Image: Glorya Kaufman, Carrie Ann Inaba
Dan Steinberg  /  AP file
Glorya Kaufman, left, and 'Dancing With The Stars' judge Carrie Ann Inaba laugh during a Feb. 11 reception to announce a $1 million gift for a dance academy in inner-city Los Angeles. Kaufman's latest donation is $20 million to the city's Dance at the Music Center program.
updated 3/17/2009 3:25:45 PM ET 2009-03-17T19:25:45

In one of the largest gifts ever to a dance organization, philanthropist Glorya Kaufman is donating $20 million to the Dance at the Music Center program in Los Angeles.

"The arts are critical to the lifeblood of this nation,” said Kaufman, widow of KB Homes co-founder Donald Bruce Kaufman. “During this difficult time when art programs are barely getting by, we must do our part to protect what could be lost.  I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the Music Center as it brings world-class performances to Los Angeles.”

Kaufman previously gave $18 million to UCLA for the renovation of its dance building after the Northridge earthquake of 1994 and $6 million to the New York-based Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She also made a donation to the Juilliard School in New York to create a largely glass-enclosed dance studio.

The latest gift, announced Tuesday, is one of the largest ever to Los Angeles' performing arts center and one of the biggest to a dance organization anywhere.

"It's a record — and, as far as we know, the largest gift to support dance ever in America," Music Center president Stephen D. Rountree told the Los Angeles Times.

The endowment comes at a time when arts institutions everywhere are suffering and sometimes shutting down because of the financial crisis.

Dance at the Music Center began in 2003-2004 and has brought a huge bump to the presence of dance in the city, including visits from the American Ballet Theatre, the New York City Ballet and the Chinese company Shen Wei Dance Arts.

The program will be renamed Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center.

"Through this act of generosity, the Glorya Kaufman name will be linked in perpetuity with world-class dance presentations and exceptional programs that share the joy and magic of dance with the community, including young dancers, students and teachers," said Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles County supervisor.

Rountree said Kaufman's gift to the Music Center was surpassed only by donations from the late Lillian Disney, widow of Walt Disney, which included a $50 million endowment that launched the construction of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

He called Kaufman "the single most important patron of dance in our time.”

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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