Westside Ballet’s 50th Anniversary: A Grand Celebration of Dance Excellence and Emerging Talent

Over 90 local dancers, including star students and professional alumni, joined American Ballet Theatre Principals Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside at BroadStage May 17-18

In a grand salute to half a century of dance excellence, Westside Ballet of Santa Monica dazzled audiences with their 50th Anniversary Spring Performances. The “Masters of Movement” series featured two captivating performances of the Spring Showcase as well as the Gala, which paid tribute to the enduring legacy of dance and the visionaries who have shaped Westside’s history.

Santa Monica residents pictured here performed as featured soloists in Westside Ballet’s Spring Showcase and Gala “Masters of Movement” pictured clockwise from left: Sophie Wilson, Bella Shriver, Isabelle Choy, and Evelyn Choy. Photo by Sarah Madison Photography

A Spotlight on Student Talent

Hadley Hill, a dedicated 16-year-old dancer, as part of the Los Angeles Ballet Trainee program in collaboration with Westside Ballet, danced in George Balanchine’s captivating “Who Cares?” at Westside Ballet’s 50th Anniversary Spring Showcase & Gala.  Photo by Eric Williams

Hadley Hill, a 16-year-old advanced dancer, embodies the spirit of dedication and artistry that Westside Ballet nurtures. Hadley, who is part of the Los Angeles Ballet Trainee program in collaboration with Westside Ballet, balances her rigorous training schedule between the two institutions. She has been dancing at Westside Ballet since she was 14 and was showcased in the role of the “5 Girls” from George Balanchine’s “Who Cares?” in this year’s spring performances.

Reflecting on her growth this season, Hadley shares, “’Who Cares?” is a Balanchine ballet, which is a style I haven’t gotten to dive too deep into until now. It’s super challenging but also really fun! I have really enjoyed getting to experiment with the new artistic abilities that ‘Who Cares?’  allows me to explore and get to tune into the Balanchine style in new depths.”

Hadley’s passion for dance extends beyond the stage. “The things I like best about dancing are performing and having something to work towards. Being on stage is the most amazing feeling, especially since when I’m on stage I am doing what I love most, dancing,” she says. With aspirations to join a major ballet company, Hadley exemplifies the excellence and future promise of Westside Ballet’s dancers.

Evelyn Choy, an 11-year-old dancer, is another shining star at Westside Ballet. Currently a 6th grader at John Thomas Dye School, Evelyn has been dancing at Westside Ballet since she was 5 years old. This year marks her third Spring performance with the company. Evelyn  performed in “Fête de Carnivale” and the jazz piece “Dance through the Ages,” where she was a featured dancer in the 1930s section.

Evelyn’s dedication to ballet is evident in her achievements. “Ballet has helped me learn how to work hard and strive to continue improving,” she says. Evelyn also excels academically, having received state honors in Piano Certificate of Merit and honors in school math competitions. Her future aspirations include continuing to improve her dancing and maintaining her hard work ethic.

Joining Evelyn is her sister, Isabelle Choy, who also had a featured role in the Spring Showcase. Isabelle, 15, has been with Westside Ballet since she was six and performed as a soloist in “Classical Symphony” and in the contemporary piece “Murmurations.” Isabelle, a 9th grader at Windward School, reflects on a pivotal moment in her ballet journey: “Entering the upper division was transformative for me. It pushed me to internalize corrections and work harder, helping me grow significantly as a dancer.”

Honoring Legends and Showcasing New Talent

The Spring Showcases on May 17 and 18 presented a curated celebration of Westside Ballet’s storied past, vibrant present, and promising future. The showcases featured performances by young talents like Hadley Hill, Evelyn Choy, and Isabelle Choy, alongside excerpts from classical ballets and innovative contemporary works. Noteworthy is the 11-year-old prodigious Spencer Collins, a recent YAGP double winner, performed his award winning solo from “Flames of Paris.”

Spencer Collins, winner of the 2024 YAGP Finals pre-competitive age group in both classical and contemporary categories, brings his award-winning talent to the stage. Spencer recently performed a classical solo at Westside Ballet’s Spring Performances May 17-18. Photo by LK Studios.

Of the 91 student and pre-professional company dancers, 37 live or go to school in Santa Monica. This includes soloists such as Sophie Wilson from Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences, Nadia Hofer from Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences, Billie Dane and Bella Shriver from New Roads School, and others, reflecting the strong local connection and diverse educational backgrounds of Westside Ballet’s dancers.

A Star-Studded Gala

The Gala on May 18th honored Patricia Neary with a Lifetime Achievement Award, celebrating her influence on American ballet and Westside Ballet students. The event featured  American Ballet Theatre principal dancers Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside performing the timeless “Black Swan” pas de deux by Marius Petipa. Guest artists Andrea Laššáková and Adrian Blake Mitchell performed the pas de deux from George Balanchine’s  contemporary masterpiece “Agon,” set to Stravinsky’s evocative score.

Alumni stars Lucia Connolly, Lyrica Woodruff, and Joy Womack  graced the stage, performing 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.

A Tribute to Founders and a Vision for the Future

The 50th Anniversary Spring Showcase was dedicated to founders Yvonne Mounsey and Rosemary Valaire, that featured performances of Mounsey’s “Classical Symphony” and Valaire’s staging of “Sleeping Beauty.” The program also included a diverse repertoire of dance, such as Vanessa van Wormer’s contemporary work in collaboration with Santa Monica College, Caprice Walker’s “Fête de Carnivale,” and Michele Bachar Mendicelli’s jazz and ballet pieces.

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.

Summer Training and Camps

Westside Ballet has multiple exciting summer offerings for students. Young dancers ages 4-6 can participate in one week camps that are themed to bring favorite storybook and ballet characters to life. The first week of the Children’s camps will be a Peter Pan theme. There are multiple programs and workshops for dancers 7-19. Photo by Anne Slattery

Westside has multiple exciting summer offerings for students. Young dancers ages 4-6 can participate in one week camps that are themed to bring favorite storybook and ballet characters to life. The first week of the Children’s camps will be a Peter Pan theme. There are multiple programs and workshops for dancers 7-19. Westside’s esteemed faculty helps grow not only the technique of the students but their love for dance and the arts. Additionally, there will be workshops taught by current and former stars of New York City Ballet.

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