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Fundraisers create a conundrum for event producers as high style must be paired with low production costs. “A challenge, as always with not-for-profits, is how do we make a statement with a small budget,” says Shai Tertner, president of New York-based Shiraz NYC. His event team managed to stage a wow-worthy event as producers of one of the American Ballet Theatre's fundraisers, the Culinary Pas de Deux. In February, 500 guests enjoyed a cultured evening of ballet recitals, a silent auction, and food and wine stations at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York.


Shiraz NYC has been center stage for four years producing the event, but this year saw a change in the night's choreography. In the past, guests grazed at the chef stations — which served food from 30 prominent New York restaurants — after the ballet's three short performances. “We decided to have the chef stations open as soon as people came in,” Tertner says, so guests dined both before and after the dancers performed. “The idea behind the change was to combine the silent auction — because that brings funds into the process — with the food stations.”


Last year, the ballet's rendition of “Romeo and Juliet” triggered distinctly romantic room decor. “For centerpieces, we used a gold urn filled with water and floating candles,” Tertner remembers. “And we put a bouquet of roses underwater, as if Juliet just passed by and dropped her bouquet on the way to Romeo.”

This year, the event team turned instead to strong colors for a tour de force of high impact decor within the strict space constraints. “We used colors that are a little more vibrant — aqua blue and brown for a good contrast,” Tertner says, adding that urns filled with stalks of pussy willow and bathed in sapphire light added to the robust look. To tie the decor into the onstage action, a frill of tulle accentuated each urn. “We wrapped the urns with fabric to imitate a ballerina's tutu,” Tertner explains. “The aqua-blue material — highlighted with blue lighting — stood out immensely in that space.”


In anything but capable hands, the 12-year-old fundraiser might have been in danger of going stale. But Tertner focused on the positive points of producing an event more than once. “The advantage in doing the same event four years in a row is that we can improve from year to year,” he explains. “It is a mastering process, as you know more of what to expect.”

As for the future, the event expert will look up for inspiration. “Next year I will pay more attention to the space above the guests,” he says.

Shiraz NYC 161 W. 22nd St., Second Floor, New York, NY 10011; 212/255-7001;

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