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The School of American Ballet held its annual “Starry Nights” winter gala this week at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center in New York. David Koch, whose wife Julia cochairs the event with Serena Lese and Diana DiMenna, said he first became interested in the ballet as a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. An ad for the Boston Ballet caught his eye.

“I thought, a ballet…I believe it has fabulous music, it has great costumes, sets and most importantly, it has beautiful girls. I said, ‘Man, this is for me!’” he said. The politically active industrialist was making the rounds before dinner. He is a vital benefactor to the New York City Ballet, which operates out of the venue that bears his name. Koch is as conservative in his cultural preferences as he is in his politics. “Swan Lake,” he said, when asked for his favorite ballet. “I’m a more traditional guy.”

This story first appeared in the March 7, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Also attending the Monday night fund-raiser were Kelly Rutherford, Bettina Prentice, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Allegra Kent, who was a muse for the late choreographer George Balanchine, as well as Fe Fendi and Gilles Mendel — J.Mendel sponsored the evening along with Van Cleef & Arpels, the latter brand’s seventh year of support.

Mendel, who created costumes for two original ballets staged by the company, “Les Oiseaux” and “Call Me Ben,” was pleased to be surrounded by a room full of ladies in his designs.

“As you can imagine, J.Mendel likes cold weather,” the designer said. “I love women wearing beautiful gowns and furs, and it becomes very practical in such cold weather.”

After a seated dinner, the school’s advanced division took center stage for the pièce d’occasion, an original ballet choreographed by young corps member Silas Farley. Fendi, sitting in a prime seat right before the stage, caught a friend’s son dancing for the first time.

“I was so proud,” she said. “The energy, it’s contagious.” She was so caught up that as the music cut from Vivaldi, she was one of the members of the crowd to join the young dancers and show off their own, if more amateur, choreography.