HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

Per Vitem! Ad Vitam! Through the Vine, Toward Life!

By Rose Betty Williams      Photography by Charles Quinn Photography

Kent and Connie Sullivan

THE SETTING: The Austin Chapter of the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Vine of America recently hosted the 21st annual Grand Assemblage and Enthronement Dinner at the Hotel Granduca Austin. Upon arrival, the members, happy to see each other after months of separation due to Covid, enjoyed lively conversation and a champagne reception in the veranda and outdoor patio with passed hors d’oeuvres. A plated dinner prepared by Executive Chef Collin Kaskel followed in the Salone Ducale ballroom with wines especially chosen to complement each of the five courses. The wines served, all rated 92 and above, included  a 2010 Diebolt-Vallois Blanc de Blancs Brut, a 2016 Simonnet Febvre Chablis Les Presuses Grand Cru, a 2019 Chene Bleu Rose, a 2016 Occidental Pinot Noir Freestone Occidental, a 2016 Argiano Solengo Super Tuscan and Graham’s 20-year-old Tawny.

Ron Mullen and Lynnda Colby Carter Mullen

THE STYLE: Toasts to KOV camaraderie echoed throughout the ballroom as the members watched a slide show of past KOV events that was produced by Austin Chapter Master Commander Jerry Gatlin. The Austin Chapter Cadre is comprised of Gatlin, Master Vice Commander Randy Groves, Master Commander Emeritus Ed Auler, Master Commander Emeritus J. Buckner Hightower, Master Gastronome Susan Auler, Master Roving Ambassador Jan Burrow, Master of Amity Jim Green, Lady Oenophile Jo Green, Cellar Master Chris Hightower, Master Councilor Bill Krumpack, Master Scribe Forrest Preece, and Master des Partis Rose Betty Williams.

Rose Betty Williams, Jerry Gatlin and Susan Auhler

Kelly and Travis Lightfoot & Dana and Dennis Jakubowicz

THE PURPOSE: The KOV Austin Chapter Cadre along with Robert C. “Buddy” Hagner, Jr, Grand Commander of the Knights of the Vine of America, walked in procession to the front of the ballroom for the enthronement ceremony.

Gatlin welcomed everyone and called on Susan Auler to introduce the new members: Daniel and Maria Bleier, Lynnda Carter Mullen and Ron Mullen, William Deaton and Cecilia Neuhaus Deaton, William Denigris and Penny Jamrack, Austin Dula and Amanda Massey, Don and Christa Heath, Ann Kugler, John and Nancy Mullen, Skip and Biddie Porter, John Robinson, William Stassen and Deborah O’Connell, Jim and Terry Whorton, and Tom Wilkinson and Lynn Nolen.

Buddy Hagner

Jim Whorten and Linda Ball and Forrest Preece

Founded in 1964 and in the tradition of wine brotherhoods around the world, KOV seeks to promote the US wine industry and educate members to the benefits and enjoyment of wine. KOV strives to promote American wines and wine producing regions; to introduce and recognize quality wines from around the world; and rekindle the respect of wine and wine culture for mankind and country. Currently, there are 16 chapters in the U.S.

 

 

R.S.V.P. HOUSTON

HATS OFF 

Hats, Heart and Horseshoes Derby Party For Bo’s Place

By Jennifer Roosth             Photography by Daniel Ortiz and Jacob Power

Christie Sullivan, Millette Sherman and Alissa Maples

THE SETTING: The Houston Polo Club was the perfect setting recently for the fifth annual Hats, Hearts & Horseshoes event benefiting Bo’s Place. The green fields and the polo horses watching from their stalls made this year’s event extra special after last year’s event was cancelled due to the pandemic. With social distancing protocol in place, over 250 supporters were excited to be dressed in their finest attire to watch and celebrate the running of the Kentucky Derby. 

