"Grab your racket and tennis whites and return to the Great Gatsby era," read the invitation. And, indeed, the Orange Lawn Tennis Club's grass courts, the 1916-built clubhouse, and the women in white gathered to benefit Lydia Johnson Dance Company and School, were a picture of Jazz Age jubilance, with a modern sensibility.
Organized by Maplewood's Miriam Mitchell, the Ladies Day Spring Benefit, which included tennis, a dance performance by members of the company, and a luncheon, benefitted South Orange-based Lydia Johnson Dance Company and School. Johnson introduced the dancers, by noting that as "elegant and sophisticated" as the day was, it had "a very serious purpose, continued funding for the arts." Lydia Johnson Dance, which celebrates its 10th anniversary at a SOPAC gala on June 12, admits students to its dance classes with full financial aid, as needed, on what Johnson describes as "the honor system." "We're grateful to be able to do this," said Johnson, spreading her hands wide to encompass the audience, "thanks to you."
Four dancers performed short selections to the songs of Dean Martin. The Orange Lawn Tennis Club ballroom seemed "made for this music," in the words of several guests. Luncheon followed outdoors and in view of the emerald tennis courts. Many women wore white, which is requested attire on the Club courts. Several wore dresses and hats reminiscent of the Gatsby era, and it wasn't hard to imagine F. Scott Fitzgerald's characters might appear from within the clubhouse.
The Club was founded in 1880 in the Montrose area, as one of the first tennis clubs in the nation. Orange Lawn moved to its Ridgewood Road location in the early part of the 20th century and then hosted many notable players. One was Olympian Suzanne Lenglen, who garnered headlines not only for her playing, but for her attire. She wore dresses that revealed hints of arms and calves, shocking in the teens and early 1920s, common in 2010.
Crafted by "Top Chef" contestant and owner of Montclair's Culinariane restaurant, Ariane Duarte, the luncheon menu featured Vichyssoise, a salad of baby greens and strawberries, seared salmon, sliced hangar steak and grilled jumbo asparagus. Sitting in shade of the club's venerable maples, guests sampled sangria and finished the meal with a flourless chocolate cake and raspberries.
After tennis, performance, lunch and mingling, guests went home with goodie bags donated by Coldwell Banker, stuffed with treats from local merchants, with Able Baker flower-shaped cookies in hand. The afternoon ended when guests recalled appointments and obligations of 2010 and prepared to go, many gazing fondly back at a scene just This Side of Paradise.