Ballet Boosters : Joffrey Honors the Women Behind the Opening Night Galas


“They say behind every great man is a woman,” said Gerald Arpino, artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet. “Behind the Joffrey Ballet are great women.”

Arpino gave thanks to the women who have chaired Joffrey opening-night galas for the last 10 years at Wednesday’s black-tie party that marked the opening of the ballet’s winter season at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

The Robert Joffrey production of “The Nutcracker” was the evening’s program, naturally, this being the season.

“I don’t think there would be a Joffrey without these women,” Arpino said. “All during the whole Joffrey life, there’s always been the great women who made the ballet. I mean, where would the arts be without the women? You’ve got to drag these guys (here), you know? You’ve got to pull them. These women are genuine, they’re committed, they understand the meaning of art and the meaning of it in their lives; without it, life is very dull.”


The women honored were the late Gabriele Murdock, Maggie Wetzel, Harriet Deutsch, Keith Kieschnick, Dona Kendall, Patti Skouras, Felisa Vanoff, Marjorie Lord Volk, Joan Burns, Marilyn Lynch, Noelle Siart, Sandra Ausman, Phyllis Hennigan, Jane Jelenko, Lara Ladd, Ruth Shannon and this year’s gala chairwoman, Patricia Kennedy. Arpino greeted them warmly as they accepted their awards, sculptures by Caryl Picker.

It was uplifting news to the financially beleaguered Joffrey that Wednesday night’s gala was sold out. Tickets were $500 a person, and about 550 people attended. (Come spring, the company will move to the Wiltern Theatre; the company announced weeks ago that it would cancel its spring 1992 repertory season in New York City.)

The evening began with a reception for gala patrons in the Pavilion’s Blue Ribbon room, where opulent Harry Winston jewels were on display in glass boxes. There were plenty of real jewels on real necks, too. Even Mr. Blackwell gave a rare nod of approval to the chicness of (most of) the female guests.

“I remember the first time I went to see ‘The Nutcracker,’ ” said Donna Kamin, one of the gala vice chairwomen. “It made me want to be a ballerina. And instead I ended up on the managing board of directors for the foundation for the Joffrey.”


“I’m taking my three grandchildren to see it on Saturday,” said Ruth Shannon, gala founding chairwoman. “It’s wonderful to see this ballet through the eyes of children.”

After the performance, guests convened in the Grand Hall for dinner and dancing.

Among those dining on pumpkin bisque, roast baby quail and white chocolate sleighs were Joffrey executive director Robert Yesselman; gala vice chairwomen Joan Burns, Elizabeth Hirsch, Susan Taylor Rothenberg and Suzanne Tennenbaum; Rita Moreno, David Hockney, Joe and Alice Coulombe and Gloria Allred.