Pacific Palisades resident Allegra Clegg, who is the owner of the Westside School of Ballet, was named as Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce 2023 Women’s Health and Wellness winner. Clegg will be honored at a Chamber Gala on April 29.
The Westside School of Ballet was started by her mother Yvonne Mounsey in 1967. Her mother was a former principal dancer with New York City ballet and danced the lead in numerous ballets for George Balachine.
Clegg said she continues her mother’s mission not only of dance, but also “To grow great adults.”
In an interview with LA Events (“She’s Building Bright Futures in Santa Monica”), Clegg said that ballet was an integral part of her childhood. “For me just being in a ballet class and hearing the beautiful classical music and learning appreciation and discipline of an art form was invaluable. Through ballet I learned how things that are difficult at first, can eventually be conquered with focus, support, guidance and dedication.”
As an adult, she started working in the business side at Westside, helping to raise funds for scholarships. In a May 28, 2020, interview with Circling the News, she spoke of the difficulty of keeping the studio going during Covid. “Never in our 53 years have we closed our doors or cancelled a performance.
“It is so depressing to think that this amazing arts institution could close our doors forever,” she said. “We are a small business – the money that comes in goes out to pay the teachers, pianists and front desk staff,” as well as rent.
“There is little to no profit, and I personally don’t take a salary or any profit from the school,” Clegg said. “I have kept the school going because I know how important it is to our community in developing kids into great adults that will contribute to our society.
“Dancers learn discipline, hard work and grace,” she said. “They learn that nothing comes easy – you have to work hard for things and there are disappointments in life. Westside teaches these life lessons through the rigor of ballet.”
Even as other businesses shut down, Clegg managed to keep the school open through Zoom classes, special relief grants, community and alumni support, and innovative fundraisers, such as a “drive-in movie,” which featured a film of dancers performing.
Before Covid, the school would treat about 2,000 kids, including 1,000 kids from the inner city to see The Nutcracker Ballet Suite. The tradition is now back because it is an important part of the school’s outreach.
In an interview, Clegg spoke about the value of introducing kids to ballet. “One curious child asked, ‘Why don’t you talk?’ and it’s those moments that a deeper dialogue and window are opened in a young child’s mind to think about and explore, what art is and why it’s important, allowing them to see things in a completely different way.”
Clegg, who is the executive vice president of physical production at Paramount Pictures, said her mother instilled important values for dancers, such as you show up on time, you dress neatly, and you work hard. “Even if you never become a professional dancer, you’re going to keep working n the skills necessary and not be afraid to try again.”
The Westside Ballet School has an amazing spring dance performance in May at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. This year, the program “Masters of Movement: Ballet through the Centuries” will be held May 26 and 27. The event generally sells out, so purchase tickets early. Visit: westsideballet.com.