Ballet gala brings out the chiffon and sequins

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NEW YORK (AP) - Fashion takes a back seat to nothing _ not even seriously chilly weather _ at New York's fanciest dance gala.

And so there were lots of bare-shouldered, shivering ballet patrons clutching their long, silky trains and hurrying past the red-carpet cameras Monday night at American Ballet Theatre's annual spring gala, an event that ranks high on the city's social calendar.

The evening also kicks off the company's eight-week season, and Monday's program at the Metropolitan Opera House was a jam-packed run-through of ABT's big hits, most in brief excerpt form, to show off the company's considerable stable of talent. This greatest-hits format is a staple of gala evenings, but it can feel quickly overwhelming _ like too much dessert with no main course.

The artistic highlights of the evening, though, turned out to be not the quick hits, with all their physical pyrotechnics, but the two full ballets on offer: a rousing rendition of George Balanchine's classic "Symphony in C," which hadn't been performed by ABT in a decade, and Alexei Ratmansky's "Symphony (hash)9," part of a trilogy of ballets by the popular Russian choreographer to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (the other two parts will be unveiled later this month).

The program began with a small section of "Onegin," by the choreographer John Cranko. The excerpt, while featuring the always stellar Diana Vishneva, was not nearly sufficient to give a sense of the ballet's dramatic power. More enjoyable was what followed: a spirited performance by young students of the ABT-affiliated Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, introduced by actress Sigourney Weaver.

In a short snippet of that gala standard, "Le Corsaire," the flamboyant Ivan Vasiliev entertained the crowd with his high leaps, though he was missing his usual partner, onstage and off, the injured Natalia Osipova. But the company's deep bench of talented dancers was really on full display in the next piece, "Symphony (hash)9," an intricate and challenging work that featured an especially notable performance from the elegant and buoyant Herman Cornejo.

Gillian Murphy made a too-brief appearance in Frederick Ashton's "Sylvia," and the veteran ballerina Julie Kent looked lovely performing in a short new piece with partner Roberto Bolle, "Apotheose," choreographed by dancer Marcelo Gomes to Beethoven's Symphony No. 7. (Gomes, who had danced earlier in the evening, came out in a dapper tux for the curtain call.)

After a quick highlight from "Sleeping Beauty," with David Hallberg and newly minted principal dancer Hee Seo, a cast of dozens performed all four movements of "Symphony in C," with a particularly lively rendition of the fast-paced third movement by Isabella Boylston and Daniil Simkin.

And then the crowd _ those in the shimmery ballgowns and tuxes, at least _ filed into a white tent to reach a gala dinner next door, shivering yet again, but ready to party.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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