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Westside Ballet Alumni Leave Russian Ballet Companies: Perform in Santa Monica May 7th & 'Dance Talks' April 28th.

Westside alumnus Adrian Blake Mitchell performs in Oleg Vinogradov's stirring Barber's Adagio at Westside Ballet's A Petite Soirée, Saturday, May 7, 2022.

Westside Ballet Alumni Leave Russian Ballet Companies: Perform in Santa Monica May 7th & 'Dance Talks' April 28th.
Photo: Ira Yakovleva

Five Accomplished Alumni & Guest Artists travel far and wide for Westside Ballet's Special Performance celebrating 'New Horizons' on Mother's Day Weekend. Three after fleeing from Russia.

Westside alumnus Adrian Blake Mitchell performs in Oleg Vinogradov's stirring Barber's Adagio at Westside Ballet's A Petite Soirée, Saturday, May 7, 2022. Accompanying Mr. Mitchell will be his Slovakian partner, Andrea Laššáková.

Mr. Mitchell and Ms. Laššákova danced as soloists with Mikhailovsky Theatre Ballet Company until they recently left the company, and Russia, in a move spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In an Instagram post announcing their departure from the company, Mitchell stated, "I fell in love with Russia, and its people, despite its flaws." He and Ms. Laššákova, partners on stage and off, decided to expedite their decision to leave the country once being an American in Russia became unsafe and rumors about Russia inciting martial law began to circulate. In a matter of two days, the dancers packed up their belongings and crossed the Estonian border by foot. They have made their way to the United States-where on April 9th, 2022, the pair performed at the "iHeartDance NYC: Benefit for Ukraine fundraiser."

Adrian Blake Mitchell began his serious ballet training at the age of 14 in Los Angeles with Yuri Grigoriev and at Westside Ballet under the direction of Yvonne Mounsey. From 2012-2014 Mitchell studied at the Ellison Ballet Professional training program under the tutelage of Edward Ellison to whom he credits most of his artistic and technical growth. In 2014 Mitchell was invited to join the graduating class of the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, one of the worlds oldest and most prestigious institutions.His professional career began in 2015 when he joined the Mikhailovsky Ballet Company, one of the last Imperial Theaters of the Russian Empire. At Mikhailovsky Ballet, he was promoted to First Soloist in 2020, performing in featured roles such as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, The High Brahmin in La Bayadère, and in principal roles in several contemporary repertoire, such as Nacho Duato's White Darkness, Duato's Duende, Prelude, and Multiplicity in forms of Silence and Emptiness. Since 2020, Mr. Mitchell has served as the Artistic Director of the charitable foundation “Dance in Color”, a non-profit organization that he co- founded to promote equity, accessibility, and inclusion in the professional dance industry.

Andrea Laššákova exclusively trained with the Eva Jacz Dance Conservatory in Bratislava, Slovakia. Before joining Mitchell at Mikhailovsky Ballet Company in 2015, she danced as a semi-soloist at the Slovak National Ballet and the Finnish National Ballet.

Along with Mr. Mitchell, California native Joy Womack was the second Westside Ballet alum having to abruptly flee her professional life in Russia. She was grateful her alma mater immediately booked her to perform at the May 7th event, as well as teach Master Classes at Westside School of Ballet. Ms. Womack will perform Spring Waters with Mr. Mitchell. She will also perform the Solo from La Esmeralda. On social media, Ms. Womack wrote, "In this tough moment my heart goes out to all of my beautiful Ukrainian and Russian friends and fellow artists. I pray for everyone who has been affected by this terrible situation."

These three artists will also be offering "Dance Talks" April 28th at Westside Ballet, to share about their experiences fleeing from the war. This informal evening is co-sponsored with Santa Monica College's Public Policy Institute.

