Time to shine for Procession’s gala

Illuminated Ball fundraiser’s theme: In Our Wildest Streams

Contributing writerJanuary 31, 2014 

The Illuminated Ball

What: The ninth annual Illuminated Ball, a funraiser for the Procession of the Species, will be an evening of art, music and dance, plus a silent auction. This year’s theme: “In Our Wildest Streams.”

When: 8 p.m. Feb. 8 to 1 a.m. Feb. 9

Where: Eagles Ballroom, 805 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia

Tickets: $65, available at Traditions Cafe & World Folk Art

More information: 360-705-1087 or procession.org

Also: The event is open only to ages 21 and older. The Illuminated Ball, the annual gala fundraiser for the Procession of the Species, is something like a prom for grown-ups, if the decorating and entertainment committees were really enterprising and if most people got their clothing at consignment shops.

Like the procession, the ball celebrates the natural world and human creativity with art, music and dance. The ball also is a chance for a good chunk of Olympia — the creative, the environmentally conscious, the unself-conscious and, in some cases, the nerdy — to go all out and dress up in flashy fashions. Or not. It’s all good.

Festivities at the ninth annual ball, happening Feb. 8, center on the theme In Our Wildest Streams. The event includes a pageant/performance, elaborate luminary decorations, dancing to the music of the Pumphouse Band, hors d’oeuvres, a no-host bar and a silent auction.

The theme celebrates the Northwest’s waterways and draws in something much bigger, Procession founder Eli Sterling said.

“It plays off the expression ‘in our wildest dreams,’” he said. “The idea is to capture the miracle of nature and of the heavens. The cosmic universe is in fact our wildest dream, and that wild dream is absolutely present in our streams and in all the diversity of life that’s within our streams.”

That multilayered theme inspired the pageant’s Indonesian-style lanterns, which mix traditional structured shapes with batik designs that suggest both flowing water and cosmic soup, Sterling said.

The performances also aim to illuminate the links between the streams that run through Olympia and the universe.

The pageant explores the theme both literally and metaphorically, said Stephen Passero, who is facilitating the pageant, a collaboration among seven dancers and three aerialists. Music for the pageant was arranged by Steven Mazepa and the Pumphouse Band, along with other musicians.

The performers will take the audience on a journey through the cycle of water in the environment, with water accumulating in the clouds, falling as snow, melting and moving into a stream or river and then to an estuary, Passero said.

Like the pageant, the silent auction provides an opportunity for artists to share their talents. And this year’s auction is focused more on art, including paintings, photographs, sculpture, ceramics, textiles and jewelry, auction coordinator Carol Riley said.

Artists from the cooperative Splash Gallery donated some of the art. In return, the gallery’s artists can use space at the Procession studio.

While there will be a lot to see, the evening is not just about sitting and watching. There will be dancing, mingling and, of course, being seen in sometimes elaborate outfits complete with battery-operated lights or glowing neon bracelets.

“It is suggested that you dress to illuminate,” Riley said. “Some people dress to the theme.”

Sterling will be doing just that. “I’m going to be in a stream theme with a blue patterned Indonesian smock and turquoise pants,” he said. “I’ll have lights fastened to my coat.”

Many people go all out with illumination, while others prefer to reflect light in glittery or sparkly attire, Riley said.

“It’s fun,” she said. “It can be formal, but it’s obviously each participant’s choice about how formal is formal.”

As costume chair for Samba Olywa, Riley has a big impact on procession fashion. Her outfit for the ninth ball was still in the works this week.

“This year, I am wearing a black skirt and a black beaded vest that I’m not going to wear a shirt under,” she said. “It’s a Ralph Lauren vest. I got it at a garage sale. It had the original price tag still on it for $199, and I got it for $5. Then I have some lights and a headpiece, and I’m adding a set of angel wings; they are white. I think I’m going to light up the wings.”

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