Audra Baldwin: Poetry of the Senses

FOR AUDRA H. BALDWIN, LIFE in Las Vegas has been poetry of the senses in more ways than one. In Las Vegas Audra met her husband and best friend, Bobby Baldwin, who is president and chief executive officer of CityCenter and chief design and construction officer of MGM Resorts International. It was Bobby who introduced Audra to the local dance community, which sparked her interest in championing this art form—veritable sensory poetry indeed.

Audra Hendley grew up in Newberry Springs, Calif.—population under 3,000—in the western Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County. Riding horses was part of everyday life: the family owned 10 of them and were members of a riding club. Audra remembers lots of horse-related chores and the occasional, dreaded punishment of cleaning out the stall on a hot day.

At the other extreme of Baldwin’s love for horses was a passion for glamour and fashion. At age 16 she entered her first pageant and won the title of Miss Newberry Springs. Over the next two years Audra went on to become Miss Desert Valley and first runner-up in the Miss San Bernardino contest. Before she left Newberry Springs, she studied makeup artistry. Then it was off to southern Florida to ply her new trade.

After a few years in the Sunshine State working in top makeup brands for an agency, around 2004 Audra decided to follow her mom to Las Vegas, where her mother intended to find work as an interior decorator. The city was familiar to Audra—she had many fond memories of childhood visits to the MGM amusement park and other family-friendly venues. Here she worked for MAC as a freelance makeup artist, as well as for French jeweler FRED Paris; she also did some modeling. Now Audra was truly in her creative element.

As Audra learned about Nevada Ballet Theatre’s (NBT) activities beyond its glorious work as a professional dance company—the training academy and outreach programs—she decided to focus her philanthropic energies on supporting NBT’s broader mission to enrich people’s lives through dance, especially underprivileged youth. (Baldwin is also active with Keep Memory Alive and the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and a committee member for the clinic’s Power of Love Gala, as well as being on the committee for the Nathan Adelson Hospice annual luncheon.)

Baldwin has been an active member of NBT’s Board of Trustees since 2011. She and Bobby served as Honorary Chairpersons for NBT’s 2011 Black & White Ball honoring Priscilla Presley as “Woman of the Year.” As a member of the “Priscilla Committee,” Audra’s ability to obtain highly desirable donations for the live auction helped make it a huge fund-raising success. The Baldwins were also Dinner Chairpersons for the 2012 Black & White Ball and Audra was on the “Eva Committee”—for Eva Longoria, whom Audra was instrumental in securing as 2012’s Woman of the Year.

In her effort to keep the Black & White Ball fresh and interesting, Baldwin enlisted the help of MGM Resorts, whose management agreed to donate from its design team’s warehouse of sets, fabrics, chairs, pillows, animals, and more. Members of the NBT Board were escorted through aisles and aisles of this fantasyland of special event paraphernalia and encouraged to think outside-the-creative-box for future themes.

Particularly near and dear to Baldwin’s heart are the respected education and outreach programs offered by the Nevada Ballet Theatre. Founded in 1979, the academy enrolls almost 400 students from ages 18 months to adult. Baldwin has jumped onto the NBT bandwagon to help ensure that all children are given a chance to dance.

Future Dance provides free, weekly in-school instruction to elementary school children from underserved communities and offers scholarships for a premiere dance education. The program touches thousands of students every year through initiatives like GO-MOVE-DANCE!!! and Dance Discovery.

GO-MOVE-DANCE!!! focuses on ballet, jazz, and hip-hop; talented, motivated students may graduate into Dance Discovery for preparatory-level ballet classes at the West Las Vegas Arts Center. Select students will become Future Dance Scholars who continue their studies on scholarship at the Academy of Nevada Ballet Theatre in Summerlin. Currently there are over 29 scholarship students at the Academy from GO-MOVEDANCE!!! and Dance Discovery.

NBT has a long history of service with the Clark County School District. Since its inception NBT has been inviting students county-wide to complimentary special matinee performances followed by a Q&A. NBT provides teacher preparation guides in advance so students can get the most from the experience. Every school in Clark County also receives an invitation to a Choreographers’ Showcase School Matinee performance—a special collaboration of NBT and Cirque du Soleil.

In August NBT made news with the appointment of new co-directors for its Academy of Nevada Ballet Theatre: Monique Meunier and Nilas Martins, a husband-and-wife team who are former principal dancers at New York City Ballet, which was cofounded by storied choreographer George Balanchine. Said NBT Executive Director Beth Barbre, “Monique and Nilas have the vision and skills to build our academy into one of the nation’s leading ballet schools.”

NBT Ambassador Par Excellence

In addition to her pet projects related to introducing children to dance, Baldwin is a cornucopia of ideas for helping NBT raise funds to support its various activities. In September she debuted her “Lanvin” event, an exclusive fashion show for 80 invitees hosted at her home. Lanvin had the rooms decorated with the black butterflies that are a theme of its Fall-Winter collection; students from NBT’s academy were there sporting Lanvin Junior.

The event was choreographed to move from the patio to inside the house where guests found a Lanvin pop-up shop with jewelry and handbags on offer. Because Lanvin designs appeal to a wide range of ages and tastes, lots of orders were placed; Lanvin donated 10 percent of revenues from the event to NBT.

Audra’s personal mission is to expand the audience for dance and help shed light on NBT’s full range of activities. She hopes to work with NBT on more new concepts and will encourage the use of social media platforms and other channels to reach new patrons. But don’t get her wrong—she’s not advocating that everyone aspire to be a dancer: “Appreciation is the name of the game,” says Audra.

For their part, NBT management appreciate Audra’s willingness to give so much of her time and design talents to help spread the word about all that is NBT.

Fun Facts about the Baldwin Family

Off-road racer and professional poker player, Bobby Baldwin, won the 1978 World Series of Poker Main Event, making him the youngest champion to claim the title.

Audra has four Savannah cats: Isabel, Luke, Monty, and Sheba. According to Wikipedia, a Savannah is a cross between a domestic cat and the wild African serval. More social than the average domestic cat, Savannahs can be as loyal as dogs and trained to walk on a leash, even play fetch. Tall and slim with boomerang-shaped, hooded eyes and cheetah-like markings—it’s easy to see why this distinctive animal would appeal to a creative type like Audra.

Eleven-year-old daughter Skyler has taken to sports in a big way: She plays volleyball and this school year is on the basketball team. She loves the ballet and frequently attends dress rehearsals. And because Skyler is also interested in the fashion industry, mom is prodding her to start learning Mandarin, which would be an important asset for a career in this space.

Previously published by diamondcake. Updated by smallTALK. Archived for Audra Baldwin.