Dance-goer Orrin M. Feldman is used to traveling hours to get to performances.
"My mileage to Costa Mesa is over 50 miles each way," Feldman says. "If you do that two or three times each week presentations are made -- four times a year -- it adds up to a lot of mileage and a lot of time. Cerritos takes an hour and half to get there and 45 minutes getting back. And you shouldn't leave out the Irvine Barclay Theatre. That's 55 miles. There are people who have gone as far south as San Diego to see American Ballet Theatre. But I didn't do that."
Feldman is likely to be spending less time on freeways in the near future, however, because 2003 marked a watershed on the local cultural landscape: He now can find dance closer to home.
After the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which freed up the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Music Center is presenting its first self-produced dance season, having booked San Francisco Ballet, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Shen Wei Dance Arts, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, American Ballet Theatre and the Paul Taylor Dance Company.
Meanwhile, international high-ticket attractions such as the Kirov Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia, have appeared at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. Other metropolitan L.A. venues also are jumping aboard, strengthening their dance programs.
"We don't have any obstacle attracting great companies," says Music Center President Stephen D. Rountree. "People want to dance here. Financially, it will always be a nail-biter. We have to raise about $1.5 million in ticket sales this year and will again next season to make this all possible. But subscription sales this season have gone very well, much better than we had budgeted or expected -- at about 1,200, more than double what we had conservatively budgeted. We've been told by other organizations that's a pretty good result."
Although technically each venue books separately, coordinating schedules helps bring world-class companies to the West Coast. Rountree expects more cooperative ventures with venues such as the Orange County Performing Arts Center. This year, OCPAC, the Kodak and Cal Performances in Berkeley collaborated in presenting the Kirov.
Meanwhile, dance-goers have other options. Disney Hall provides an on-site dance series at REDCAT, CalArts' state-of-the-art space for alternative work. The UCLA Live series continues to feature dance. Although it's unclear what impact theater artist Leo Garcia, new artistic director at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, will have, it's hard to imagine an absence of experimental movement theater there. The Skirball Cultural Arts Center also has a fledgling series, and the Luckman Fine Arts Complex at Cal State L.A. already presents fascinating companies.
A dance optimist might begin to relax.
"We can all be grateful this year that we've been able to cut back traveling to see dance locally," Feldman says. "With the development of all these new local venues in Los Angeles, there's no need to run around the metropolitan area like a chicken without a head."