NYCB's Glittery Valentino Celebration

I think I'm still recovering from the glamor overload that was the New York City Ballet gala last night. Since I go to the ballet frequently (rough job, right?), most of the time, arriving at Lincoln Center for an NYCB performance feels like coming home. But last night? It was like landing on some beautiful alien fashion planet.

The gala paid tribute to legendary designer Valentino, who costumed four of the five ballets on the program. (More on that later.) While NYCB galas generally tend to be star-studded events—Sarah Jessica Parker is on the board, after all—nobody brings out the celebs quite like Valentino. We spotted SJP, Anne Hathaway, Sophia Loren (it was her birthday!), Anjelica Huston, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Tory Burch, Karolina Kurokova, Martha Stewart and more working it on the red carpet, which extended all the way around the Lincoln Center fountain. And everyone, naturally, was in their most fabulous Valentino. A few of the NYCB dancers who didn't have to perform strutted their stuff, too. Sara Mearns looked especially lovely in an ethereal long-sleeved gown—Valentino red, of course.

While gala programming is sometimes a bit "let's just get this over with so everyone can go eat," there were dance highlights last night, too. Former DS cover star Lauren Lovette wowed in the "Rubies" pas de deux from George Balanchine's Jewels; Robert Fairchild tapped (!) up a storm in Peter Martins' Not My Girl; Wendy Whelan and Tyler Angle exuded quiet gravity in a new Christopher Wheeldon pas set to Max Richter's remake of Dinah Washington's "This Bitter Earth" (a song you might recognize—it's been popular on the comp scene, too. Crossover!).

And the Valentino costumes? There are no words. Well, there are many words. But the company actually said them best, in this amazing (and kind of hilarious) video, which played right before the final piece. Enjoy!

Photo by Lee Gumbs, courtesy Taja Riley

Taja Riley's bold, full-out presence and unique ability to mix hard-hitting hip hop with smooth, sensual choreography paved the way for her success in the commercial industry. She's danced with music icons like Chris Brown, Janet Jackson, Ne-Yo, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Pitbull, and Bruno Mars, and has assisted with choreography for Britney Spears' Femme Fatale tour, Demi Lovato's Skyscraper tour, and Beyoncé's Mrs. Carter tour. She also appeared in Beyoncé's groundbreaking visual album Lemonade. Raised in Virginia Beach, VA, Riley grew up training at Denise Wall's Dance Energy. Currently, she's on faculty at New York City Dance Alliance, where you can catch her touring the convention circuit. —Courtney Bowers

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New York City Ballet in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker (via @nycballet on Twitter)

We all suffer from Nutcracker fatigue sometimes. After a zillion performances, it's hard not to. But there's nothing to restore your little-kid sense of Nutcracker wonder like a look at the sheer scale of a world-class Nut.

New York City Ballet's iconic production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker opens on Friday, and for the past week, the company has been Tweeting out some seriously eye-popping #NutcrackerNumbers. The stats cover everything from the number of jingle bells used on each Candy Cane costume (that'd be 144) to the watts of light used in the show's grand finale (ONE. MILLION. WATTS.).

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Oh hey there, Hallmark Channel! The producer of all those sweet, homey movies best watched in your PJs with your mom has a super dance-y film on its holiday lineup this season: A Nutcracker Christmas. And the casting is—to use a very Hallmark-y pun—perfectly on pointe.

A Nutcracker Christmas tells the story of a talented professional dancer, Lilly, whose supportive sister dies just as Lilly is about to perform the role of Clara in The Nutcracker with New York City Ballet. (Nit-picky fact-checking: In New York City Ballet's Nutcracker, she's known as Marie and danced by a child, but OK.) Lilly's boyfriend and dance partner, Mark, keeps her from performing in the show, which makes Lilly declare she'll never dance again. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Lilly's niece, Sadie, is about to dance Clara in a different company's Nutcracker—a company run by, of all people, Mark. And tons of drama ensues.

Yes, it's a whole lot of plot to wrap your head around. But the real story here is that Sadie is played by none other than the phenomenal Sophia Lucia, and the ever-dashing Sascha Radetsky is also involved in the project. (Radetsky's exact role is unclear from the press material, but he seems like a pretty natural fit for Mark, no?) The odds seem good that we'll get the gift of some very high-quality dancing. Merry Christmas to us!

Sophia Lucia showing off those banana feet (via @sophialucia5678)

You can catch A Nutcracker Christmas on December 10 at 8 pm. Get your slippers and hot cocoa ready.

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