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A Baryshnikov kickoff fundraiser at the Broad Stage

September 6, 2009 |  3:13 pm

MBDM On Friday evening, arts lovers celebrated three marvels close to their heart --- Mikhail Baryshnikov’s first visit to Los Angeles since 2004, the launch of the Broad Stage’s second season and the one-year anniversary of Santa Monica College’s performing arts venue, so geographically desirable for Westsiders.
As playwright David Mamet put it, “I think the sheerest divisor in life is not good and evil -- it’s the 405.”

The happy occasion was the opening gala for the Broad Stage’s 2009-10 season, which raised more than $350,000 for the fledgling venue. The dinner and performance drew many an FOD -- Friends of Dale (Franzen, the Broad’s director) or Dustin (Hoffman, the artistic advisory board chair, who was filming in Canada) – as well as fans of Baryshnikov and the arts. Minglers included major donors Eli and Edythe Broad, plus actors Don Cheadle, Gena Rowlands and Ali McGraw, former Mayor Richard Riordan, author Judith Krantz, Summit Entertainment’s co-chairman and president Patrick Wachsberger and arts philanthropist Ginny Mancini.

The evening’s centerpiece was Baryshnikov’s performance with dancer Ana Laguna of “Three Solos and a Duet,” the first of two evenings here kicking off their international tour's U.S. visit. Los Angeles was an intriguing launch pad for the older dancers’ much-anticipated tour --- their liquid movement seemed to call Hollywood’s youth obsession into question simply by existing (Baryshnikov is 61, Laguna 54).

As things turned out, the pre-Labor Day gala provided an early start to the fall arts season. That was done to accommodate Baryshnikov’s schedule and to avoid the upcoming Jewish holy day.

“The first date he gave me was Yom Kippur, and I said, ‘Mischa, I would give you Christmas Day, but …’” Franzen said. “Actually, I called up Plácido [Domingo] and said, ‘Would you sing on Yom Kippur?’ And he said, ‘Absolutely not. You cannot do that.’ It’s disrespectful. This was the only other day.”

Baryshnikov had been interested in the 499-seat Broad for quite a while, even looking at drawings and following the construction as he developed plans for a New York theater in honor of the late choreographer Jerome Robbins. “So we were comparing prosceniums,” Franzen said. “I worked a long time to get Mischa, and I’m very honored that he came.”

--- Irene Lacher

Related story:

Dance review: Baryshnikov at the Broad Stage

Photos, top: Baryshnikov with David Mamet. Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Below Baryshnikov with Eli and Edythe Broad and Don Cheadle with with his girlfriend, Bridgid Coulter, second from left, daughter Ayana Tai Cheadle, left, and daughter Imani Cheadle. Credit: Dan Steinberg/Associated Press.