(Photographer James R. Brantley for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre)
(Photographer James R. Brantley for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre)

In any other town the suits might feel, shall we say, a tad self-conscious two-stepping next to a 6 foot tall professional ballerina — much less body-rolling. Not so at the Kennedy Center on Tuesday where a pulsating mix of the power set rubbed elbows –and other body parts — with the dancers of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the company’s opening night gala.

“Everybody dances,” shouted one party-goer, more mandate than a suggestion. The first course hadn’t even been served yet. As the house band performed “Moves like Jagger” with as much gusto as Maroon 5 one patron on her way to the dance floor described the kinetic energy in the room thusly, “Basically it’s everyone thinking they can do the stuff they just saw on stage —Not.” But that didn’t stop her, or the more than 700 guests paying around $1000 a plate, from trying.

“I can’t think of a better party and it just keeps getting better,” said gala co-chair Gina Adams. BET chief executive Debra Lee, who’s hosted the gala 12 times, said the opportunity to “dance the night away on a Tuesday” was too good to miss. 

Before the dark chocolate mousse was served most of the tables were already half empty, their occupants having already migrated to the packed dance floor. The live band covered songs from Lionel Richie to Lady Gaga and every decade in between, and the repertoire of sweet moves on display followed suit. 

If the Washington crowd cut loose in relatively conservative gala attire — a cocktail dress here, a Michelle Obama-inspired red formal jumpsuit there — the dancers and one lobbyist filled the sartorial void. One male Ailey dancer sported a green paisley silk shirt with matching pants and velvet loafers. Not to be outdone, Lyndon Boozer, the telecommunications lobbyist, wore a turquoise velvet blazer with a retro ruffled tuxedo shirt.

Despite the prime people watching and waltzing, Ailey’s artistic director Robert Battle said the night was about more than just networking on your toes.

“It’s beyond see and be seen,” he said. “It’s all because of the love of the company, it’s a movement. That’s why there’s so much joy in the room.”