Joy Womack began her serious training with Yvonne Mounsey at Westside School of Ballet in 1999. In 2012, Ms. Womack made international headlines by becoming the first American female to be invited to dance under contract with the Bolshoi Ballet, where she danced as a soloist. She went on to perform as a principal dancer with Kremlin Ballet Theater in Moscow and Universal Ballet in Seoul, Korea, then joined the Boston Ballet in 2019. Recently she performed with the Astrakhan Opéra and Ballet in Russia as a principal dancer and assistant to the Artistic Director. Ms. Womack's life is the subject of two recent film projects. "Joy Womack: The White Swan," a documentary directed by Dina Burlis, Danila Kuznetsov, and Sergey Gavrilov, was released in late 2021. "Joika," a biopic based on Ms. Womack's time in Russia, has been announced by New Zealand filmmakers James Napier Robertson and Tom Hern, and to star Talia Ryder.

Performing Balanchine's signature Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux with acclaimed guest artists Maté Szentes, Westside Ballet alumna Lyrica Woodruff, of Broadway Anastasia fame, was a protégé of Yvonne Mounsey's, training at Westside Ballet and the School of American Ballet where she received the Mae L. Wein Award for Outstanding Promise. Ms. Woodruff went on to win the prestigious 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, in Washington, following an illustrious run on Broadway in Anastasia, the Musical. Ms. Woodruff has also appeared in numerous television series' including "Bunheads" and "Private Practice."

Professional dancer and choreographer Maté Szentes will accompany Ms. Woodruff in Balanchine's signature Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. Mr. Szentes has danced with Richmond Ballet and American Contemporary Ballet, as well as Barak Ballet. ("Hungarian-born firebrand Maté Szentes who spun, jumped ... impish with a bravura attack, was a disruptive force thoroughly enjoying his BLACK SWAN-like otherness." -Los Angeles Times)

Recently Mr. Szentes rehearsed in the Westside Ballet studios with New York City Ballet luminary Patricia Neary, resident Balanchine Trust répétiteur: "It's not every day you get to work with living legends but today was one of those. Pat Neary is truly inspiring and just to be in her presence is a privilege. Very excited to be performing Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux for Westside Ballet's Spring Soirée on May 7th at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica," shared Mr. Szentes.

In their first Spring Performance since June 2019, Westside Ballet of Santa Monica reaches beyond its traditional realm to explore "New Horizons'' on Mother's Day Weekend. On Saturday eve, May 7th, the company celebrates a springtide return to the Broad Stage with A Petite Soirée, a special event featuring cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and acclaimed guest artists and alumni. On Sunday, May 8, the festivities continue with a champagne reception for Mother's Day and an encore of the "New Horizons'' Spring Performance (sans the guest artist performances, exclusive to the Soirée special event).

Saturday, May 7, 2022, 6 pm: "A Petite Soirée" reception and awards, followed by the 7:30 pm "New Horizons" with special performances; -and- Sunday, May 8, 2022, 2 pm: "New Horizons" Spring Performance. Both at The Broad Stage at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, 1310 11th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Sunday tickets are $45. "A Petite Soirée" Saturday reception and special performance are $75. Tickets for this must-see dance event of the season may be purchased online at www.westsideballet.com/springtix or by phone (additional fees apply) at (800) 595-4849 (4TIX).

Thursday, April 28, 6 pm Reception and 7 pm Q&A: "Dance Talks" with Joy Womack, Adrian Blake Mitchell and Andrea Laššáková. At Westside Ballet, 1709 Stewart Street, Santa Monica, CA. The alumni and guest artists will share their experiences fleeing from the war. This informal evening is co-sponsored with Santa Monica College's Public Policy Institute and is open to the public.

Spring Performance Safety Measures: Safety protocols are still required by the Broad Stage, Santa Monica College, and LA County Dept. of Health. All audience members will be required to show proof of vaccination, or, if not vaccinated, proof of a negative COVID PCR test taken no more than 48 hours before the performance. All audience members, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear masks at all times inside the theatre. Please visit westsideballet.com/spring-showcase-safety-measures/ for our most current protocol, which is subject to change.




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