Winter Balling with Baryshnikov: Inside the School of American Ballet’s Gala

School of American Ballet 2013 Winter Ball

School of American Ballet 2013 Winter Ball

There was plenty of eye candy at the School of American Ballet’s annual Winter Ball, held last week in the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. Jaw-dropping dames lounged beside palm trees, plucking instruments’ strings. Models posed for the shutterbugs, blinged out in Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry. But the Transom had eyes for only one man this evening: Latvian native and ballet superstar Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Word around the room was that the man known as “Misha” had yet to arrive, and so we sulked our way through a few cocktails before running into actress Kelly Rutherford, the oft-remarrying mom on Gossip Girl. Ms. Rutherford told us about her favorite ballet, The Nutcracker.

“I like the little mice,” she said. “I go to The Nutcracker every year.”

After a little more investigation, we discovered that the last Nutcracker she attended was actually by the American Ballet Theater, not City Ballet (with which SAB is affiliated)—but excellent technique is excellent technique, and we couldn’t fault her for the blip.

As if on cue, we then spotted New York City Ballet principal dancer Ashley Bouder, who was with her husband, former Royal Ballet dancer Matthew Dibble, and who told us she had declined someone’s offer to dress her for the evening.

“I was like, I’ll just wear my Nicole [Miller],” said Ms. Bouder, who was wearing a classic black-and-white print dress. “Nicole gave me the dress for a different party. It was Japanese-themed.”

The theme for this evening was Le Bal Oriental. There were exotic flowers, gold thread-embroidered tablecloths and parasols suspended from the ceiling, and we had nearly lost ourselves in the magic of it all when morning TV reporter Tom Murro tipped off the Transom that “Mikhail is here.”

He added, “Go tackle him.”

Tackle Mr. Baryshnikov? We think not. But we did tap the legendary dancer delicately on the shoulder when we had finally tracked him down. And then we lost our nerve. This was, after all, the Baryshnikov. Mumbling more than we should admit, we proceeded to ask him a few questions about ballet as a medium of communication for our darkest emotions—or something like that.

“There’s nothing to say yet, the party hasn’t started,” Mr. Baryshnikov scolded us. “We’re raising money for the ballet.” Regaining our composure, we then spoke to Mr. Baryshnikov in his native tongue, finally impressing the legend enough to earn a handshake and a pat on the back.

Just then, the dinner bell rang, and we all tucked into a splendid meal of Peking duck spring rolls and chicken curry over rice. The most anticipated portion of the evening, however, was a piece danced by the School of American Ballet’s advanced students and choreographed by NYCB’s newest apprentice, Silas Farley. Still only 18, Mr. Farley carried himself with the air of a seasoned veteran as he thanked his dancers after their flawless performance.

On our way out of the Koch Theater, we noticed Mr. Baryshnikov strolling outside, although we were too shy to engage in a second round of embarrassment. Instead, the Transom watched Misha walk off into the distance. And so we parted ways, silent as the night.