Westside Ballet will host a special May 7 performance, with guest dancers not normally seen in Santa Monica. Three dancers, who have recently left Russia will perform.
Adrian Blake Mitchell and Andrea Lassakova, of the Mikahailovsky Ballet, will perform in “A Petite Soiree.”
Also fleeing Russia was Joy Womack, who was the first American female to be invited to dance under contract with the Bolshoi Ballet. She will perform “Spring Waters” with Mitchell.
Mitchell, who was born in Texas, lived on Via de la Paz in Pacific Palisades for a year, where he began his ballet training at the Westside Ballet.
He continued his training in the U.S. and was offered a contract as an elite dancer with the Mikhailovsky Ballet. He moved to Russia in 2015, where he has lived and performed for the past seven years.
In February, after the invasion of Ukraine, he and dancer Andrea Lassakova resigned their positions and tried to leave the country.
Flights were cancelled, and they were unable to take a bus or train, so they took a cab to the Estonian border, where they were stopped. Lassakova has a Slovakian passport and Mitchell, an American passport.
The Russian plain clothes secret police officer asked Mitchell why he was leaving Russia, what caused his decision. Did he like Russia?
Mitchell, who is fluent in Russian pretended like he did not speak the language well, hoping the officer would let him go.
Eventually the two were allowed to cross.
In a social media post Mitchell wrote “This move had been in the works prior to the invasion of Ukraine but driving to the Estonian border and walking across before making our way int Tallinn, and even more importantly, witnessing the death and destruction that has been brought on Ukraine has all but soured my entire experience.
“I fell in love with Russian, and its people, despite its flaws. Many people and experiences that I had there are still near and dear to may heart. Many people mention that arts shouldn’t mix with politics. This is impossible. Art has always been a mirror for the best and worst of human nature.
“If you are going to pray for someone, or think of someone, or hold space for someone, please do so for the Ukrainian people. But I also implore you to have compassion for the Russian, many of who I know are kind-hearted, caring, wonderful people who are against the bloodshed with every fiber of their being.
“Many have spoken out, and I commend them for their bravery, as I personally was not comfortable posting until I was out of Russia. Treason is being threatened to artists, and free speech is not a reality for those still inside of Russia.”
Mitchell has partnered with world class ballerinas including Polina Semionova and Angelina Vorontsova. He has also been featured in Vogue Paris and modeled for British Designer Gareth Pugh.
Since 2020 he has served as the Artistic Director of the charitable foundation “Dance in Color”, a non-profit organization that he cofounded to promote equity, accessibility, and inclusion in the professional dance industry.
In an 2014 interview with the NYC Dance Project, Mitchell said, “I’ve had the most unorthodox training that you could imagine. All of my friends have had a private coach for five years or in a big school for a bunch of years, or a private coach and a big school – and then straight into that company. There are many different ways of training that people go through, and mine’s not one of them. It wasn’t until we settled down that I started to love dance. My mom was in law school as a single mother, so for a year I had to go live with my grandparents. The only studio near their house was recreational, and it was once a week, but I was able to attend a private Waldorf school.”
In addition to the dancers who recently left Russia, also performing will be Lyrica Woodruff, who starred on Broadway in “Anastasia.” She has performed at The Kennedy Center and on several television series. She will partner with professional dancer and choreography Mate Szentes in Balanchine’s’ signature “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.”
There are limited tickets ($75) available for the Saturday, May 7 show. At 6 p.m., there will be “A Petite Soiree” reception and awards, followed by the 7:30 p.m. performance.
On Sunday, May 8, at 2 p.m., there will be Westside Ballet student performances, so people can enjoy the dancers of the future. Tickets are $45.
Tickets may be purchased at www.westsideballet.com or by phone (additional fees apply) at (800) 595-4849 (4TIX).The Broad Stage at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center is located at 1310 11th Street.
Mitchell has been quoted as saying, “Ballet is not easily accessible. That’s one thing I’d love to change, to get it out there.”
He has just made world class dancers performing for Westside residents readily available.