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Ex-joffrey Dancers Look Ahead

January 17, 1987|CHRIS PASLES | Times Staff Writer

Whenever slinky Patricia Miller and muscular James Canfield wound together in the central gymnastic duets created for them by Joffrey Ballet associate director Gerald Arpino, audiences from coast to coast went bonkers.

However, in late August, 1985, Miller and Canfield came out of the "Light Rain" and announced they were moving to Oregon for personal and career reasons.

Now they will return for guest appearances with the Ballet Conservatory of Mission Viejo at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday at Saddleback College. (Their friends Rosemary Molak and Alan McCarter run the school.)

A lot has happened in 15 months.

Canfield, 26, has become artistic director of Portland's Pacific Ballet Theatre. He has built the company up from 13 members to 24 and increased its budget from about $750,000 to $1.5 million.

He recently took the company on a seven-week tour of 31 cities in every state West of the Mississippi.

The ex-Joffrey team (partners off stage as well as on) originally guested with the Portland company twice in 1984 and saw the move there as a way to establish a base and also "guest as much as we liked," Canfield said in a phone interview from Portland.

All that changed when he took over the 4-year-old company last January after the previous director, Gregory Smith, resigned.

"We saw a golden opportunity to help put (Pacific Ballet Theatre) on the map," Canfield said.

He and Miller began recruiting talented dancers from New York who, like themselves, had grown tired of metropolitan pressures and pace. Canfield also started generating repertory. He choreographed a series of short works and a full-length "Nutcracker."

Canfield remains sensitive to charges that his choreography reflects the style of Arpino.

"The one thing I learned from Jerry is the level of energy and getting an emotion across," he said. "But I've been most inspired choreographically by Choo San Goh (of the Washington Ballet) and Jiri Kylian (of the Netherlands Dance Theatre)."

He again cited repertory restrictions as his main reason for having left the Joffrey Ballet.

"I had stated my requests to Mr. Joffrey numerous times--what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go--but never got a chance to do it.

(Joffrey, who is traveling in the Soviet Union, was not available for comment on these complaints.)

Canfield also cited competitive factors in the world of dance as reasons for his move, referring to Gelsey Kirkland's controversial autobiography, "Dancing on My Grave," as evidence of the grim realities dancers face in New York.

"I totally defend what (Kirkland) says," Canfield explained. "The drugs, no--that was her problem. But that is the extreme of what it can do to you: the stresses and strains physically and emotionally, constantly working with other people's egos and never having one of your own, and the destruction of your confidence.

"I took it as long as I could. Instead of letting it destroy me, I got out."

Miller, 29, also expressed no regrets in making the move, although she sounded less certain that the decision is permanent.

"I really needed to take a break and get away from the New York pace and pressure," she said. "I was so tired of always being tired and injured. But I didn't really leave with the intention of never going back. Right now, it's fun to be involved with something that is so obviously growing."

Miller seems resigned to other Joffrey dancers taking over the Miller/Canfield repertory.

"No dancers are irreplaceable," she said. "The only ballet I would prefer not to see anyone else in is (Arpino's) 'Round of Angels.' That's a very special piece done specifically on us. It has a lot of meaning for us.

"It seems like dance is changing so much now. People are realizing that you don't have to dance in New York to get fulfillment. It seems silly to go back, to stir all that up again when we have such a good thing going here."

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