Proclaiming that "this city deserves to have a work commissioned solely and especially for it," Mayor Tom Bradley announced Wednesday preliminary plans for a new ballet, inspired by Los Angeles, to be choreographed by Gerald Arpino, associate director of the Joffrey Ballet.
Although the title, length, content and style of the work are yet to be determined, the ballet is scheduled to receive its premiere by the Joffrey Ballet in late 1987 during a projected four-week International Arts Festival here. Plans for the festival, a successor to last summer's Olympic Arts Festival, are expected to be made public later this month.
In a press conference held in the tower of City Hall, Bradley spoke of his friendly rivalry with Mayor Henry Cisneros of San Antonio, the Texas city that commissioned Arpino's ballet "Jamboree" four years ago. First danced in June at the San Antonio Convention Center--and seen during the Joffrey Ballet season at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in January--"Jamboree" is a one-act (six-scene) celebration of the diverse cultural influences in that city.
The newly commissioned project is clearly intended to serve the same function for the City of the Angels, but on a grander scale: "We want to do things in a big way," Bradley declared.
Acknowledging the political bottom line, Bradley pointed out that "you've got to make sure I'm reelected next Tuesday" to make the ballet a reality. However, City Councilman Joel Wachs downplayed electioneering, insisting that "there's not a lot of votes in doing what we're doing today." Instead, he emphasized "the importance of recognition of the arts on a civic level."
City Councilwoman Joy Picus agreed, calling herself "that exotic creature, an elected official who really loves the dance," and speaking of the project enthusiastically: "Gerry Arpino, you really have a challenge ahead of you . . . Go to it!" At that point, Bradley interjected a joke: "Joy envisions herself floating across the stage."
To raise funds from corporate donors, Bradley announced formation of the Los Angeles Ballet Committee and introduced its members.
Chaired by former state Senator Alan Sieroty, the committee includes Sheldon Andelson, a University of California regent; Olive Behrendt, president of the Founders of the Music Center; Alyce Bledsoe, chair of the Carson Fine Arts Commission; Tony de los Reyes, president of the Civil Service Commission; Sheila Tepper, representing the dean of the UCLA School of Fine Arts; Gordon Davidson, artistic director of Center Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum; Armand Deutsch, a member of the Joffrey board of directors, and Robert Fitzpatrick, president of CalArts.
No composer or designer has yet been chosen for the ballet, and the scope of the work will depend on the amount of funding available, Robert Joffrey said after the press conference. He denied that this kind of project would inevitably lead to lightweight chamber-of-commerce choreography. "The commission gives you the freedom to create what you want," he said. "I never worry where the money comes from, only what we do with it."
Fitzpatrick, director of the International Arts Festival, also expressed his expectations that the ballet would transcend boosterism. "Gerry's vision is not the same as Pina Bausch's," he said. "But a puff piece would die. I look for a tough ballet, not a P.R. piece with palm trees and sun tans. This is a city you can't define and I would hope the ballet itself might be part of the process of self-discovery."