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Get the 'pointe'

November 26, 2006

Los Angeles Ballet is the latest company to attempt success against long odds. We wish it well.

Of course we're rooting for the new Los Angeles Ballet, which will debut December 2, at the Wilshire Theatre with a production of (what else?) "The Nutcracker." Still, it's hard to ignore the historical odds against ballet in the L.A. area.  The company may begin with the graceful aarabesque of Clara, but we have to brace ourselves for the thud of "Swan Lake's" Odette dumped to the floor during the pas de deux by a feckless Siefried we call "the public."

Locally based ballet has been tutu scarce in Southern California. This remains the only U.S. megopolis without a top-tier classical company, despite well-ranked ballet schools that churn out world-class dancers.  There have been at least five attempts to launch a premier company in the last decade, and all of them flopped – in one case, owning large sums of money to its dancers.

L.A. Ballet – it even rhymes! – seems like a natural for a dynamic metropolitan area with such a love for arts new and old (including an otherwise lively dance scene). It's always been puzzling that we haven't support a world-raned company. But the survival of an elite adn expensive art form is tricky anywhere. Chicago's renowned 50-year old Joffrey Ballet, whose part-time residence in L.A. during the 1980's didn't work out either. Even superstar Ethan Stiefel couldn't bring in the big bucks when he spent a tour as artistic director of Ballet Pacifica, a small Irvine-based company he had hoped to take regional. 

Now two notable ballet dancers, Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary, are putting their best slippers forward as artistic directors. Their L.A. Ballet will be affiliated with the respected Westside School of Ballet and make its premanent home at th Malibu Performing Arts Center. In a canny move, its version of "The Nutcracker" will be performed at three venues around the county, hoping to draw views by chopping their commutes.

None of the locations are with L.A.'s city limits, but there's time to build toward that. The main issue is whether Southern California will provide enough cash and audience to sustain this latest effort. Perhaps some of the major centers of money in town, such as Hollywood, will see the value in supporting the performing arts. It would help L.A. Ballet delivers the goods, and if ballet fans buy tickets. Then, perhaps, L.A. will be ready for a major jeté forwards in the arts.

Los Angeles Times

from the Staff of the LA Times

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