|Apr 14th, 2014
By Ellen Olivier
The event: Los Angeles Ballet staged its annual gala on Saturday, honoring philanthropist Lori Milken, actress Jane Seymour and entertainer Paula Abdul. (The latter came in from down under, where she is a judge on “So You Think You Can Dance Australia,” staying in town for not much longer than it took to collect her award.)
The program: Los Angeles Ballet's artistic directors, Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary, together with Executive Director Julie Whittaker, introduced Milken, who praised the company not only for its performances but also for its many programs that bring dance to a diversity of communities and offer free tickets, classes, lectures and demonstrations to disadvantaged children, their parents and military personnel.
Milken's husband, financier-philanthropist Michael Milken, delivered the tribute to Abdul, while producer Ryan Kavanaugh presented the award to Seymour. Kavanaugh noted that Seymour's film “Somewhere in Time” is still a favorite, showing him at a young age that films and art can bring magic to people’s lives.
“To this day, when I first start dating a girl, I make her watch ‘Somewhere in Time,’ and if she doesn’t like it, she’s out,” he said.
The tributes and dinner completed, Los Angeles Ballet dancers burst onto the stage in marching band costumes -- ballet-style with tutus and pointe slippers - to perform excerpts from George Balanchine’s “Stars and Stripes.”
The crowd: Leslie Kavanaugh and Kirsten Sarkisian co-chaired the affair, which attracted among others, Los Angeles Ballet supporters Ghada and Ray Irani, Dina and Fred Leeds, Robin and Elliott Broidy, Bari Milken Bernstein and Fred Bernstein, Richard Merkin, Jamie McCourt, Jim Wiatt, Linda Duttenhaver, Morton La Kretz, Lynn Booth, and broadcaster Joanne Jones, actress Sofia Milos of “CSI Miami,” former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan, former Gov. Gray Davis and “So You Think You Can Dance” producer Nigel Lythgoe.
Quote of note: “The very first dream in my life was to be a dancer -- a dancer who just dances, dances, dances,” said Abdul, who told her tale of getting her first professional dance job as a Los Angeles Laker Girl. She auditioned, she said, as No. 743 of more than 1,000 contenders, got eliminated, but kept returning with different outfits, hairstyles and names until she landed the job.
“That dancer spirit and that cheerleading spirit carried me on every path that was to come along,” she said, calling dancers unsung heroes, “especially ballet dancers -- it is the most difficult, the most exquisite dance form,” noting their “discipline and the unbelievable strength and dedication to make something look so full of grace and effortless.”
The numbers: With nearly 350 guests, tickets selling from $500 and tables available up to $100,000, proceeds topped $1 million. Much of that revenue came from a live auction, offering among other items 10 opportunities to buy a five-course dinner for 30, accompanied by a Los Angeles Ballet performance, at Ryan Kavanaugh’s oceanfront home.
Ellen Olivier is founder of Society News LA.
Filed under: Dance