It was my pleasure to head out to Westside Ballet in Santa Monica after several years of unparalleled changes not only in the ballet world, but in the entire world itself. The beloved studio Yvonne Mounsey co-founded in 1967 with Rosemary Valaire, is now snuggled in between large corporate buildings that surround the once open space of prairieland. I began to muse that without the supporters, friends and family, this amazing legacy might also have been “built-over.” Thankfully, this valuable endowment is being carried on through Yvonne’s daughter, Allegra Clegg at the helm, and those generous enough to see the value of this investment when so many other wonderful historical institutions have gone the way of the wrecking ball.My job was to spend time interviewing the Guest artists, who will be performing in the much-anticipated MASTERS OF MOVEMENT: Ballet through the Centuries on Friday, May 26, 2023. At that time, the Pre-professional company will host a Soirée to include cocktails, appetizers, and special awards. The Guest Artistry of the exciting and versatile young Ballet and Broadway performer Lyrica Woodruff and her partner, acclaimed Maté Szentes, (Hungarian National Ballet, Sacramento and American Contemporary Ballet), will treat the audience to George Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes in celebration of Memorial Day Weekend.
Also featured are Guest Artists, the stunning Andrea Laššáková and alum Adrian Blake Mitchell, both from the Mikhailovsky Ballet (St. Petersburg, Russia) reprising the exquisite After the Rain by the acclaimed choreographer Christopher Wheeldon (MJ, the Musical, American in Paris, Center Stage). This extraordinary piece, performed at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, November 12, 2022, in “Reunited in Dance” was done on a full program with fellow Russian and Ukrainian exiles led by Xander Parish. “Rain” was one of the exceptional moments of that moving evening. Westside’s richly varied program of classical, neoclassical and contemporary works will be on both Friday and Saturday, May 26 and 27 at the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica.
Stepping through the front door of Westside Ballet felt like coming home; hearing music floating in from the back studio, seeing an old friend, Assoc. AD, Francine Kessler Lavac and giving a passing hug to the newest returning family member, Adrian Blake Mitchell made this a welcoming atmosphere. I was then guided to the back by Jewels Solheim-Roe. As we entered the studio, I was thrilled to see that an active rehearsal with the famed Balanchine ballerina and international repetiteur Patricia (Pat) Neary was well underway. How well I remember Pat with Jacques D’Amboise on the stage of the New York State Theatre some years ago performing Stars and Stripes. Today her tall lithe frame is swathed in bright blue rehearsal clothes, with her face framed by her blond-red hair seeming to glow in a room already electric with joy and love. I spotted Westside’s Martine Harley, Artistic Director, observing Neary imparting the intricate subtleties of Balanchine’s ideas and stories for the restaging of the dazzling and playful Stars & Stripes. Now Pat is sharing those gems with the dancers in front of her. I was honored to be in the presence of such greatness.
As I watched the amazing young Lyrica with her dance partner Maté, I was impressed by the versatility of both as they did their impossibly fast footwork and sustained balances. As they used the complete space, they definitely fulfilled Balanchine’s criteria of “faster” and “bigger.”
Feeling a smile come over my face, I began to look forward to my much-anticipated moments interviewing Lyrica, Maté, Andrea, Adrian and Pat, to discover more about them, what makes them who they are today and what are their hopes for the future. Of course, the interviews will appear at LA Dance Chronicle.
We then sat down, for a quick break from the rehearsal. Adrian dropped by to set up time later to fill me in on himself and his partner Andrea’s amazing adventure getting from Russia to the U.S. I also wanted to query him about all his exciting new projects and budding career. It will be my pleasure to share all their stories which will be featured in the Los Angeles Dance Chronicle to honor these talented artists.
The history and generosity of such an important institution as Westside Ballet, which has been, and will be kept alive by the many lives it has touched in the past, present and will in the future. Make sure to attend, support and contribute to keeping this legacy alive and “dancing!”
Remember to order your tickets for May 26 & 27, 2023 at BroadStage. See information below. It will not only delight you but will help Westside thrive in the future.
For more information about Westside Ballet, please visit their website.
THE ELI and EDYTHE BROAD STAGE, 1310 11th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401
This will be Westside Ballet’s ninth year at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center.
Friday, May 26, 2022, 6 pm: Soirée special event/ reception;
followed by the 8 pm “Masters of Movement” with special guest performances and awards.
Saturday, May 27, 2022, 1 pm and; 5pm Spring Showcase Performances;
Limited Engagement Live Performances for two shows only, Memorial Day Weekend.
FRIDAY Soirée $100-300
SATURDAY Showcases $45
Special Group Rates Available for Groups of 15 or More.
For special group rates and ticket questions, please email: email@example.com
Written by Joanne DiVito for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Westside Ballet – Adrian Blake Mitchell and Andrea Mitchell in After the Rain by Christopher Wheeldon – Photo by Eric Williams