Julia Cinquemani and Christopher McDaniel perform in “Sechs Tänze.” Photo by Reed Hutchinson
After a year of struggles, the Los Angeles Ballet artistic directors are inviting their patrons to an entertaining evening of all-out celebration.
This year marks 15 years since the company opened with its LA-specific “Nutcracker” in 2006. Now a mainstay of the community, LA Ballet will hold its annual ballet gala virtually starting at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 1. The event will showcase dances from throughout its history.
“First and foremost, we hope that it will be fun for the audiences to revisit the old pieces that they’ve seen over the past 15 years, a retrospective of what we’ve done,” said co-Artistic Director Thordal Christensen.
“Hopefully, it will be a light evening of celebration.”
“Gala 2021” is a fundraising effort for the ballet, which, like other performing arts groups, has struggled to survive over the past year. The group has had to cancel performances and change the way classes were presented.
“We usually have a big party with a lot of people. This year we can’t do that,” Christensen said. “We started the company 15 years ago, and we have been able to survive through many different economic crises, pandemics and difficulties of all kinds, and we’re still here.”
To make the evening memorable, Christensen and his co-artistic director, Colleen Neary, have recruited heavy hitters in the world of dance to make special guest appearances. They include Paula Abdul, Robert Davi, Siedah Garrett, Harry Lennix, Nigel Lythgoe, Neal McDonough, Kenny Ortega, Joe Pantoliano, Jane Seymour and Adam Shankman. The event is directed by Ryan Parma.
“This is a beautiful virtual gala,” Neary said. “There will be celebrities who will present the pieces as they come on. Some of them have been past honorees. They’re all dance lovers.”
Catering to donors
LA Ballet is pulling out the stops to ensure the virtual experience is as memorable as its in-person galas. It has partnered with Crustacean of Beverly Hills to provide meals at various levels to patrons.
“Depending on the level that they buy in, they’ll get a full dinner,” Neary said. “It will be very exciting and very celebratory.”
“We hope it is going to be a light celebratory evening that people can sit in their sofas whether wearing pajamas or a tux,” Christensen added. “They can have a glass of champagne and celebrate.”
The levels are:
• Élevé Individual Seat: $600 per seat. It includes virtual admission to the 2021 gala and a three-course prix fixe individual dinner that can be picked up at Crustacean Beverly Hills.
• Pas de Deux Seat Sponsorship: $2,500. It includes virtual admission to the 2021 gala, a three-course prix fixe dinner for two picked up at Crustacean Beverly Hills, and an Ivory Gala 2021 Tribute in the program.
• Grande Pirouette — Half-table sponsorship: $5,000. It includes virtual admission to the 2021 gala, a three-course prix fixe dinner for four picked up at the Crustacean Beverly Hills, and a Bronze Gala 2021 Tribute in the program.
• Grand Jeté — Table sponsorship: $10,000. It includes virtual admission to the 2021 gala, a three-course prix fixe dinner and specialty cocktail delivered from the Crustacean for up to 10 dinner guests, and a Gold Gala 2021 Tribute in the program.
• $25,000 Tour de Force: It includes virtual admission and recognition as a 2021 gala sponsor, a four-course prix fixe meal and specialty cocktails delivered from Crustacean for up to 15 dinner guests, a Platinum Gala 2021 Tribute in the program, recognition in all of LA Ballet’s 2021-22 season promotional materials, admission for 10 and backstage access to one performance in LA Ballet’s 2021-22 season, and an opportunity to observe a rehearsal or company class.
• $50,000 Benefactor: It includes recognition as a benefactor of the gala, a VIP table for up to 20 guests with an option for an in-home gala dinner service with a server from Crustacean Beverly Hills, plus all of the benefits of the Tour de Force.
• $100,000 Directors Circle: It includes recognition as a presenting sponsor of the gala, a chef’s table for up to 30 people with the option of in-home gala service from a chef and server of Crustacean Beverly Hills, and all the benefits of the Tour de Force.
The VIP Table and Chef’s Table may be altered to adhere with the May 1 COVID-19 guidelines.
“The difficulty that we as an arts organization have had with what we’ve gone through is to stay connected with our audience,” Christensen said. “We hope to reconnect through the gala, and we look forward to seeing them soon.”
Spotlighting a storied history
The company has a lot of history to celebrate. Founded by Christensen, Neary and Executive Director Emerita Julie Whittaker, LA Ballet focuses on classical ballets and new work.
They perform in venues citywide, including Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Royce Hall at UCLA, Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, the historic Alex Theatre in Glendale, The Broad Stage in Santa Monica and the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.
Neary said the repertoire is based on three pillars, and it was from those three pillars that the pieces were chosen to be featured in the gala. The three pillars include:
• New creations that are done by choreographers coming in and creating world premieres with the dancers.
• Existing masterpieces, especially those in the Balanchine repertoire.
• Full-length classical ballets such as “Swan Lake,” “Don Quixote,” “Sleeping Beauty” or “Giselle.”
“All of these pillars are classics, and we’ve picked certain wonderful ones that represent the three pillars,” Neary said.
During its 15 years, it has become recognized as a world-class ballet company and presented 41 productions encompassing 69 works, including 15 commissioned world premieres. Arts education programs were developed such as “Power of Performance (POP!),” which offers free tickets to underserved or disadvantaged children, seniors, veterans and their families.
One of their programs, “A Chance to Dance,” pivoted this year to offer free virtual classes to an international audience of all ages.
Gala and auction proceeds will go to support the LA Ballet and its performances and outreach programs.
“These have been hard times for everyone this past year,” Christensen said. “Hopefully, we will get out soon. There is good news about opening up, and we’re looking forward to seeing not only our patrons but also our dancers again.”