June 24, 2024 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

James Whiteside Headlines Westside Ballet’s 50th Anniversary Gala with Local Pre-Professional Dancers

A Star-Studded Gala Featuring Renowned Guest Artists

Westside Ballet of Santa Monica is set to dazzle audiences with its 50th Anniversary Spring Performances,  “Masters of Movement” celebrating five decades of dance excellence. In Westside Ballet’s Spring Performances May 17-18, several talented Hollywood and Greater LA ballerinas will share the stage with American Ballet Theatre (ABT) Principal Dancers And James Whiteside, along with other accomplished guest artists and alumni of Westside Ballet, including former Beverly Hills resident Joy Womack. The performance will be held at The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica.

Westside Ballet students and residents of Hollywood/ Pride prepare for their Spring Performances. Of 91 company dancers, 2 live or go to school in Hollywood/ Pride:  Billie Dance and Baylee Barrow.  Photo by Sarah Madison Photography

Known for his dynamic performances and innovative approach to ballet, Whiteside will showcase his extraordinary talent and passion for the art form.  Whiteside’s illustrious career spans iconic roles in “Swan Lake,” “The Nutcracker,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “Giselle,” among others. Beyond the stage, he is also a choreographer, pop music performer, drag queen, podcast host, and author, redefining the boundaries of classical ballet. His presence at the Gala underscores the event’s significance and the high caliber of talent it attracts.

The Gala on May 18 will also honor Patricia Neary with a Lifetime Achievement Award and feature performances by other esteemed artists. Andrea Laššáková (formerly of Mikhailovsky Ballet) and Adrian Blake Mitchell will present excerpts from George Balanchine’s “Agon,” set to Stravinsky’s evocative score. The stage will welcome alumni stars Lucia Connolly, Lyrica Woodruff, and Joy Womack, who will perform pieces including Yuri Possokhov’s “Bells” pas de deux, Balanchine’s fiery “Tarantella,” and Ben Stevenson O.B.E.’s “Prelude” pas de deux, accompanied by Rachmaninov’s live piano score.

Spotlight on Sachi Hiromura

Among the many talented dancers participating in the Spring Performances is Sachi Hiromura, a 17-year-old junior at the Girls Academic Leadership Academy from Mid-City, LA. This is her first Spring performance with Westside Ballet. Sachi will be featured in several roles, including the Lilac Fairy in “Sleeping Beauty,” corps de ballet in “Classical Symphony,” and pieces in “Murmurations” and “Jazz Disco Inferno.” Reflecting on her experience, Sachi shares, “Participating in this year’s production has been incredibly challenging and rewarding. The precision and speed of the Balanchine style in ‘Classical Symphony’ are new to me, but learning the corps has been a fulfilling challenge. Working on the Lilac Fairy variation has also taught me resilience and how to push through challenges.”

Celebrating Local Talent from Greater LA

Several talented Greater LA dancers from Westside Ballet perform this weekend at the company’s 50th Anniversary Spring Showcases and Gala. “Valse Bleu” dancer: Kaylee Barrow; “Fête de Carnivale” Lux Saevitz; “Ecossaises”: Delilah Stoddard, Alexandra Moccia; “Classical Symphony” Billie Dane; “Sleeping Beauty”: Sachi Hiromura, Olivia Moccia; “Murmurations” and Jazz: Jenne Shim. Photo by Sarah Madison Photography

The Spring Showcases on May 17 and 18 will also feature talented dancers from the Greater LA area. These young dancers exemplify the dedication and talent nurtured by Westside Ballet, promising a bright future for the art of ballet, performing a range of pieces and styles, including:

Kaylee Barrow: Performing in “Valse Bleu” and “Jazz 30s”
Billie Dane: Performing in “Classical Symphony” and “Jazz 50s”
Yara Johnson: Performing in “Valse Bleu” and “Jazz 30s”
Delilah Stoddard: Performing in “Ecossaises” and “Jazz 40s”
Olivia Moccia: Performing as a soloist in “Song Fairy” from “Sleeping Beauty,” and in “Classical Symphony”and “Jazz 70s”
Alexandra Moccia: Performing in “Ecossaises” and “Jazz 40s”
Jenne Shim: Performing in “Murmurations” and “Jazz 70s”
Elle Shim: Performing in “Fairy Attendant,” “Jazz 60s,” and “Murmurations”
Lux Saevitz: Performing in “Fête de Carnivale” and “Jazz 30s”
Mila Bakhshandehpour: Performing in “Fête de Carnivale” as a soloist, “Classical Symphony,” “Murmurations,” and “Jazz 50s”
Ava Bakhshandehpour: Performing in “Murmurations” and “Jazz 70s”

A Tribute to Founders and a Vision for the Future

The 50th Anniversary Spring Showcase is dedicated to founders Yvonne Mounsey and Rosemary Valaire, featuring performances of Mounsey’s “Classical Symphony” and Valaire’s staging of “Sleeping Beauty.” The program will also include a diverse repertoire of dance, such as Vanessa van Wormer’s contemporary work, Caprice Walker’s “Fête de Carnivale,” and Michele Bachar Mendicelli’s jazz and ballet pieces.

The Westside Ballet student company of 91 rehearse the “GRAND DÉFILÉ: A Presentation of the Full Company,” staged by Artistic Director Martine Harley to music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Photo by Sarah Madison Photography

As Westside Ballet pays homage to its rich history, it remains committed to nurturing future ballet talent and enriching the cultural landscape of Southern California.

Join the Celebration

This landmark event promises an enchanting blend of classical elegance and contemporary flair. Tickets for these must-see performances can be purchased online at westsideballet.com/SpringTix  or by phone at (800) 595-4849 (4TIX).  More Inf westsideballet.com/spring-performance

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