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2012 in review: The right steps to move L.A. dance scene forward?

Glorya Kaufman endowed a dance school. Good news, yes? Yet the money might have been better spent employing dancers.

December 15, 2012|By Laura Bleiberg, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Nagisa Shirai as Snow White is lifted by the "dwarves" during a performance of "Snow White" by France's Ballet Preljocaj at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in March 2012.
Nagisa Shirai as Snow White is lifted by the "dwarves" during… (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)

A bit of déjà vu in Los Angeles during 2012. Like 2011 – which ended with the announcement that Benjamin Millepied was moving here to start his own arts collective, L.A. Dance Project – this year has drawn to a close with a big announcement that is touted as a major step forward for dance in Los Angeles. Philanthropist Glorya Kaufman has made an undisclosed, but apparently multi-million dollar donation to USC, to help build and endow a top-tier school of dance for the Trojans.

It's a boon for USC, but let's call this what it really is: a great lost opportunity for the city's dance community and a sorry misdirection of enormous and valuable resources.

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If there's one thing Los Angeles doesn't need, it's another dance school, even the conservatory-style school that is being planned. Education is critically important, without question. It's just that another training facility is probably at, or near the bottom of, the list of priorities of what would best serve dance in this city. Los Angeles has plenty of elite schools, even at the university level. Indeed, we churn out so many great dancers that – guess what? – many are forced to leave to find jobs and performing opportunities elsewhere.

That situation seems to be improving, but certainly not fast enough to provide work for all of the excellent talent that current universities and schools are already graduating. The Dance Resource Center of Greater L.A. says there are more than 120 professional companies in Los Angeles County. What these groups need is funding for day-to-day operations. With that, they will be able to pay their dancers a living wage and keep them employed for more weeks out of the year. That results in the dancers having more time onstage. And that is the number one way to raise the quality of performance.

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That's where the philanthropic money is desperately needed and that's where it should be going – to keep the company doors open, the lights on, and everyone performing and paid. It's surprisingly simple. Graceful even.

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