Fantasy Soars At Annual Purim Ball
Isramerica collaborated with House of Yes to create a night of whimsy and mysticism for the masked holiday
Fantasy Land isn’t just for kids.
On Thursday night, over 700 disguised revelers were immersed into a night of enchantment on west 16th street for the eighth annual Purim Ball.
Put on by Isramerica, a non-profit organization that promotes the work of Israeli and American Jewish artists, the evening celebrated fantasy, fiction and art’s power to transport the mind, at the Highline Ballroom.
As guests entered the large venue, hamentaschen in hand as a welcome gift, colorful characters took over the space: lawyers turned into rock stars, marketing consultants were superheroes, financial analysts cast spells as sorcerers and teachers sailed the high seas as pirates — for a night reality was suspended.
“It’s so much fun to put on a costume. And as much as some people compare the two, it’s different than Halloween,” said David, who works in PR and was spending the evening as Superman, “Purim has a special meaning.”
Isramerica’s founder and president, Sivan Hadari, agrees. “I love dressing up,” she said in a Cleopatra costume. “But what’s special about Purim is that the Jewish people were saved by a brave woman, Esther, who risked her life to save an entire nation,” said Hadari. “She was the Wonder Woman of her time.”
In time for International Women’s Day and month, Purim stands out as a story that empowers women. “In Judaism, like many other religions, the hero and savior of the Jewish people is usually a man,” said Hadari. “In this special Purim story, the Megillah, Esther is actually the heroine as she takes a brave step by revealing her religion to the king.”
Collaborating with House of Yes, a venue that specializes in performance art from dance to cabaret to circus to theater promoting the power of expression, connection and creativity, the evening was bursting with creative forces: aerialists in red feathers and glitter spun into acrobatic shapes as they were suspended from an enormous red silk chandelier, hula-hoop spinners and poi jugglers performed, abstract artist, Adam Thompson, who specializes in 3-dimensional installations, painted a live art piece from the stage, and a belly dancer shook more than a gragger in the middle of the dance floor. And for those who were looking to add another layer of imagination: guests could get their faces painted in glow in the dark ink.
But the night wasn’t only about fanciful reveries and fiction — it was grounded in the spirit of the Jewish holiday. “I definitely came out tonight to socialize and have a night with my friends,” said Sarah, who was dressed as a cowgirl, “but there’s something nice about knowing I’m also celebrating an ancient story and keeping the tradition alive.”
And the presence of Purim could be felt in the room: several of the curated performance incorporated a connection to the holiday. As the aerialists wove their bodies into surreal contortions, Israeli singer-songwriter’s, Idan Raichel, music was blaring from the speakers. Thompson transformed a blank canvas into an interactive Purim creation, featuring a colorful depiction of the evening, adding layers based off of the movements in the room, shifting perspective as the night unfurled and keeping in mind the holiday’s origin.
At one point, guests who entered the costume contest took the stage. Darth Vader walked away with first place with a night in a high-end hotel, followed by Captain America who won the original painting by Thompson, and third place went to Morticia and Gomez Addams who were gifted a pair of tickets to the off-Broadway show, “Late Bite.”
Hadari didn’t take her role as host lightly. In addition to supplying an otherworldly experience for the attendees, she was also hoping create a little magic beyond the evening. “Come on. We love Israel and we love Jews. So go find a nice Jewish boy and girl and make some Jewish babies,” she said.
And even though her line got laughs, she wasn’t really joking. “Many couples who met at Isramerica events got married over the past ten years,” said Hadari. “So our place in heaven is guaranteed.”
But aside from arranging shidduchs, she wanted people to walk away feeling proud of their Judaism. “Purim is a symbol that Jews everywhere should stand strong and be proud of their heritage, our religion and our connection to Israel,” Hadari said.
Partying until 2 am, faces in the crowd were lit up by neon, iridescent designs as DJ Louie Mole spun Israeli and top 40 hits — and even though they were in costume, no one was hiding who they were.