After the grown-up gala upstairs, which raised $2.3 million for Barnard student scholarships, young Barnard alumnae in cocktail dresses and heels emerged from the Plaza’s second floor elevators. Older alumnae put on their coats and wandered away as their younger counterparts entered a hall with gilded ceilings and paintings of cherubs. So began the inaugural Barnard Gala Nights, a chance for recent graduates to dance and mingle.
“I don’t know any of these people,” we overheard one blond girl say to another.
A massive dessert station by the entrance offered macaroons and cannoli, and all the tables displayed bowls filled with chocolate lollipops covered in sprinkles. The two bars on either end of the room, however, were stocked to serve adults.
A DIY candy station from Dylan’s Candy Bar further added to the evening’s youthful aura (and was its highlight, in our humble opinion). Delighted guests scooped piles of gummy worms into plastic bags, and we helped ourselves to a generous portion of chocolate-covered Oreos.
The DJ played Pitbull, Ke$ha and Katy Perry, but the hardwood dance floor remained pristine and empty, like any school dance, for the first half of the night.
“Oh, we’re going to dance,” said a girl in a pink floral dress to her date, who wore a matching pink bowtie. She pulled him toward the empty dance floor.
At the gala earlier that evening, nearly all the speakers made mention of President Obama’s upcoming speech at Barnard’s graduation, and the buzz continued into Gala Nights. A select group of undergraduate seniors, including Nina Ajami, managed to finagle their way into the event and revel in the hype.
“The whole campus went nuts,” Ms. Ajami said, about the moment the class of 2012 learned about their graduation speaker.
Alumnae committee member Ashley Walker Bush expressed excitement about Mr. Obama as well, although she just missed the opportunity to hear her uncle’s replacement speak, as she graduated in 2011.
“That he chose us is a great honor, and it highlights women’s leadership,” she said. “We all think it’s pretty cool.”
Ms. Bush left us for the dance floor, which had been filling up ever since the aforementioned pioneering couple started dancing. The music remained consistently Top 40, so it may have been a combination of the alcohol and all the sugar that inspired the migration. Some couples stayed locked together while they danced, but most guests were on the move, making spirals of black dresses and suits with the occasional pop of colorful satin.
In the group closest to our perch in the now almost-empty bar area, a few girls managed to simultaneously joke around with their friends and fiercely scan the dance floor for the most desirable partner. One of the guys in the group hovered around a girl in a striped dress, hoping for a signal of encouragement. The girl spent two and a half songs avoiding his gaze and searching for alternatives. Finding none, she feigned surprise at seeing him next to her, and they both smiled. The committee’s hopes for mingling, it seems, were achieved.
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