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Prospects For Dance Get Boost

October 22, 1985|HERMAN WONG | Times Staff Writer

Two new developments--a Joffrey Ballet performing proposal and the launching of a local Dance Alliance support group--have bolstered prospects for the presentation of major dance companies at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

The Joffrey Ballet is seeking to stage a fully mounted "Nutcracker" ballet--still to be financed and choreographed--as part of a two- to three-week engagement at the Orange County Center in 1986 or 1987, Joffrey executive director Robert Hesse has disclosed.

"Nothing is definite at this time. But we feel the talks (with the Center) are encouraging," said Hesse, who conferred with the Center's new executive director, Thomas Kendrick, and its general manager, Judith Morr, last week .

Hesse said his meeting was the first with Center officials in a year. According to Hesse, the Joffrey is seeking to become a Center "regular" for possible annual engagements of at least two weeks. "The purpose (of last week's talk) was to reopen our official communications, to express our very strong desire to become a part of this complex's future," he added.

The Joffrey Ballet, based in Los Angeles and New York, is but the latest national dance company being considered as an attraction for the Center's opening season in 1986-87 or subsequent seasons. Kendrick and other Center officials have previously confirmed negotiations with both the American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Ballet.

As Stewart Woodard, president of the newly formed Orange County Center Dance Alliance depicts it, the prospects for "first rank" dance attractions in Orange County "are exceptionally promising." "We (the Center) have the chance to be the premier showcase of dance in the region. And not just ballet, but the full range of dance forms," he added.

Woodard said the local alliance, which seeks to be both a major fund-raiser and presenter in dance, will start its official membership drive this week (a reception is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Center Club in Costa Mesa). The initial goal is 400 members. The alliance eventually may have to raise $2 million to $4 million a year to underwrite dance attractions, Woodard noted.

Negotiations with the American Ballet Theatre are focused on an overall engagement of two to three weeks, executives at both the Center and the New York-based company said. "Talks are proceeding, but we're now thinking of a split season (1986-87)--in December and in the spring," explained Charles Dillingham, the company's executive director, by phone from New York on Monday.

Dillingham said a December, 1986, run would include the company's current "Nutcracker" ballet, choreographed by the artistic director, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and being presented this Dec. 20-31 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Talks with the New York City Ballet are more recent, according to Orange County Center officials, and are supposedly keyed to a possible West Coast tour, which would be the company's first in years, in a forthcoming season.

Although Center officials have not yet announced the signing of any attractions, they have reaffirmed October, 1986, as the date for the opening of the Center's 3,000-seat multipurpose theater. (Officials last week also announced that the cost of building the opening phase--which includes a 500-seat studio-type facility--is $70.7 million, a $13.4-million increase since construction began in mid-1983 in Costa Mesa.)

According to Timothy Strader, Center board president, the Los Angeles Philharmonic is also being sought to perform at the Center's "gala opening night" in October, 1986. He said Zubin Mehta, music director of the New York Philharmonic, is also being sought to conduct that first concert.

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