The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands switched hats for one night on Nov. 27, 2015, transforming itself from a bastion of art and culture into a living, breathing circus, complete with “Big Top,” acrobatics, magic, and fire.
“The Night Circus” was the theme of its annual fundraising gala, where the gallery eschewed the standard dinner table layout in favor of reserved lounge seating and table-and-chair sets placed throughout the property. Such a design was appropriate for guests keen to watch the performers, who popped up in different locations over the course of the evening.
The night began with a walk through the gallery, where a “strongman” posed in a corner and a contortionist on a plinth slowly moved from one uncomfortable-looking position to the next. Characters in costume greeted and directed ticket-holders from the main doors, through the building, to the gardens, spinning decorated umbrellas as they walked.
Fire and pole dancers were set atop the labyrinth, while a conjurer “magically” appeared from behind the curtain onto his stage in the PwC Pavilion. He invited audience members to participate in his heady collection of tricks, drawing gasps and applause from onlookers.
One of the highlights of the evening was the aerialist, whose impressive command of swirling ribbons at a great height – defying gravity – brought all to encircle the floor beneath her.
Thanks to guests’ eagerness to embrace the circus theme for the night, many were dressed in impressive ensembles of their own. Large feathery hats, red and black dresses, velvet suits and lace were de rigeur on the gallery’s grounds, with very few opting for standard fare.
Of course, the name of the game was fundraising, and so a silent auction was on offer, featuring a variety of items from spa treatments to artwork and designer bags.
There was also a live auction staged halfway through the evening, prompting bids from the cavalcade of characters surrounding the “Big Top.” Natalie Urquhart, director of the gallery, made a brief speech before the auction began, highlighting the many programs the gallery offers and encouraging people to support the arts.
When all the performers were finished and the last auction item was won, DJ Craig turned up the music and guests flooded the dance floor. It was clear that most of the revelers would be cutting a rug until closing time at 1 a.m. What a night! What a circus!