Deanna Barton, Paige Fertitta and Karen Thompson
Neil and Maria Bush

THE STYLE: The fabulous hats and beautiful dresses, made for perfect people watching as tables were scattered under many tents. Guests socialized throughout the grounds, sipping traditional mint juleps and nibling on lite bites. Puppy Pals, a racing wall raffle, and purchasing a rose for a friend kept the crowd busy until post time. Multiple large screens gave all the guests a perfect view to watch the race. As the race got close to the finish line, many people started standing and cheering at their tables to see Medina Spirit win the race.

Bill Baldwin, Hallie Vanderhider and Fady Armanious

THE PURPOSE: Mary Beth Staine, the executive director of Bo’s Place, said, “Bo’s Place helps families who are grieving in their journey to find a renewed hope for the future.” Chairs Alissa and Kevin Maples, Millette and Haag Sherman, and Christie and Mark Sullivan, along with Honorary Chairs, Paige Fertitta, Megan and Luke Hotze, Hannah and Cal McNair, Hallie Vanderhider, and Kelli and John Weinzierl were thrilled to raise over $280,000 for grief programs at Bo’s Place. 

Aaron and DeeDee Howes
BoHats, Hearts & Horseshoes Event Benefiting Bo’s Place
R.S.V.P. HOUSTON

R.S.V.P. HOUSTON

WOMAN POWER

The Women’s Fund For Health Education And Resiliency In Houston Hosts Win Dinner

By Jennifer Roosth Photography by Michelle Watson

Brad and Joanna Marks & Hannah and Cal McNair
Gary Petersen and Laura Hatfield

THE SETTING: Over 130 supporters brought an appetite to experience an intimate in-person event with exceptional wine, culinary delights, and entertainment to benefit The Women’s Fund’s mission was at the 6th Annual Wine Dinner at Tony’s restaurant in Houston, with pandemic protocol in place. 

Regina Garcia, Trini Mendenhall and Philamena Baird
Elizabeth and Alan Stein

THE STYLE: Inside the venue, Houston restauranteur Donna Vallon guided guests through an exquisite four-course meal with wine pairings that included: Genovese salad paired with 2017 Hudson Ranch, Hudson Ranch Vineyards, Chardonnay; Tony’s infamous “flaming fish” salt crusted gulf red snapper paired with 2014 Domaine Anderson Estate, Pinot Noir; Prime truffled filet of beef paired with 2016 Carpe Diem, Cabernet Sauvignon…and Grand Marnier soufflé paired with Masottina Brut, Prosecco. It was a feast for all who attended. How could it not be?

Beth Wolff and Cynthia Wolff
Donna Vallone and Linda Rhodes

THE PURPOSE: The event’s chairs, Joanna and Brad Marks, the generous sponsors, and guests raised more than $135,000 to ensure Houston-area women and girls have free access to tools they need to be advocates for their health through classes, workshops, lectures, and publications focused on physical, mental, financial, emotional, health, and wellness. President of the Board of Trustees, Kathy Johnson, and the Marks highlighted The Women’s Fund’s accomplishments and continued commitment to providing free and virtual health services to Houston-area women during these unprecedented times. Additionally, they thanked Plains Capital for sponsoring the evenings entertainment, Vincent Powell and the Houston Ensemble Band.

Kim Padgett, Lara Bell and Jennifer Roosth
Kristina and Paul Somerville
GENIUS IN MOVEMENT: CLOSE-UP WITH BRETT ISHIDA

GENIUS IN MOVEMENT: CLOSE-UP WITH BRETT ISHIDA

Recently, in this exclusive interview, we caught up with superstar choreographer and founder of ISHIDA, Brett Ishida, on her point of view toward contemporary dance. The upcoming performances in her latest work, Faraway, so close, happen in Austin August 13–14 at Dell Fine Arts Center at St. Andrew’s and in Houston August 19–21 at MATCH Midtown Arts & Theater Center. At IshidaDance.org

By Lance Avery Morgan       Photography courtesy of ISHIDA

LANCE AVERY MORGAN: What is the significance of contemporary dance as the world begins to recover from the pandemic–what are the healing aspects it can offer to your audience? 

