NATURE: The male student choked up. He told the big crowd how he faced a particularly daunting outdoor challenge set up by Explore Austin. He recalled how he had looked down to see his "brothers" and regained his courage. If anyone on the patio of Contigo remained unmoved by his testimony during the Quest for the Summit benefit, I’d be very surprised. Explore Austin, which introduces students to new experiences out of doors, attracts a singular set of fit-looking folks in their 30s and 40s. These are not your customary charity backers — I recognized only four people among hundreds — and that’s a good thing. It’s gratifying to see each of Austin’s many, many nonprofits attract its own following. (What are we at now? Five thousand charities? And some fallacious studies show Austin as uncharitable.)

ARTS: The guests at the Long Center really got into it. In the Kodosky Lounge, out on the City Terrace, across the aisles, they discussed their favorites during the three-way battle known as New American Talent. Ballet Austin’s biennial contest pits choreographers from around the country. Jimmy Orrante, Gabrielle Lamb and James Gregg introduced their selections — as much modern, postmodern and jazz forms as ballet — via video. Then, after, the debates began. Lots of tweeting in between. It’s as much about the audience and its tastes as the dancing. This evening, Greggy’s anguished dreamscapes won the audience nod. Three jurors — Nancy Wozny, Stoner Winslett and Charles Santos — will make the final call at the end of the weekend. (I declined to vote. Didn’t want that on my permanent record.)

FOOD: A new look and an old soul at Odd Duck. From Matthew Odam’s story in the Statesman: "With its wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows, Bryce Gilmore’s Odd Duck glows like a pristine jewel on South Lamar’s recently constructed Gibson Flats development. The sleek lines of the building represent the face of an evolving Austin, but the restaurant’s soul belies the modernity spouting around it. Odd Duck may use contemporary techniques in preparing some of its dishes (how many in Lockhart have cooked a brisket sous vide?), but it specializes in rustic flavors and ingredients piqued with the acid of Gilmore’s trademark pickling. Austin native Gilmore first opened Odd Duck as a trailer in 2009 just feet from the front door of his new restaurant. In the years since, he’s opened Barley Swine, one of the city’s best restaurants, just down the street and earned two James Beard nominations for best chef in the Southwest. That’s quite a trek from a 150-square-foot mobile kitchen parked on a gravel lot. Odd Duck may be Austin’s hot new thing, but its warmth feels more like an heirloom quilt than the hot lights of a fashion runway. http://shar.es/BGyak(Excitement!)

ARTS 2: Deborah Hay at the Blanton Museum of Art. From Jeanne Claire van Ryzin’s story in the Statesman: "Perception Unfolds: Looking at Deborah Hay’s Dance," an exhibit at the Blanton Museum of Art through May 18, at first seems much like other video art installations. But really it is an invitation to dance. Or more specifically, it’s a new and different means to experience the work of one of contemporary dancemaking’s most intrepid experimenters. our translucent screens hang in the Blanton’s darkened high-ceilinged gallery, forming a parallelogram. Each features the performance of a single dancer, projected nearly life-size and, with a little technological sleight-of-hand, projected from both front and back. Enveloped in the darkness, a viewer can surreptitiously slip around the screens, circle each dancer, get uncommonly close to the moving image of each performer, the high-definition video offering unusually intimate detail of the dancers, detail most audience members could never see. That intimate viewing feels a bit awkward at first, illicit even, as if you’ve slipped through that so-called fourth wall that separates an audience from a stage." http://shar.es/BGyep(Deborah Hay!)