As in years past, this year’s Hong Kong Cancer Fund ball brought out the cream of society to raise funds and “party with a purpose”, the event’s unofficial tag line. This time round, the theme was Romanov, for the last imperial house to rule over Russia, and the motif was followed to the extreme. Guests arriving at Artistree, where the event was held, were greeted by Russian guards and ladies-in-waiting posed around horse-drawn sleigh replicas. Inside, the ball’s long-time orchestrator, Silvio Bergé, transformed the multi-purpose event space into a Russian fantasy beyond compare, a gilded, crystal-embellished suite based on St Petersburg’s Winter Palace and equalling any court’s extravagance.
As cocktail hour drew to a close, Cancer Fund founder and Chief Executive Sally Lo mounted the central dance floor to give a speech thanking key donors and sponsors, including Louis Vuitton, who provided the capital to kick-start last year’s Rainbow Club initiative offering support to children whose parents are battling cancer. One major project highlighted in the speech was the newly launched You Can programme, targeting young adults affected by cancer. But the night was more about raising funds to enable these programmes, rather than dwelling on day-to-day details. And so as the evening’s dining delights were served, a series of performances and donation activities ensued. There were exuberant dances, instrumental numbers and even acrobatics, with two women suspended from a chandelier providing an aerial spectacle. Machines resembling credit-card scanners were provided on each table so guests could insert smart cards and specify donation amounts, a drive which brought in almost $1 million, a figure then matched by a generous contributor. An auction was held, with items on the block including a Louis Vuitton poker set; an objet unique from the collection of Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, who was also in attendance; a set of Fabergé cuff links; and a painting by Simon Birch, who himself celebrated five years in remission the week of the ball, a milestone that generally signifies a patient is cancer-free.
As the scheduled activities drew to a close, it was time to get the party started, a mission that was accomplished with the vocal stylings of British singer Nicole Russo, who got guests sashaying on the dance floor and boogieing to crowdpleasing hits. On multiple screens across the venue played videos of penguins dancing and snowboarders swishing through the powder – devices of tenuous connection to the evening’s Russian theme, but by then, guests were having too good a time to care – and besides, at this party for a purpose, the purpose had long been accomplished.