen Hofrichter, John Wade accompanied by Nancy Borne, Leda Sobon with Leon Perret (who got two bottles of wine as door prizes), Capt. Maurice Shine and daughter Kerry, Dr. David Earl Simmons and Peggy, Dottie Rivenbark, Jacquelyn Lothschuetz, Anita Garcia, Loretta Clark, and Bonnie Pepper Cook.
Also, Ted and Barbara Argote, Alicia Ohlmeyer, Cathy Langhoff, and dozens more, who, in closing, spoke about their ancestors who immigrated to the U.S. and helped make it what it is today.
The invitation featured a French Quarter corner with a band of five regaling passers-by. This set the buoyant tone for “All Jazzed Up,” an anniversary celebration for People Program. Made up of “persons 50 years plus,” Program’s mission is to provide creative, life-long learning opportunities in an effort to engage seniors. The organization has a 42-year history. Currently, there are approximately 500 students: all teachers are volunteers. Considered “one of the best kept secrets in New Orleans,” People Program is spreading its word. There are two locations, 2240 Lakeshore Drive and 6201 Stratford Place (Westbank), for the extensive range of classes that are structured into three semesters.
Members, guests and donors headed to the Sen. Ted Hickey Ballroom on the UNO campus for the midday fun on a recent Sunday). A buffet lunch of lemon-rosemary chicken and brisket, along with mimosas; table decorations of second-line umbrellas designed by various people Program classes; and live music by Bobby Cure and The Poppa Stoppa Band were top features.
Relishing all the activity were People Program executive director Lynn Crean and husband Lee, assistant director Jan Martino, administrative assistant Deanne Gourgues, honoree Barbara McCurdy, Honorary Chairman Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, People Program board President Beth Johnson, Vice President Max Winkeler with Cily (who’ve recently traveled to Colombia), board member Sister Kathleen Pittman, CSJ, associate director of CSJ Ministries (Sisters of St. Joseph) Theresa Denton, and, with Rhesa, Alden McDonald Jr., who answers to president and CEO of Liberty Bank.
Around and About
Hi, ho! A new hotel. On a recent Wednesday, Hyatt House New Orleans/Downtown on Poydras Street celebrated the grand opening of the city’s newest stay hotel. Upon arrival, guests were greeted with live music by a five-piece brass band as they streamed into the property’s Commons space. Speeches by local dignitaries and Hyatt Corporate leaders were followed by a champagne toast raised by Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Raffle prizes, a Dixieland jazz trio, and light bites and sushi provided by Hyatt House and 1718 events were special features.
Among the notables were Hyatt House general manager, and all, with titles, Mark Romig, Michael Hecht, LaToya Cantrell, Michael Koffler, Chris Robertson, and Jennifer Jones.
Michel Tourniare, formerly of the Hotel InterContinental, has lived all around the hotel world with spouse Marie-France and their family. They chose New Orleans for their retirement city. On a recent Monday, he addressed Les Causeries du Lundi, a French-speaking group, at Longue Vue House and Gardens, on the topic of the Hermione 2015, an exact replica of the original Marquis de Lafayette ship. At the end of his much-ovated talk, Tourniare was also congratulated as the new Causeries president, following the outgoing Jeanne LeBlanc Williams.