Two Great Nights of Ballet, May 26 and 27, at the Broad

New York City has American Ballet, New York City Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Joffrey, Alvin Ailey, Paul Taylor and Martha Graham and this editor wisely, or not, bought tickets using money from waitress tips.

Moving to Los Angeles, one assumed there would be quality dance companies, but this editor was surprised to find few in residence. Ballet companies that came here were generally touring companies. It seemed it was easier to get tickets for Disney on Ice than to see professional ballet.

Westside Ballet of Santa Monica, is slowly changing that, with international stars performing on Friday of Memorial Day weekend.

Westside will host its annual Soiree at the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage on May 26, in Santa Monica. The event will include cocktails and appetizers, provided by Urth Caffe and Bar by the Huntley Hotel.

The Friday Soirée and Saturday Showcase performances will open with a staging of the Grade Defile, which will introduce all of Westside dancers from the youngest and newest to the ‘étoiles’.

Andrea Lassakova and Adrian Blake Mitchell will perform at the Soiree.

International dancing stars Adrian Blake Mitchell and Andrea Lassakova will perform in a one-night-only guest appearance on Friday.

The duo will perform Westside’s premiere of After the Rain, by choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, set to live music by pianist Nathan Ben-Yehuda and violinist Misha Vay. This is a reprisal of their performance with their fellow Russian exiles at Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center’s November “Reunited in Dance” Gala.

One year ago Mitchell and Lassakova had left their careers in St. Petersburg as soloists with Mikhailovsky Theatre Ballet Company, at the onset of the Ukrainian invasion – fleeing for their lives.

Mitchell, who was born in Texas, lived on Via de la Paz in Pacific Palisades for a year, and began his ballet training at Westside Ballet.

He continued his training in New York with Ellison Ballet.  Mitchell was recognized for his talent and invited to join the graduating class of the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg: the first black American to attend. He then joined the Mikhailovsky Ballet. He moved to Russia in 2015, where he resided until fleeing in 2022.

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.

Adrian Mitchell and Andrea Lassakova
Photo: Vikki Sloviter

In 2020, Mr. Mitchell co-founded the charitable foundation “Dance in Color,” a non-profit promoting equity, accessibility, and inclusion in the professional dance industry.  Dance in Color has collaborated with Westside Ballet to help identify prospective dancers of color for scholarships. Through a joint effort in August 2022, a free ballet workshop dubbed “Dance to Dreams,”  introduced 28 under-served children from the greater LA area to ballet at Westside School of Ballet.

Andrea Laššákova danced as a Demi-soloist at the Slovak National Ballet and the Finnish National Ballet, before joining the Mikhailovsky and dancing the dual role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Gamzatti in La Bayadere, Queen of Dryads in Don Quixote, Myrtha in Giselle, and Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty. She is simply an exquisite dancer.

Westside also has four elite young male dancers— Dylan Weinstein (16), Sawyer Jordan (16) Evan Hull (14) and Spencer Collins (10). These young men, who were coached by Mitchell, were recognized as some of the best in the nation after receiving top placement at the Youth America Grand Prix.

Weinstein and Jordan will dance in variations in the classic Raymonda in both performances. In the Friday Soirée, Jordan will perform a solo from Satanella, and Weinstein a solo from Grand Pas Classique.

Friday’s program will conclude with Balanchine’s Stars & Stripes Pas de Deus with guest artists Maté Szentes, and Westside Ballet alumna Lyrica Woodruff.

Szentes has danced with Richmond Ballet, American Contemporary Ballet and Barak Ballet. He continues to dance as a freelance guest artist with companies around the world.

Woodruff, was born in Pacific Palisades, and destined to be a dancer, because her sister was dancing at Westside Ballet, the day Woodruff was born.

Woodruff trained at the Westside Ballet and the School of American Ballet where she received the Mae L. Wein Award for Outstanding Promise. She won the Chita Rivera Award for her dancing in Broadway’s Finian’s Rainbow. She has danced at The Kennedy Center in Little Dancer with Tiler Peck, and continued in that production, now titled Marie, Dancing Still. She has performed on Broadway in Anastasia, the Musical.

The Friday, May 26, Soirée reception and awards will start at 6 p.m., followed by the 8 pm “Masters of Movement.” Tickets for the Soiree are $100-$300 and may be purchased online at click here or by phone (additional fees apply) at (800) 595-4849 (4TIX). Look for an upcoming preview of the May 27 show. Tickets on Saturday are $45.

Matt Szentes and Lyrica Woodruff
Photo: Anne Slattery

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One Response to Two Great Nights of Ballet, May 26 and 27, at the Broad

  1. Diane Bleak says:

    This is so worth supporting. West side Ballet is an icon
    in Los Angeles for Dance. One of the few dance studios that
    survived the pandemic. Westside ballet is the best place to take
    ballet lessons in all of Los Angeles for any age group.
    What a special event.

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