China Arts Festival to Proceed Without Joffrey Performance

Times Staff Writer

Despite the cancellation of the Joffrey Ballet, the Second China Arts Festival in Beijing will still take place, an official of the People’s Republic of China said Thursday.

Up until Wednesday, the Joffrey troupe, expected to comprise 40 dancers (plus 56 arts patrons traveling with the company), was scheduled to appear in the festival Sept. 16-20. Penelope Curry, executive director of the company, announced that the Joffrey’s participation had been canceled.

Reached in New York on Thursday, Curry said that she decided to cancel the trip because of the recent unrest in China.


“We put this decision off as long as we could,” Curry said. “But, of course, we were concerned with many things, first of all the safety of our dancers and our patrons.”

Mao Xin-li, consul for cultural affairs at the consulate of the People’s Republic of China in San Francisco, told The Times on Thursday that despite the political climate, the festival will continue. He could not confirm that the festival would still take place within the original time frame, Sept. 15-Oct. 5.

Besides the bicoastal Joffrey company, which was scheduled to be the official United States representative, other international troupes originally announced for participation in the festival were the Bolshoi Ballet from the Soviet Union and the Hamburg Opera from West Germany. In addition, top Chinese companies were promised.

Said Mao, “The capital (Beijing) is the main stage, but I don’t know exactly what other cities will be involved.”

Before the Joffrey cancellation, plans were being made for the Joffrey and Bolshoi companies to exchange teachers and meet with members of the Central Ballet of China on a social/professional basis.

An adjunct Patrons Trip, for which 28 couples had signed up to accompany the troupe--at a cost of either $20,000 (for board members) or $25,000 (non-board members) a couple--was canceled two weeks ago, Curry told The Times.

One of the company’s leading patrons, David H. Murdock, co-chairman of the board of directors of the Foundation for the Joffrey Ballet, had offered to help underwrite the Joffrey’s China trip, Curry said.

The U.S. State Department was also a tour sponsor. And 50% of the funds from the Patrons Trip would have been earmarked as a contribution to the Foundation.

“Touring domestically is risky enough,” Curry said. “You never want to take a company on an international trip unless the funds are guaranteed.”

Murdock, who is chief executive officer of Castle & Cooke, Inc., was not available for comment.

The First China Arts Festival was mounted in 1987 and took place in Beijing, Harbin and Shanghai.