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This year’s BAM Spring Gala - featuring the U.S. premiere of choreographer-director Matthew Bourne’s "Play Without Words" at the effortlessly chic BAM Harvey Theater - was a welcome relief to all who attended.

There’s little doubt that patrons must have been holding their breath (and crossing their fingers!) after being eyewitnesses to last fall’s premiere of Bang on a Can’s "Lost Objects." That world premiere ended with an ominous silence, when the baffled audience, whose senses were no-doubt dulled by a monotonous show plagued by production snafus, forgot to applaud.

Still, that debacle raised $600,000 for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, according to BAM President Karen Brooks Hopkins. This year’s wonderful Spring Gala, set in the comparatively intimate Harvey Theater, raised over $300,000.

Bourne’s "Play Without Words" was an ironic choice for a fundraiser intended for an audience of well-heeled donors, as it is the story of a wealthy young man, coddled by his butler, who soon becomes manipulated by him and is seduced and dumped by his maid.

In stark contrast to "Lost Objects," the only thing redundant about "Play Without Words" was the consistently superb score by Terry Davies and the relentless sexuality of cigarette-smoking, scantily-clad dancers against a backdrop of swinging ’60s London, attempting (not so successfully) to control their urges. (The show runs through April 3.)

Respected actors Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Along Came Polly"), Liam Neeson ("Kinsey") and Kevin Kline ("De-Lovely") arrived at the pre-show cocktail hour and mixed and mingled through the gala dinner that followed in a loft-like space on the 28th floor of the new tower at 330 Jay St. in Downtown Brooklyn.

Hoffman said he initially heard about "Play Without Words" in a recent article and that piqued his interest in attending.

"I love the Harvey theater," said Hoffman, who canoodled with Mimi O’Donnell at the cocktail reception. "And I love to support BAM, too.

"[’Play Without Words’] tells a story through movement and sensuality, and that intrigued me," he said. "It’s something I’m interested in as an artist."

Neeson said he was invited to the show.

"I’m a guest of Mr. Giorgio Armani," said the endearingly polite, tall, dashing Irishman to GO Brooklyn as we nearly succumbed to visions of Neeson in "Michael Collins" dancing in our heads. "I’m a big fan of [Bourne’s] work, especially ’Swan Lake.’"

Kline was also a guest of Armani and when asked if that meant he was wearing an Armani suit to go with his distinguished, gray beard, the actor quipped, "What? Do you think I’m stupid?"

Kline said that he’s a "big fan of BAM" and has been coming to BAM productions for "25 to 30 years," before asking, "Am I dating myself?"

At the dinner, chaired by John Lipsky and Zsuzsanna Karasz, guests were surrounded by the spectacular view of Brooklyn and Manhattan from the enormous windows. Bruce Ratner, principal owner of Forest City Ratner Companies, who is desperately trying to bring the Nets to Brooklyn, was a gala vice chair and provided the dinner location. Other VIPs included composer Philip Glass and filmmaker Michael Almereyda ("Aliens").

Qool DJ Marv, who spins in Manhattan and London, successfully eroded the reluctance of the gala-goers (perhaps intimidated by the fancy footwork of that evening’s performers) to shake and shimmy on the dance floor.

The BAM Next Wave Gala, on Oct. 25, will feature a performance by Brazil’s contemporary dance troupe Grupo Corpo. Tickets begin at $350 per couple. For reservations or more information, call (718) 636-4182.

’Basquiat’ & dancing

On April 21, the Brooklyn Museum will honor JPMorgan Chase at its annual Brooklyn Ball. Vice Chairman David A. Coulter will accept the Museum’s Augustus Graham Medal on the company’s behalf.

In addition to the cocktail hour, attendees will have the opportunity to view the newly opened exhibit "Basquiat," featuring the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the Fort Greene painter who collaborated with Andy Warhol and dated Madonna before dying in 1988 at the age of 27. JPMorgan Chase is the sponsor of the national tour of Basquiat, which will travel to Los Angeles and Houston after closing in Prospect Heights on June 5.

Dinner and dancing in the Beaux-Arts Court will follow the cocktail reception.

Tickets to the event, co-chaired by Stephanie Ingrassia, Carol Hochman and Cristina Enriquez-Bocobo, are $350-$1500. Proceeds will support the Museum’s public and education programs. For more information, call (718) 501-6423 or e-mail

Sofia’s the choice

At long last, Xaverian High School in Bay Ridge is honoring a woman at its annual Joe DiMaggio gala on June 23. And what an honoree she is: Oscar-winning filmmaker Sofia Coppola.

Each year, Xaverian’s fundraiser is a jaw-dropping celebrity-infused event, chaired by Xaverian alum Dr. Rock Positano. In 2004, the school, with fellow beneficiary Loyola High School in Manhattan, paid tribute to singer-songwriter Paul Simon. Stars from the stage and screen turned out for that soiree, and it’s certain this year’s party will also be a home run for the celestially starved.

Tickets for this year’s fundraiser will benefit the scholarship programs of Loyola and Xaverian. For more information, call (718) 836-7100.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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