BRETT ISHIDA: Over two thousand years ago in ancient Greece, citizens attended Greek tragedy; it was one’s civic duty. These plays informed society of its moral code. The performances were cathartic and the personal narratives portrayed connected to audiences emotionally, creating space to hold the spectrum of human experience, from joy and lightness to the dark, difficult aspects of the human condition. Through performance, individuals and society at large were able to reflect on, grapple with, and ultimately grow in the face of innate human experiences from desire, jealousy, and loneliness to belonging, hope, fragility, and mortality. 

In the wake of COVID-19, attending live performances gives each of us a renewed chance to process the trauma of the pandemic in community, just as they did in ancient Greece. ISHIDA’s contemporary narratives mirror the ethos of the communal civic duty of Greek tragedy. My work invites existential questions and emotional connection, allowing audiences to extract personal meaning because there is a narrative thread expressed through the movement that is relatable and universal. 

Brett Ishida

LAM: Being universal begs the question, why do you think contemporary ballet continues to be a favorite performing art for audiences across the world? 

BI: I think there is an alluring visual and physical aesthetic to ballet that’s mesmerizing, and I draw on this classical foundation for my work. I combine the beauty of the human form from traditional ballet with theatrical, grounded, fluid movement that expresses the everyday being. I don’t want audiences to say after watching one of my pieces, “I don’t get it,” so I create unique poetic narratives to help audiences attach emotionally to my work and empathize with the characters/dancers on stage. As an audience member, you don’t need to “get” it because you feel it: you are swept up and reflected back in the visual story.

LAM: Speaking of reflections, how different is contemporary dance–and its audiences – across the world vs. to here in the U.S? 

BI: Much of contemporary dance, particularly in the U.S., seeks to represent a certain culture or address social issues. Although ISHIDA Dance is not without social messages and context, my poetic narratives are first and foremost universal and yet personal, asking each of us to connect to existential questions of Being. Ultimately, my work is different in several ways, which taken as a whole, suggests ISHIDA is unique to U.S. dance companies today. I am working hard to find dancers that express themselves through contemporary movement, yet retain the beauty of the human form that many of us love about classical ballet. 

I am relentless in my pursuit of a visual aesthetic which encompasses dramaturgy, lighting, stage design, and sound and music. My work seeks to fill the creative space between fairy tales in traditional ballet and themed dances of the often highly abstract world of contemporary dance. Although ISHIDA pursues some of the patterns and interesting movements seen in contemporary dance, my work is always driven by a unique narrative. I’m working from an original storyboard/script within a modern context to connect to audience’s emotions and psyche. 

LAM: Regarding emotions and psyche, how has your Japanese heritage informed your subject matters and work?

BI: I grew up a in rural community, primarily white and Hispanic, with very few Asians. I was hyper as a child and my mom says I was always dancing spontaneously, so she put me in tap, tumbling, and ballet classes. I immediately was smitten with ballet and knew I wanted to be a professional ballerina when I grew up. I didn’t look like other children and even at a young age, I was already passionate about something (dance) that most children weren’t that focused on. I didn’t have many friends as a youngster in this context, so growing up, I felt isolated and alone. To escape these feelings, I’d create my own stories through dance in my bedroom and at my grandparents’ modest citrus farm between trees on the dirt roads. 

Dancing in the landscape from which I came provided solace, but that landscape, and the family who has inhabited it for generations, also shaped and informed me and the stories I tell. As a choreographer and artistic director, I hope to create space for that creative interplay for each of ISHIDA’s dancers. As a female artist of color, I cultivate a safe, collaborative environment in which participants’ culture and history is treated as an asset to be shared.

LAM: On the subject of assets, how did studying the Greek classics support your career and what you’ve created? 

BI: Studying literature at UCLA, Attic Greek (the Greek dialect of the ancient region of Attica), Greek philosophy which utilizes various poetic structures, and ancient Greek tragedy which is written in iambic trimeter, has had a direct and significant influence on ISHIDA Dance. I structure my narratives using conceits of Ancient Greek language and culture, which then influences the choreographic process. I harness fundamental narrative devices seen in ancient Greek tragedy which were also noted by Shakespeare and many other great playwrights. The communal experience of Greek tragedy in its social and historical context united the moral code of its citizens and encouraged thinking about Otherness. The intent of my work has the same motivation—to play with the tension between the collective and the individual experience. How do they define and inform one another and what can we learn from each?

