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RSVP : Gala Joffrey Dinner Keeps Ballet Fans on Their Toes

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Felisa Vanoff quoted Martha Graham, calling the dancers “Acrobats of the Gods.”

With that, the band took its cue and the dancers of the Joffrey Ballet--who had just been thrown dozens of bouquets onstage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion--tripped down the magnificent staircase of the Grand Hall to greet a black-tie dinner audience that loved them.

There was yet another standing ovation. (Most members of the orchestra had risen to their feet after the finale in the Pavilion, and upstairs in the Founders, the loud cheering was like a soccer crowd.)

Then, the party band broke into “Hello, Dolly,” but substituted “Hello, Jerry . . . it’s so nice to have you back in town.” And Gerald Arpino, the Joffrey’s artistic director, descended.

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Arpino took the microphone to return the compliment: “It’s good to be here. I’ve been over the hot coals and I’ve made it, and it’s good to be back.” He referred to the fiscal and political turmoil when the Joffrey left the Music Center after being its resident ballet company from 1982 to 1991.

Earlier, Vanoff, who chaired the elegant dinner with Linda LoRe, president of Giorgio’s, said: “I wish with my heart that they will have their home here again.”

Signed toe shoes sheathed in luminous Lucite amid tall wispy orchids and roses were the centerpieces on every table.

Honorary chairwoman Caroline Ahmanson sat next to Arpino. Celebrity chairs Whoopie Goldberg and Patrick Swayze were on location, thus absent, so the other celebrity chairwoman, Lisa Niemi, was coddled with extra attention.

So was ballerina Jodie Gates, who starred with Tom Mossbrucker in “Light Rain.” She sat next to Joffrey CEO and benefactor Joseph H. Wender. “There was something thrilling and exciting in the air tonight--I really felt the energy in the audience when we came out,” she said.

Before the performance, benefactors had cocktails in the Blue Ribbon Room. Ed and Ruth Shannon (on the founding board) mingled with Mary Lyman (Joffrey board member from La Jolla and Iowa City) and Abe Tucker, a San Francisco board member.

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At the dinner, gala co-chairwomen starred--Kathy Giannotti, Donna Kamin, Barbara Rodstein and Elizabeth Hirsch. They were getting superlatives, as were co-chairwomen Janet Eggers, Susan Rothenberg, Nancy Sanders and Barbara Wilkinson.

Northrop’s Kent Kressa had to catch a morning plane, but he and Joyce were on the dance floor late--when they weren’t conversing with Phyllis and Michael Hennigan (who brought their daughter, Cassandra, a Princeton junior) and Shelton G. Stanfill, president of the Music Center.

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