The Joffrey Gala Celebrates 10 Years of Visionary Direction




By Liz Sharp


The Joffrey Ballet Gala celebrated Ashley Wheater’s 10th anniversary as artistic director with a Swedish Midsummer party. Over seven hundred guests attended the event, which raised over $1 million for The Joffrey Ballet. “The evening was truly magical! It was my pleasure to chair this important gala in the history of The Joffrey Ballet,” enthused Susan Oleari, a Women’s Board and Board member and regional president of the gala’s Presenting Sponsor, BMO Wealth Management.

Ashley Wheater, Susan Oleari, and Greg Cameron.

The evening began in the lobby of the Auditorium Theatre where, nestled behind bales of hay, a trio of musicians serenaded party guests sipping champagne. Women’s Board members in beautiful gowns, many sporting flower crowns, gathered on the staircase for their annual photo. The session ended with the ladies holding hands wide with outstretched fingers, celebrating 10 years of Ashley and presented the artistic director with a handmade flower crown to sport later in the evening.

Patti Eylar and Kathleen Klaeser.

David and Lex Schmitz with Holly and Michael Maloney.

Anne Kaplan and Dia Weil.

Diane and Richard Weinberg with Shelley Farley.

Annie Atzeff and Eloise Atzeff.

A Gala performance in the Auditorium Theatre featured a moving video highlighting Wheater’s artistic vision and impact on the Joffrey. Guests were enthralled with the artistic program, which included ballets from Nicolas Blanc’s Beyond the Shore and Alexander Ekman’s iconic “hay dance” scene from their new production of Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Following the performance guests were whisked by trolleys to the Palmer House where they first enjoyed cocktails in the Red Lacquer Room. The ballroom was transformed by Kehoe Designs for dinner and dancing. Inspired by Midsummer Night’s Dream, the room resembled a picnic in the Swedish countryside complete with maypoles,  rustic planked tables, a canopy of lights strung from the ceiling, and bales of hay.

Dinner in full swing in the Palmer House Ballroom.

The tables.

Guests enjoyed a delicious dinner featuring smorgasbord salad, filet Oscar, and Swedish Midsummer strawberry cake. A parade of The Joffrey Ballet’s Company Artists brought gala attendees to their feet, while a heartfelt toast by the artists to Wheater mesmerized the room. DJ Matt Roan, a Chicago-based DJ who’s played everywhere from Milan, Miami and twice at Lollapalooza energized the room, and the dance floor was packed with revelers until the late hours.

April Daly and Ashley Wheater.

Wheater shared this gracious note with all Joffrey friends and supporters after the event: “My sincerest thanks and enormous gratitude for making the gala a truly memorable and beautiful night. I am proud of the work we do together, working to bring the Joffrey to a place of excellence. Looking down the road, it’s a great view.”


Jazelle and D.L. Morriss.

Amelia Silva, Ken Norgan, and Candace and Chuck Jordan.

Bette Cerf Hill and Bruce Sagan.

Melinda Jakovich-Lagrange, Lucien Lagrange, and Melissa Trandel.

Adam Blyde, Suzanne Lopez, and Nicolas Blanc.

Emily Strobel Amiet and Carolyn Blessing.

Hans Pusch and Molly Pusch with Robert Wierema and Coco Meers.

Alexandra Lazar, Zach Lazar, and Anne Lazar.

Henry McBride and Eric Schieber.


Photo Credits: Steve Becker, Dan Rest