Dan Froot, a professor in UCLA's dance program, was a faculty advisor in a senior showcase that Kaufman attended about eight years ago. Some of the performances that night, he says, fell on the experimental side. Kaufman was less than pleased with what she saw. "We're an interdisciplinary dance program — that's what we do," he says in the school's defense.
Kaufman has no comment about the UCLA show, but in general, she says, "I like dance to be happy."
Some speculate that USC will need a nine-figure amount to create a world-caliber dance school and wonder if Kaufman's endowment — guesses range wildly from $40 million to $100 million — will be enough.
Bob Bursey, senior producer at Bard College's Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, formerly with Bill T. Jones' dance company, estimates that the simplest dance building USC could erect — just studio spaces, classrooms and offices, with no proper theater — would cost a minimum of $20 million.
Charles McNeal, education director of the San Francisco Ballet's Center for Dance Education puts the price tag higher: "The cost of dance, 90% of it is in the facility because it's a building unlike any other kind of building. You need special ventilation, special lighting, special sprung floors with give. Even an intimate building, I cannot see being less than $80 million."
Add to that a curriculum plus a world-class faculty, and, McNeal says of the school's total cost, "There's no doubt in my mind we're going past the $150-million mark."
USC's new Student Health Center opening in January — at six stories high and 100,000 square feet — cost less than McNeal's estimate, about $50 million. The Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center, even with its pricier custom needs, could easily be half that size, says Cutietta. And it won't have a formal auditorium, just a black box theater.
"That's a good comparison," says Cutietta of the Student Health Center. "But we don't know. We're just putting out bids for architects. Glorya's gift covers at least half the construction plus quite a bit more that goes into an endowment."
Kaufman is unfazed by the speculation. "Leave them guessing," she says. As to why she remains so secretive: "It puts a number and value on a gift that's from the heart. And that's not why I do it."
Indeed, Kaufman may have a thing about numbers — she is adamant about not revealing her age. She certainly won't reveal how much, in all, she has donated to the arts thus far, or her net worth. Though neither of the Kaufmans ever made the Forbes list, at the time of her husband's death, Kaufman & Broad had more than $1 billion in assets. The Glorya Kaufman Dance Foundation, in 2010, had about $5.5 million in assets.
Kaufman will let slip one number: Given the opportunity, she'd dance seven nights a week if she could. Dance still infuses her life in the most intimate ways. She loves to ballroom dance when she can and only dates men who know their way around the floor. "So You Think You Can Dance" is one of her favorite shows — she never misses an episode. Other evenings are filled with nights out at the Geffen Playhouse and the Music Center.
Adding another iconic performance space to Los Angeles is as exciting to her as the productions that will happen inside. "To me, the building part is really part of the art. If I'm not painting, I have to be creating in some way, creating with ideas. And it's ideas that make a difference."