American Ballet Theatre & Jennifer Garner & ABT’s holiday 2018 gala

Jennifer Garner (photo by MargieBarron)

 Jennifer Garner really loves the ballet, and admits she has tried to get her six-year-old son, Samuel, to enjoy it too. But when she took him to an American Ballet Theatre performance of The Nutcracker it was clear that he was not the super-fan she is.

 At the American Ballet Theatre’s 2018 gala holiday benefit, Garner told the crowd of ballet supporters that as The Nutcracker was being performed, “My son said, ‘Mom, I don’t know if I get this movie. I’m not really getting the plot. They are not talking,’” Still she said she hopes her Samuel will grow up to understand and love the ballet as much as she does.

The American Ballet Theatre (ABT) evening was emceed by Garner who said, “It is my lifelong dream to be here celebrating the American Ballet Theatre. And lucky for all of you, I will not be dancing tonight, that’s my holiday gift.” But the Golden Globe-winning actress did admit she proudly took ballet lessons as a kid. And at the event she showed a funny short video that featured her playing the role of Pierrette in the Harlequinade ballet.

Garner was glowing all night as she welcomed the patrons of the arts at the American Ballet Theatre’s Annual Holiday Benefit on December 17 at The Beverly Hilton.

At the American Ballet Theatre’s Annual Holiday Benefit on December 17, 2018 at The Beverly Hilton is (L-R) American Ballet Theatre’s Trustee and Gala Co-Chair Sutton Stracke, Board Chair Andrew F. Barth, actress Jennifer Garner, Principal Dancer James Whiteside, Executive Director Kara Medoff Barnett and Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie. (photo by VinceBucci)

 “Tonight we will be treated to a one-night only performance of classics and new works featuring the world’s most gifted dancers. I’ve followed and befriended many of them over on social media,” Garner revealed with the joy of a little girl who has discovered the beauty and magic of the ballet world. Principal dancers Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside introduced Garner and called her their “beloved friend, accomplished performer, entrepreneur, super-mom and self-professed ballet junkie.”

(L-R) Misty Copeland, Dita Von Teese, and ABT gala co-chair and trustee Sutton Stracke (photo by MargieBarron)

Indeed, Garner is such a cheerleader for ballet in general and the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) in particular, that she had the idea to create the fun video parody of the Harlequinade ballet to plug an upcoming performance. The ABT will present Harlequinade at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa beginning Thursday, January 17, and Garner said, “I will be there.” For the holidays, ABT also presented The Nutcracker at the Segerstrom.

 At the gala, an excerpt of Harlequinade was joyously performed by principal dancers Carlos Gonzalez (who seemed to channel a young Mikhail Baryshnikov in his Harlequin role), Sarah Lane, Stella Abrera and Thomas Forster. Other magnificent performances included an excerpt from The Nutcracker performed by Alexei Agoudine, Luis Ribagorda and Arron Scott; The Leaves Are Fading performed by Hee Seo and Cory Stearns; Don Quixote performed by Isabella Boylston and Aran Bell; and the surprising Duke Ellington-infused tap dance and ballet medley Dream Within a Dream (deferred) led by soloist Calvin Royal III.

 Of course a highlight of the evening was seeing Misty Copeland with Blaine Hoven performing Jessica Lang’s Garden Blue, a mesmerizing abstract piece with music by Dvorak. It captured the magic created by great dancers. The darling of the ballet world, Copeland just made her film debut in Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.

(L-R) Sharon Lawrence, Nigel Lythgoe, and ABT Principal Dancer Misty Copeland (photo by VinceBucci)

Among the VIPs attending was Nigel Lythgoe, executive producer, judge and creative force behind Fox TV’s So You Think You Can Dance, on which Copeland has been a guest judge. The show celebrates great dancers and choreographers and the joy they share. As a former hoofer, Lythgoe especially enjoyed the unique ABT tap dance number.

Also happily supporting the ABT were Ginny Mancini, Sharon Lawrence (NYPD Blue), Lesley Ann Warren (Blunt Talk), Lotte Verbeek (The Borgias), Julie Ann Emery, Daniel Donigan, Haans Nicholas Mott, Dita Von Teese, and legendary “Music of Your Life” and “This Is Music” broadcaster Chuck Southcott. Plus, ABT Executive Director Kara Medoff Barnett, Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie and Chief Advancement Officer Tim Landi.

Chuck Southcott, Ginny Mancini (photo by MargieBarron)

 The evening’s Co-Chairs were Sarah Arison, Avery and Andrew F. Barth, Stewart R. Smith, Robin A. Ferracone and ABT Trustee Sutton Stracke, with generous support from the Lloyd E. Rigler – Lawrence E. Deutsch Foundation. The proceeds from the event goes toward ABT’s education and engagement programs, impacting more than 18,000 children annually.

 After the performances the stars of the ballet company mingled with guests over desserts and champagne, with the enthused wannabe ballerina Jennifer Garner gushing praise upon the dancers.

 For information about ABT’s “Harlequinade” January 17-20, at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, in Costa Mesa, California, call (714) 556-2787 or visit

Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years.