Pairing the Ballet Austin Fête with the Thinkery’s Imaginarium

Well, it finally happened.

The JW Marriott Hotel, which combines acres of social space with pretty high-quality hospitality, hosted two big, beloved galas on separate floors on the same night. It really was a treat for a social columnist to move effortlessly between these events by way of a long, gliding escalator.

Ilios and Mandarin work their magic at the Ballet Austin Fete. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

The Ballet Austin gala is really two events: Fête and Fêt-ish. The first is a more traditional benefit featuring a cocktail hour, leisurely dinner, standard program and a lively auction. The second, intended for a younger social set, is more of a dance party enclosed by vibrant animated projections, a VIP nook and the kinds of things you’d find at a high-end nightclub.

Ann Marie and Paul Michael Bloodgood at Ballet Austin Fete. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

In one of the most anticipated social reveals of the season, the walls part and the two parties join for compounded merrymaking. If you stayed for the whole shebang, it would have been a six-hour hullabaloo.

Ana and Carlos Poullet at Ballet Austin’s Fet-ish. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Two creative teams — Ilios Lighting Design and Mandarin Design Lab — lend these ballet events a singular, enveloping look, this year themed to the company’s first show of the season, “Romeo and Juliet.”

At my table, I enjoyed excellent company, including some sharp Texas lobbyists, early in the evening. Yet I was drawn downstairs to sample the Imaginarium that benefits the Thinkery. The entryway for this youth-skewed gala was just right — one felt pulled into a world of infinite science.

Entering the Imaginarium. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Given that the Imaginarium first took flight at an open-side airplane hangar near its eventual home at the Mueller Development, finding the event in a well-decorated but otherwise ordinary banquet hall was a little disconcerting. I listened to several speakers and met some cool folks before heading back upstairs.

Patricia Brown and Rich Segal at the Imaginarium for the Thinkery. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

How’s this for making it work? Heath Hale Auctions called both events! The always polite and charming gang of whooping men in cowboy hats raised record sums of money for these two incredibly valuable Austin nonprofits.