28 Students from Greater LA attend Westside Ballet under Diversity & Access Initiative
An open day of dance classes for students to "comfortably and freely explore the art form of ballet" led by Westside Ballet Alumnus Adrian Blake Mitchell (formerly of Mikhailovsky Ballet Company) was launched on Sunday, August 7th at Westside School of Ballet, according to a new press release provided by spokesperson Jewels Solheim-Roe. The event was produced in collaboration with Mitchell's nonprofit Dance in Color and Westside Ballet's nonprofit arm's Community Outreach Committee, a subcommittee of their Diversity & Equity Committee.
"Explore ballet with a small circle of students learning just like you! Your child will be introduced to classical ballet, jazz and contemporary dance in a creative, joyful and inclusive atmosphere taught by dance professionals," stated the 'Dance to Dreams' digital brochure.
Mitchell lined up the pilot workshop with locally accomplished instructors to join him in providing the half-day curriculum to offer young prospective students to explore dance in a "safe and welcoming environment." After receiving a complementary event-branded t-shirt and ballet shoes provided by the NBC show 'This is Us,' the day began with a warm up session at 1pm led by apprentices and Westside Ballet advanced dancers Jasmine & Kalea Harrison. Next the groups were divided into 5-8 year olds and 9-14-with Mitchell instructing the younger groups in understanding ballet basics, whilst his cohort Robyn Gardenhire (City Ballet of Los Angeles) led the older group. Hiromi Levy donated her time as the pianist accompaniment for the warm-up and sessions with Gardenhire.
A midafternoon lunch (provided by Urth Cafe and Westside School of Ballet owner Allegra Clegg) was enjoyed by all students outside under two canopies in 80 degree weather. The activities continued with Jazz artist & actor Will B. Bell's lively jazz class for all students in Westside Ballet's open-air Studio 6. In closing, Mitchell presented the students with a short presentation of YouTube videos of famous dancers of color.
The nonprofit collaboration's mission statement was to provide a welcoming environment where both BIPOC teachers and students occupy significant space at the ballet studio. Transportation was provided in part by Lyft. Videographer Chad A. Marshall documented the entire day, as the organizers hope to share for future fundraising for a longer 1-2 weeks 'Dance in Dreams' day camp summer 2023.
Readers can read more about this initiative and the impactful work being spearheaded by Mitchell in a recent cover feature in Argonaut News, which also appeared in Playa Vista Direct. "Through our collective efforts, we can turn aspirations of young artists from all backgrounds into their realities and create lasting systemic change in the performing arts," shared Solheim-Roe in an email.
Westside Ballet's Community Outreach Committee: Julie Wenibach, Edward Polite & Jewels Solheim-Roe. Shared leadership from Dance in Color Executive Director Chelsea Austin. "And a big Shout Out to the Girls and Boys Club of Hollywood." Westside Ballet Staff: Olivia Polite. Santa Monica College Public Policy Institute Volunteers: Claire Lemoine, Angel Del Real, Toni Mankowitz. With Monique Johnson. The effort gives special thanks to patron Michael Levy.