RSVP : Ballet Fans Party Down Before ‘Romeo’


Business talk gradually began to give way to musings on art and romance as the straight-from-the-office, business-suited crowd mingled at the pre-performance reception for the San Francisco Ballet’s production of “Romeo and Juliet” on Wednesday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The party was underwritten by J.P. Morgan & Co.

Stick-on name tags were handed out so there would be no mistaking who was who at the party in the Pavilion’s Salvatori Room. A few women, especially those wearing currently fashionable velvet, weren’t too keen on the idea. “I’m not putting mine on. It ruins your clothes,” declared Shirlee Fonda, who arrived with Connie Wald as guests of Sunnie Evers, a San Francisco Ballet executive committee member.

Those contented to be tagged included Felisa Vanoff, who was hosting Martin Manulis, Doug Cramer, Jill Cartter, Alan and Nancy Livingston, the Getty Museum’s Harold Williams, Caroline Ahmanson and Jan Del Amo.


While guests feasted from the buffet table on three types of pasta and super-rich petit fours--sustenance for the upcoming three acts of dance--James Doolittle, who is presenting the ballet company’s six performances, said: “I think one of the reasons I love presenting dance is because, of all the performing arts, it’s the one that gets tremendous response from the young.”

There were some children in the crowd, among them actress Mary McDonnell’s daughter, Olivia, eager to see her first professional ballet.

Describing herself as “an old hoofer” who had danced on Broadway before turning comedian, Rita Rudner admitted ballet had never been her forte. “I had good extension, good turnout, good jumps, but bad feet. Once when I auditioned for ballet, I was told to try typing.”

Director Randa Haines, who said she hopes to make a movie about ballroom dance, said she dances salsa. “I fell into it accidentally about seven years ago when someone took me to a salsa club and in a couple of hours I moved from complete indifference to total passion.”

Meanwhile, ex-FBI Director William Sessions happily expressed pride in his dancing daughter, 24-year-old Sara, who performs as Lady Capulet.

“You’ll get to see her, with her flaming red hair, tearing across the stage in a rage,” he said, something his listeners found an accurate description.