Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Jewels Solheim-Roe
Westside Ballet 

"GRACE AND GRIT" - a film depicting the power of dance in difficult times. Young Dance Students and Professional Alumni Present Drive-in Dance Film

Dance Film Drive-In Fundraising Event costs $50 per vehicle. Tickets available at: www.westsideballet.com.

 

October 5, 2020

Molly Novak in a still from Grace and Grit, a film depicting dance students during Covid.

Westside Ballet of Santa Monica announces a drive-in film event for arts advocacy at the Santa Monica College Bundy Campus' East Parking lot, to be held Friday & Saturday, October 9th & 10th, at 7:30 & 10pm as a Drive-In Movie venture in conjunction with Santa Monica College's Public Policy Institute Annual Arts Forum and the SMC Dance Department.

A 50-minute compilation of Santa Monica's most celebrated dance companies, choreographers, and dancers includes the preeminent contemporary dance company Barak Ballet, distinguished alumni and current young dancers from Santa Monica's acclaimed Westside Ballet of Santa Monica, and SMC's diverse Global Motion World Dance Company, Synapse Contemporary Dance Theater, and the exuberant and award-winning Ballet Folklórico Flor de Mayo.

In addition to Joy Womack's piece, the film includes two other exquisite excerpts from Westside's 2019 Centennial Gala: The Grand Défilé and an excerpt from Westside Ballet's 2019 performance of Balanchine's quintessential Serenade, staged by Patricia Neary.

A Junior at Santa Monica's Crossroads school, dancer Daisy Kohner (16) danced in Serenade as well as the Défilé. "To me, Grace and Grit is an image for every part of the artistic world to look to as a symbol of hope," says Daisy. "This film proves that ballet can be more than just a performance. Ballet on film is a demonstration of dedication, perseverance, and passion for the arts."

The Grand Défilé is a presentation of the entire ballet company-from the youngest to the most experienced-to exhibit the evolution of each dancer toward the pinnacle of their training as pre-professional artists. This year's dancers demonstrated their resilience by recreating their own parts in the Défilé, each from their own space, so they could come together virtually.

Notre Dame Academy sixth grader, Piper Everly (11) filmed her Défilé piece from her make-shift home dance studio last June, exactly a year since the nonprofit performance company had presented it at The Broad Stage. "To me, "Grace & Grit" means that even though we are not dancing in the same way as before, we can still work hard to make our dancing beautiful and to achieve our goals."

The film also showcases two new works by three aspiring Westside Ballet pre-professional dancers and aspiring young choreographers in their own rights: Samara Koseff, Mac Pampinella and Zane Tahvildaran-Jesswein.

Also at Crossroads School, Samara Koseff (17) created Misconception, informed by the well-known lyrics to the song "My Funny Valentine" by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart––though she used the instrumental version by Chet Baker for her choreography. She choreographed her piece on herself from the woman's point-of-view, embodying feminine strength and purpose.

"While it was challenging participating in the class remotely due to quarantine – it also forced me to think outside the box and use the environment at my disposal. The couch, my main prop, belonged to my grandfather. He had it in his law office for 50 years and took naps on it every afternoon. He loved Broadway musicals, and I think he would have gotten a kick out his beloved couch being a part of my creative process and ultimately contributing to the Grace and Grit fundraiser for Westside." said Samara.

Fellow Westside 'boys ballet' dancers, Zane Tahvildaran-Jesswein (SaMo Senior, 17) and Mac Pampinella (15), co-choreographed a piece which seeks to manifest the anger associated with grief, while also understanding it in order to overcome its grip. Set to a track from Kanisan's album, "A Way of Existing," this visceral piece, titled Daybreak, is performed by Zane and ultimately helped both choreographers prevail over recent deep personal losses.

The film begins with an introduction by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, LA County Board of Supervisors. Attendees will receive free sealed bags of popcorn courtesy of the SMC Associates.

