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Distinguished Woman and Great Dancer

April 23, 1999|IRENE LACHER | Los Angeles Times

If we asked you to place Giovanna Ferragamo in her natural habitat, what city would you pick? Milan, the capital of Italian fashion, or Florence, the style maven's hometown?

What about dance icon Twyla Tharp? Wouldn't you expect to find her in New York, ground zero for contemporary dance?

All those distant cities would eat up a nice chunk of frequent flier miles for any Angeleno, but the truth is that both women trace their professional roots to Los Angeles. And on Tuesday, their paths converged at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where the Ferragamo company sponsored the Museum of Contemporary Art's Award to Distinguished Women in the Arts luncheon honoring Tharp.

"My father [Salvatore] emigrated from Italy when he was 14 years old, and he started here in Beverly Hills," Ferragamo said. "So we are very close to the world of films."

As for the San Bernardino-bred Tharp, her ultimate goal as a young dancer was choreographing for film, not for the stage. She succeeded, of course, working on such movies as "Hair," "White Nights" and a current project she doesn't want to name because, frankly, it's bugging her.

"I grew up with the industry," said the reformed drive-in car hop, "and I always look to reconnect. But it seems as though there's a big distance between the energy that drives dance and the energy that drives the Hollywood picture. Dance is very real. You don't lie about anything. Whereas Hollywood is all about manipulation. It's not about the reality. It's about altering the reality."

And the reality is that avant-garde dance has long had a tough road in Los Angeles, which makes Tharp an interesting choice for this year's honoree.

"She's an individual who has made serious artistic contributions to the world of dance," said outgoing MOCA director Richard Koshalek. "And we felt it was an opportune time to honor someone like Twyla to recognize that dance is not only important in New York but should be important in Los Angeles."

Koshalek still hasn't decided on his next gig after he steps down in July, but as soon as he clears off his desk, he's off for a three-month trip to Europe, where the Richard Serra show he helped organize for MOCA will be on display at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.


Bravo for all L.A. teens who hit the big time Tuesday when they performed at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to vie for the 11th annual Music Center Spotlight Awards. And here's a special alert to the winners: Don't become divas. Because you have serious fans, like Mayor Richard Riordan, who think you're already up there with some heavy-hitting performers.

"To me, it's just a thrill to see young people perform so well," Riordan said backstage before the curtain went up. "I would much rather see a young singer than listen to Barbra Streisand or Placido Domingo or somebody else."

And their ticket prices are so much more reasonable. Riordan welcomed the crowd to the performance, which was hosted by John Lithgow. Afterward, supporters retired to the Grand Hall for a gala chaired by Anne Johnson and Peggy Parker Grauman, whose husband, Walter Grauman, executive produced the awards. Joining them were County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Creative Artists Agency's Bob Bookman, president of the Fraternity of Friends, the Music Center's men's group that helps fund the Spotlight Awards.

Irene Lacher's Out & About column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on Page 2. She can be reached by e-mail at

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