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Royal Ballet Gets the Red-Carpet Treatment

Local arts patrons had a chance Tuesday to mix with royals--members of Britain’s Royal Ballet. At parties before and after opening night at the Performing Arts Center, the county’s social somebodies mingled with the graceful dancers and gracious administrators of the internationally renowned company.

Strike a Pose

The photo-op ruled at both parties, but was particularly noticeable at the exclusive pre-show gathering in the Center Room.

About 75 balletomanes showed up an hour before the performance to sip champagne and greet the visitors. Amid what were inevitably truncated conversations, ballet reps were grouped and regrouped for photographs until smiling for a swarm of clattering cameras seemed about all they would have time to do. Still, they charmed.

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Heads spun in the direction of 22-year-old principal dancer Darcey Bussell, who dazzled the crowd by her mere presence--yards of dancer-toned legs in sheer white stockings topped by tartan hot pants and a matching jacket.

Among the guests meeting and greeting were British Consul General Reginald Holloway and Royal Ballet Director Anthony Dowell, who has danced with the company since the early ‘60s.

“I haven’t completely retired from the stage,” said Dowell, who will perform small roles tonight and Friday. “I just don’t jump around as much as I used to.”

Say the Right Thing

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Anthony Russell-Roberts, the Royal Ballet administrative director, was much praised privately as well as in speeches for his role in bringing the company to Orange County. This is its only West Coast stop on its four-city U.S. tour.

Performing Arts Center President Thomas Kendrick told the cocktail-party guests that Russell-Roberts had been so intent on seeing the Center two years ago that he’d taken a red-eye flight from New York “with a broken leg.”

For his part, Russell-Roberts said he thinks the Center is one of the best theaters in the country “from a presentation point of view.

“One of the most important things for us,” he said, “is how what we put up on stage will look, how we can make the best presentation.”

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If the stage is not big enough, or not shaped properly, or the seating design is less than wonderful, “you can do all right,” Russell-Roberts said, “but you can’t ever do your very best.”

Who’s Who

Among those at the reception were Renee and Henry Segerstrom, Willa Dean and William Lyon, Martha and Bob Fluor, Elaine and Bill Redfield, Shari and Harry Esayian, Pat and Charlie Poss, and Susan and Tim Strader.

Also there was Barbara Steele Williams, whose family trust, the Harry and Grace Steele Foundation, made a $500,000 grant to the Center last May, a portion of which was used for the Royal Ballet presentation.

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The Late Show

After Odette and Prince Siegfried took their lovers’ leap in “Swan Lake,” the cast and crew and several hundred ticket-holders cruised to Birraporetti’s for Opening Night Party No. 2.

An Anglophile ambience at the South Coast Plaza restaurant was established by the two guys pretending to be Buckingham Palace guards, the Union Jacks mixed in with fresh-cut flowers on the dinner tables and British expatriate Ray Cooper, who sang, shuffled and tipped his top hat to selections from “My Fair Lady” and the like.

The buffet tables were loaded with meat balls, lasagna, eggplant Parmesan, fettuccine primavera, veal cannelloni, crab cakes and pizza. The dessert cake--a Birraporetti’s tradition--was English trifle cake topped with whipped cream and decorated with little wooden ballerinas.

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The deejay got to work at midnight, starting one long set that lasted until 2 a.m. And the dancers--nerves relaxed and stomachs full--did what dancers do.

* RELATED STORY; Review of Royal Ballet. F1


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