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Tiler Peck Hosts 'Dance Talks' Zoom Q&A For West Coast Legacy School Founded By Yvonne Mounsey

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Tiler Peck Hosts 'Dance Talks' Zoom Q&A For West Coast Legacy School Founded By Yvonne Mounsey

Tiler Peck, the renowned New York City Ballet Principal, actress, choreographer, designer, curator, and now children's book author, offered to support Westside School of Ballet by hosting their online "Dance Talks" series -- scheduled for Saturday, June 6 @2pm Pacific Time. The Q&A will be hosted on Zoom at $5 and will host up to 300 guests.

When Ms. Peck heard her former training facility had launched a Crisis Relief Campaign, '1500 Angels,' she reached out to Westside Ballet's owner and Executive Director, Allegra Clegg, the daughter of Yvonne Mounsey - the former New York City Ballet principal Ballerina who co-founded the prestigious West Coast training facility in 1967 with Royal Ballet's Rosemary Valaire. Westside Ballet is Los Angeles' oldest and most successful public ballet school, celebrating its 53st anniversary, and in it's 12th week of offering over 50 online ballet online classes a week, as well as their weekly "Dance Talks" series. The ballet school is operating at an expense budget of a third of their normal operating costs, yet is not in a financial position to stay closed beyond July 5th. However, no definitive date has been yet determined by LA County's Board of Supervisors.

The volunteer Guild and the nonprofit company's Board of Directors launched their Crisis Relief Campaign with an appeal video, '1500 Angels,' which presents notable alumni now dancing professionally, asking for support to keep the studio afloat during this unprecedented time. The campaign was launched on May 5th for 'Giving Tuesday Now.' So far they have raised just over 50% of their estimated minimum funds needed to stay in business.

Ms. Peck recently developed and currently produces a daily ballet class, #TurnItOutWithTiler, initially aimed at helping people stay connected and moving during the COVID-19 pandemic. The show's down-to-earth tone, coupled with its very necessary purpose, attracted the attention of A-list ballet enthusiasts like Jennifer Garner, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kelly Ripa, Jennifer Nettles, Leslie Odom Jr. and more who all recently guested on the show. In addition, Ms. Peck's first children's book 'Katarina' Ballerina, co-authored by Kyle Harris, was published on May 5, 2020 from Simon & Schuster. "With the universal language of dance as a backdrop, the title character, Katarina, learns that with hard work and determination everything is possible and the qualities that make us different can often be our biggest strengths."

Online Ballet Classes

Westside Ballet's Zoom adult ballet and fitness classes are open to the public at a nominal fee of $10 - and there are several free Instagram Livestream classes weekly.

Notable alumni stepped forward to join the fold, including: international guest star Joy Womack, recently with Boston Ballet and the first American to be accepted to the Bolshoi Ballet; Joffrey Ballet's Lucia Connolly; and the 2018 Spotlight Dance Finalist Shelby Tzung, recently accepted to the National Ballet of Canada whilst deferring her acceptance to Harvard. Special guest teachers also included current New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin. The regular Westside staff of teaching faculty are all mostly teaching from home situations, but some are filming from the studio with a skeleton crew, including Master Ballet teacher to the professionals, Nader Hamed, whose studio classes drew 40-50 per class several times a week.

Westside's "Dance Talk" series simultaneously moved online, with esteemed alumni--such as Melissa Barak (former dancer with New York City Ballet and Barak Ballet Artistic Director) , Nicole Haskins (Smuin Contemporary Ballet), Giorgia Martelloni-Zabriskie (Dance Theatre of Harlem, Balletto di Roma), Molly Novak (Boston Ballet)--giving talks about choreography and professional dance experiences. Associate Artistic Director, Francine Kessler Lavac, has invited several esteemed ballet influencers to the mix, such as: Jeri Gaile, the Director of The Music Center Spotlight Program; Victoria Morgan, artistic director of the Cincinnati Ballet; and quantum physicist and ballerina, Dr. Merritt Moore. The "Dance Talk" series first kicked off at the school's studios in November, 2014, with alumna Jenna Elfman. Ms. Clegg says: "We created the Dance Talks series to spread the message about the value of dance and other classical arts, and what that can bring to the community and especially our children."

Still No Clear Date for Re-Opening

Ms. Clegg and the administrators at the school in Santa Monica have been reaching out to city and government officials about the clear path for opening. Although they have received positive feedback from officials such as State Senator Ben Allen's office, there is still no direct determination for the date they can open the studio.

Ms. Clegg states, "We are a career training facility that is essential for future job growth. The health and safety of our faculty and students is of the utmost importance to us, and we are committed to making it a priority. We are reevaluating every aspect of our existing operation to incorporate operational safeguards for all participants. While the exact reopening date remains uncertain, we wish to work closely with the city, county and state representatives to recognize Westside School of Ballet as a career training facility that produces professional dancers. Westside Ballet is far more than fitness; it is a career training academy for young pre-professional dancers and therefore an essential part of the students' career trajectory."

Community Engagement

According to Ms. Clegg, engaging with the community is a priority for Westside. "Since our inception, we have offered affordable performances and donated thousands of tickets to deserving community organizations This year we are pleased to announce a new partnership with the Boys and Girls Club in Santa Monica where we are now offering ballet class as part of their after school program. We offer a free 'Dance Talks' enrichment series throughout the year in which guest lecturers give informal talks on the many attributes of dance in a child's life."

Every Holiday Season, approximately one thousand elementary grade students in the Santa Monica-Malibu and the Los Angeles Unified School districts are treated to private, abbreviated presentations of The Nutcracker. The company also offers preview performance to local Veterans and members of many charities and organizations such as: PAL (Santa Monica Police Activities League), Taking the Reins, Neighborhood Youth Association, Allies for Every Child, Vet Tix, Venice Family Clinic, Everybody Dance, A Place called Home, Community Corp of Santa Monica, Virginia Avenue Park, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Monica.

Photo Credit: Erin Baiano



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