LAM: Brett, can you describe your creative process in developing the choreography for your latest project?

BI: Before I get into a studio, I engage in a rigorous writing process. I start by creating poetic fragments. From there, I develop a structure for the work similar to that of a play. With this framework, I start to create movement that stems from the context of the plot, the character development and his/her/their motives for being. It is a collaborative process in that the dancers bring their individuality and personal experience to the work. One of my dancers said that my creative process was like going to therapy. My work encourages self-awareness and a heightened awareness of the presence and experience of others, too. My hope is that the process of creating and watching dance prompts introspection in each of the artists with whom I work and each of the audience members who will ultimately see that work. By creating basic structures that leave room for the process of further creation, expression, and interpretation, I hope to foster curiosity in both artist and spectator and afford the opportunity for deep meditation on Being and the possibilities for becoming more other-centric.

LAM: What is it like to collaborate with guest choreographers like Bret Easterling and Kristian Lever? 

BI: I not only choreograph, but I also curate all programming for ISHIDA Dance. I do extensive research before inviting a choreographer to create with the company. The guest choreographers I choose are extremely talented choreographic voices and devoted artists who have had extensive dance careers with renown international companies from all over the world. Bret is a former member of Batsheva, creating and performing works by Ohad Naharin, and now sets his work with universities and professional companies. Kristian is a former dancer with Hamburg Ballet and an award-winning choreographer. He has created works with dancers from the Dutch contemporary dance company Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) and Royal Danish Ballet. They both are creating important contemporary work in the field of dance engaging and connecting to audiences in a tangible, meaningful way. And yet, their work is not typically presented in Texas. These pieces will be world premieres. It is a pleasure to know and work with each of them.

LAM: Why are you excited about bringing Faraway, So Close in Houston and Austin soon? 

BI: I am excited to bring this program to Houston and Austin because it is a program that explores hardships and suffering and yet celebrates our fragility and the beauty of Being in time. 

Faraway, so close is a title indebted to a Wim Wenders’ film that is really an existential poem about love and mortality. The story follows an angel that is drawn to this lonely mortal woman on Earth because the things she feels, he feels, too, and he falls in love with her from afar. Though they don’t connect on the same plane of being—she can’t see him and he can see her, but he can’t touch her skin—we sense that, perhaps, she feels his presence or the presence of something Other. There’s suffering, longing, and tenderness; the angel seems to truly understand her loneliness.

This film is also a nod to the film geniuses of Wenders’ time. For me, I’m also indebted to the poets and choreographers I’ve worked with. This program, in a way, is a nod to them and to a memory of a dear friend who was consumed by depression and loneliness and took his life. He remains so close in memory, and like the angel, I continue to love him from afar. 

FIVE-STAR ADVENTURE

FIVE-STAR ADVENTURE

By Lance Avery Morgan                       Photography courtesy of American Friends of Versailles

Upper Belvedere in Vienna

The American Friends of Versailles, founded by Amarillo, Texas native Catharine Hamilton, and under the exceptional, gracious guidance of Princesse Béatrice de Bourbon des Deux Siciles, invites you to a spectacular benefit trip to Vienna and Prague to take place from October 2–10, 2021.

Prince and Princess Michael of Kent & Mr. and Mrs. David Hamilton at an
American Friends of Versailles gala


The Princess curated this one-of-a-kind, benefit tour filled with illuminating visits to must-see sites, as well as uncommon entrees to impressive private locales, via invitations from her family and friends. It promises to be a very moving time together. There may be slight edits to this itinerary including surprise, wonderful additions in this exclusive opportunity. 

Prague

The hotel reservation deadline is June 11th for the first deposit, due to the demand for fall travel and five-star hotels. This opportunity is  $20,000 per person (with appx. a $9,500 tax deductible portion).  If you are unable to subscribe, kindly know donations of any size are greatly appreciated. For more information, you can email info@americanfriendsofversailles.org for the itinerary–or call 312.943.0173. 

Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna