Joffrey Vision Clearer With $700,000 Grant

Times Staff Writer

The $700,000 grant awarded to the Joffrey Ballet by the National Endowment for the Arts this week “came not so much as a surprise but as a real fulfillment of Robert Joffrey’s and Gerald Arpino’s vision,” Penelope Curry, the dance company’s executive director, said Friday. “Now we’re able to protect that vision.”

The grant to the New York/Los Angeles ballet company was among 25 “Challenge III” grants totaling $9 million that the endowment awarded nationwide. The federal grant requires a 3-1 match from private sources.

Endowment Chairman Frank Hodsoll said he expected that the grants will generate more than $30 million of “venture capital” from non-federal sources to arts organizations.

This is the first awards series for the third phase of the big-buck challenge program. Unlike the first two challenge programs, awarded for the purpose of achieving long-term financial stability, these grants are designed “to assist model projects of national (artistic) significance,” the endowment said.


The grant to the 32-year-old Joffrey Ballet was “to build upon the company’s artistic vision through an ‘In Celebration’ series that will focus attention on four artists who have influenced the evolution of ballet in this century,” the endowment said.

Artists named by the endowment were choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky and his sister Bronislava Nijinksa, whose work will be highlighted during the company’s 1989-90 season; composer Aaron Copeland, for the 1990-91 season; and choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton, for 1991-92.

“By concentrating on a significant body of work by these artists,” the endowment added, “the company hopes to create the performance equivalent of an historical exhibition, offering a broad perspective on each of the individual’s creative process, vision and contribution to the art form.”

Joffrey, who died last March, planned the “In Celebration” series in collaboration with Arpino to highlight these artists’ achievements, the ballet company noted in a press release.


Curry noted that the grant combines recognition of both classical and American works. It immediately helps in the production of Copeland’s “Billy the Kid,” premiering at City Center in New York Nov. 2. The ballet was choreographed by the late Eugene Loring of Los Angeles. Wells Fargo, she added, has underwritten $125,000 for this work.

The “Billy the Kid” premiere will celebrate the ballet’s 50th anniversary.