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Colburn Dance Institute gets $9-million donation

June 21, 2008|Chris Pasles | Times Staff Writer

An anonymous donor has given the Colburn School in downtown Los Angeles $9 million to support its Dance Institute.

The donation is the largest single gift to the school after Richard Colburn's founding endowment of $20 million and will be added to the Dance Institute's $1-million endowment, bringing the total to $10 million.

"The gift is very important because it allows us to expand our dance curriculum and provide more possibilities for performances, which are really crucial in the educational process here at the school," said Colburn School President Miguel Angel Corzo.

Honoring Trudl Zipper

To commemorate the donation, the institute will be renamed the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute after Viennese dancer Trudl Dubsky Zipper, wife of the school's co-founder, conductor Herbert Zipper. Both are deceased.

"Dr. Zipper and Trudl Zipper were always very much a part of Mr. Colburn's life and were very instrumental in guiding Mr. Colburn to the school when it was at USC," Corzo said. "We thought because they were so important in his life, it would be appropriate to recognize his wife."

Leslie Carothers-Aromaa, previously co-director of the Dance Institute, will become director of the renamed school. A former Joffrey Ballet principal dancer, Carothers-Aromaa has shared institute duties since 2005 with Glenn Edgerton, also a onetime Joffrey principal. Edgerton has left to become associate director of the Hubbard Street Dance Center in Chicago, although he will remain an artistic advisor.

The Dance Institute currently has 406 students, ranging in age from 5 to 80, in ballet, modern dance, tap, contemporary jazz, creative dance, repertory, hip-hop and Mexican folkloric classes. There are also classes in yoga, Pilates and music theory.

"The next year or two will be really just solidifying our department and building on what we've already done over the past couple of years," said Carothers-Aromaa.

"It will be wonderful," she said. "We've already added a number of faculty and offerings that have never been offered here before, and the gift will give us time to grow the institute in a way we would like to, which is really from the ground up in a very systematic way and with a lot of integrity."

The institute also has a training program for high school dancers aiming for professional careers, which was launched by Carothers-Aromaa and Edgerton in 2005.

'Committed' students

"They are with us 18 hours a week -- and that's after school -- so these are very committed young people, and they have a variety of performances throughout the year," Carothers-Aromaa said.

"This endowment is also going to allow us to give them more opportunities in terms of bringing in more master teachers for special workshops, collaborations with professional organizations and more performing opportunities, which of course is so important for them as they reach the age when they'll start to look for a job," she said.

"I'm a California native. I grew up in Los Angeles, and I went to New York because at that time that's what a dancer had to do. I'm hoping that I can give back to this community in a way that gives Los Angeles and particularly downtown a real place for dancers to come and to stay, so that they won't have to leave to prepare for their careers. They can do that right here."

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chris.pasles@latimes.com

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