The dance floor was hopping with a large portion of Kansas City’s well-to-do and philanthropic set just after 9 p.m. Saturday night in the ballroom at the InterContinental Hotel on The Plaza.
Kokomo, a local band made up of a glitzy ensemble of singers backed by an equally glitzy rhythm section pounded out hit songs ranging from Frank Sinatra to Bruno Mars.
It was The Kansas City Ballet Guild’s Diamond Ball and off to the side of the dancing swells was Melanie Fenske in a stunning Jovani ball gown with a black bead-encrusted bodice and a layered nude skirt with a black embroidered overlay.
This, Fenske would say later, would be her favorite moment of the evening when her speaking duties were over and she could truly enjoy the $300 a plate gala that she and her committee had been planning for more than a year.
She and her husband, Mike Fenske, senior vice president of the Global Facilities Group at Burns & McDonnell, chaired the event, which drew 450 formally attired guests and grossed more than $476,000 for The Kansas City Ballet.
“We haven’t had that large of attendance lately,” said Fenske. “I think it’s because it’s the 60th anniversary of the ballet and the 50th anniversary of the ball. I also attribute a lot of it to our honorary chairs Tom and Loren Whittaker, whom everyone thinks very highly of. And I think guests were happy to have it back at the Intercontinental, which is where it was traditionally.”
The Whittakers and Fenskes were among several major benefactors of the ball while Michael and Ginger Frost and Bonne and Clifford Illig were underwriters.
Melanie Fenske became involved with the Kansas City Ballet Guild 12 years ago after attending its ball.
“It was my first exposure to it, and a friend asked me to join the guild, and I’ve been involved ever since in different capacities,” says Fenske.
Several dancers with the Kansas City Ballet mingled with the guests.
The evening began with the world premiere of two dance sets from artistic director Devon Carney’s “Romeo & Juliet,” which opens Friday at the Kauffman Center and continues through Oct. 22.
First, dancers with The Kansas City Ballet Second Company performed “Dance of the Knights,” followed by first company dancers Amanda DeVenuta and James Kirby Rogers performing “Ballroom Pas des Deux.
The glittering ballroom sparkled with white floral centerpieces accented with twinkling lights and strings of crystal mimicking those on the newly renovated ballroom’s chandeliers.
The guild’s annual Pirouette award was given to a very surprised Elizabeth Hard-Simms, co-chair of the first Kansas City Ballet Ball in 1968 and founder of the former Westport Ballet School.
“She’s a former dancer and she’s done a lot of other things to contribute to the ballet, so it seemed like a good time to honor her,” Fenske said.