The Los Angeles Ballet held its annual gala on Saturday, April 12, honoring philanthropist Lori Milken, actress Jane Seymour and entertainer Paula Abdul.
Jane Seymour was at the table right next to us and I was in awe of her, after seeing her on TV as a small child. She looked radiant and her speech was even more inspiring of her life starting with ballet in England, how she danced with Russia’s renowned Kirov Ballet before beginning her career as an actress. She recounts coming from a poor family and not being able to afford ballet shoes. Her beautiful children sat on either side of her at the Beverly Wilshire event.
Host Ryan Kavanaugh introduced Seymour sharing her film “Somewhere in Time” is still a favorite, showing him at a young age that films and art can bring magic to people’s lives. “To this day, when I first start dating a girl, I make her watch ‘Somewhere in Time,’ and if she doesn’t like it, she’s out,” he said.
My friend interviewed Paula Abdul earlier in the evening and I was stunned at how eloquent and sweet she was, and even more inspired by her story that evening, as she recounts how she wouldn’t take no for an answer. “No is the beginning of negotiation,” she shared. When she was got her big break with the Lakers cheerleading team, she recounts how a team of girls would come out and perform the dance number and they would sachet you either one way or the other, meaning you were a Yes or a No. She was No. 743 of more than a 1,000 contenders. She was cut the first round, and went into the bathroom stall and redid her outfit and changed her name, and went back out to do the dance number again, only to find out for the second time she was cut once again. Her third attempt she changed her outfit once more, and her name, and sure enough after the third tryout, she made it, which began her career as a dancer, singer, choreographer to the stars, and entertainer.
“That dancer spirit and that cheerleading spirit carried me on every path that was to come along,” she said, calling dancers unsung heroes, “especially ballet dancers — it is the most difficult, the most exquisite dance form,” noting their “discipline and the unbelievable strength and dedication to make something look so full of grace and effortless.”
I was happy I got to tell her I danced to her music all through my high school and college days. It was hard to believe that she is 51 because she looked tiny and flawless, especially after not getting any sleep since she just landed from being a judge on “So You Think You Can Dance Australia.” She was staying in town not much longer than to collect her award.
Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary, the artist directors of the Los Angeles Ballet together with Executive Director Julie Whittaker, introduced Lori Milken, who is an esteemed education and medical research advocate. She is also a board member of the LA Ballet.
The LA Ballet was recognized not only for its performances but also for its many programs that bring dance to a diversity of communities and offer free tickets, classes, lectures and demonstrations to disadvantaged children, their parents and military personnel.
Host Ryan Kavanaugh, a billionaire producer – whose credits include The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Out of the Furnace and Don Jon, was able to rally the event’s attendees to raise over a million dollars via a live auction. He was generous to offer many of his own homes, like a private jet and stay at his Hawaii home as well as opportunity to buy a five-course dinner for 30, accompanied by a Los Angeles Ballet performance, at his own oceanfront home. Tickets sold from $500 and tables up to $10,000 with almost 350 guests in attendance.
The ballet has been in LA for only 8 years and doesn’t have a home, unlike most major ballets in America’s cities. A majority of the proceeds will go to their salaries.
After a scrumptious many course meal ending in gold dusted berries and a variety of desserts, the ballet showcased their talents. Our seats were so close to the stage that is was neat to see the ballet with both boys and girls perform right in front of us with their big smiles and slim tiny bodies as they effortlessly glided and moved through the air. In their marching band costumes ballet style, they performed to excerpts from George Balanchine’s “Stars and Stripes.”
Afterwards, the evening continued with guests dancing and mingling with the ballet.