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Supporters of Joffrey Ballet Go Pop and Like It

July 23, 1993|BETTY GOODWIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Frankly, I came in with a little apprehension," said Ed Shannon Jr., a retired oil executive and arts patron from Whittier, grappling for just the right words. "But I liked it."

"It" was Prince night at the Music Center. Not knowing what to expect, the Joffrey Ballet's longtime supporters seemed first and foremost relieved that they could go home saying, yes, they liked the music of Prince, even though most of them had never listened to it before.

The Los Angeles premiere of "Billboards," the Joffrey's dancers accompanied by Prince's music, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Wednesday night was, as attorney Gloria Allred put it, "different."

"I never heard the Music Center pound like that," said Joan Hotchkis.

Of course, the point was to attract a new and younger audience to ballet. "It's the Joffrey breaking out of the mold," said event chairwoman Patricia Kennedy, who is also a Joffrey board member.

Spurred by Prince's hit song "Purple Rain," Kennedy set a pervasive purple theme, starting with the dress. The invitation read "purple tie," a request that was all but ignored, although several purple dresses were sighted. Linda LoRe, the president of Giorgio Beverly Hills, wore lavender eye shadow. Jack Lowrance, the interior designer, wore a deep purple shirt under his tuxedo.

The fountain surrounding the Jacques Lipchitz sculpture spurted purple water (well, purple lights on clear water). At a pre-ballet reception, models wore a good number of purple clothes from Escada. A purple carpet led guests to buses transporting them to a dinner at Glam Slam, Prince's 7-month-old Boylston Street nightclub. ("I was a little apprehensive about coming here, too," said Shannon.)

All that was missing was the Purple One, who was reportedly en route to Europe for the start of a new tour. Kennedy (wearing black) wasn't surprised Prince didn't attend. "He's a divine person, extremely sensitive and very shy," she said.

After renting her Bel-Air house to Prince two years ago, it was Kennedy who invited the rock star to attend his first ballet. "The 'pregnancy' of ('Billboards') was right there, in those two seats," said Joffrey artistic director Gerald Arpino, pointing to the place in the Founder's Circle where the two had sat. "I said, 'Prince, are you enjoying yourself?' and he said, 'Oh, I'm inspired.' "

Asked what the Joffrey's traditional supporters had to say about the new sound, Arpino said, "They're not saying--they're writing more checks than ever."

At Glam Slam, guests dined at formal tables set between columns decorated with writhing naked bodies. They raised their champagne glasses in toasts and contemplated their new experiences. "I liked it," said Suzanne Marx, finance director for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. "But I'm game for anything."

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