The Elk Grove Strauss Festival thanked its donors for their support Friday, June 21, with an evening of dancing and music at its annual gala.
Guests arriving at Elk Grove Regional Park’s Pavilion were greeted by dancers in their 19th century ballroom best. A bed stacked high with mattresses and peapods scattered on the tables called to mind the theme of this year’s show — the fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.”
The evening featured previews of dances from the festival — which runs from July 25-28 at Elk Grove Regional Park — dinner and a live auction.
The point of the gala is “to say thank you to those of us who contribute, not only our dollars but our time and our support for this event,” said Judy Cummings, a former dancer with the festival. “I think it’s wonderful that they do this for us.”
She said she was looking forward to seeing the new dancers and costumes at the gala.
“Their personalities change when they put costumes on, and they’re just beautiful,” Cummings said.
The new dancers included Donna and Tom Hatch, who moved from Washington last year and learned about the Strauss Festival through some friends.
“I love dance and theater and everything, so we went, and I just fell in love with it,” Donna said. “And (Tom) is into sports, but I wanted him to do it with me.”
The couple said the learning curve had been steep, but that they got paired with experienced partners, which helped them pick up the choreography.
“After a while, it got so I didn’t have two left feet,” Donna said. “I really love dancing, and my partner’s been very patient with me.”
Throughout the evening, groups of dancers came up to be introduced. Organizers noted that this year’s ensemble of youth dancers is the largest the festival has ever had.
True to the “Princess and the Pea” theme, the many princesses hoping to capture the heart of the prince were at the gala. Organizers emphasized the mystery of which princess would win the prince’s affection.
Cummings said she liked the concept “because they have so many young women who want to dance, and so this is a great way to have lots and lots of princesses up on the stage in beautiful costumes.”
Kat Pratt, who plays one of the princesses, said the role has helped her practice new skills.
“Personally, I like being challenged in how they want me to develop my character, so there’s different acting things that I have to do that I’ve never really done before in dance,” Pratt said. “So stretching myself and pushing me out of my comfort zone — that’s definitely been my favorite part of (the festival).”
This year’s festival narrator Kristen Berkery drew the crowd’s attention to tell the featured fairy tale.
“Once upon a time, there was a young prince who dreamed of nothing more than finding a young woman to be friends with and, hopefully, love,” Berkery began.
She said the queen invited all the eligible women in the kingdom to a ball, but began to lose hope of finding the right match.
“Everyone felt hopeless, until there was one last knock on the door. Could it be? And this story will be continued on Strauss Island,” Berkery said.