Speaking on the motivation behind the film, Martine Harley, Westside Ballet's Artistic Director says, "This spring, the Covid crisis abruptly halted all preparations for performances, and with it, critical funding for the arts in our community––and around the world. But dance is a living, diverse and adaptive art form, so we wanted to find a way to preserve Westside Ballet's legacy, but also celebrate and perform. So the idea of creating the film was born! –– So grab the kids, the dog, some snacks, and get out of the house on October 9th or 10th –- and come out and safely support the arts in our great city of Santa Monica!"

The project highlights several extraordinary professional alumni. Filming and editing of original works has been done by Westside Ballet alumna and AFI graduate student Nitzan Levinson, with additional film editing by Camryn Eakes. Westside Ballet resident choreographer Sophie Monat created original solos, Water and Air, for two Westside alumni who were on leave from their respective companies: Lucia Connolly (Joffrey Ballet) and Molly Novak (Boston Ballet). Monat choreographed and staged the piece for both dancers to illustrate the beauty of our precious natural environment, and the two elements essential to life. Alumna Joy Womack, International ballet star and renowned tour de force, stepped out of her car on a recent road trip to dance the opening of her fiery Don Quixote solo, in an open field. The raw excerpt segues to her rousing performance in Westside's 2019 Centennial Gala.

Barak Ballet's Breathe In was born from what was intended to be a stage production entitled Memoryhouse, created to symbolize Barak's partnership with the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Melissa Barak, an Westside alumna, former New York City Ballet dancer/ choreographer, and Barak's Artistic Director, explains: "Breathe In reveals movement as an expression of freedom, and the longing for better days."

In Collaboration

"I am thrilled to be collaborating with the SMC's Public Policy Institute, who agreed to co-produce this unique film event," says Harley. "The award-winning pieces from Barak Ballet and the SMC Dance Department are truly extraordinary! Together, the pieces in this film explicate Grace and Grit in true context-the sheer determination and tenacity of artists whose grace survives even the most defining challenges."

Samara in a still from Grace and Grit, a film depicting dance students during Covid.

Choreographers Jae Young Lee, Jackie Lopez, Raquel Ramirez and Sri Susilowati are the inspiration within Santa Monica College's celebrated dance companies, Global Motion, Synapse and the exuberant and award-winning Ballet Folklórico Flor de Mayo. Associate Professor and Synapse Dance Company's co-director Jae Young Lee's piece, titled A-15510, is an abstract portrayal of a concentration camp during World War II set to music from Henry Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas. Raquel Ramirez, founder/director of Ballet Folklórico de Mayo, celebrates the rich culture of Veracruz, Mexico, in her magical piece La Bruja, whose story is about a man taken by a witch. Created with fellow choreographers Jasmine Rodriguez, Ashley Ramirez and Alondra Ramirez, the dancers perform in the traditional costumes of Veracruz, with candles balanced on their heads. Invited to SMC Dance as a guest choreographer for Synapse, Jackie Lopez, along with assistant choreographer G'bari Gilliam, created Internal Vibrations, to externalize the frequencies within, that connect the mind and body, while the spirit seeks the hope of finding internal fire and harmony. Sri Susilowati, dancer, choreographer, storyteller, associate professor and co-director of Global Motion, teaches Asian Pacific Dance at SMC. Set to music by Noraniz Idris-whose genre fuses "irama Malaysia" with Anglo-American pop music-Susilowati's work, Love is Love, is a contemporary Zapin (a Malay Dance art genre) that tells a story about love, love without boundaries, even if its expression may be forbidden. It was created in collaboration with Liam Gifkins. Additionally, two SMC Dance Department student choreographers, Amira Murphy and Jackie Riedel, created the rousing America, to the iconic song of the same name from Berstein's incredible West Side Story. The piece celebrates America's extraordinary diversity with infectious energy.

Tickets for this must-see Dance Film Drive-In Fundraising Event are only $50 per vehicle and available now at: http://www.westsideballet.com.

The community can also help Westside Ballet's "1500 Angels" Crisis Relief Campaign here: https://westsideballet.com/save-our-school/

 

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