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Westside Ballet Of Santa Monica's KINGDOM OF THE SWEETS Streaming Through December 31

Proceeds will support the Crisis Relief Fund to save Yvonne Mounsey's legacy.

Westside Ballet Of Santa Monica's KINGDOM OF THE SWEETS Streaming Through December 31

For 47 consecutive years, Southern California's longest running production of The Nutcracker has delighted audiences of all ages. This year in the age of Covid - with renewed determination, grace, and grit - Westside Ballet of Santa Monica brought to life selected pieces from Tchaikovsky's beloved score for all to enjoy, albeit in different ways--virtually and also outdoors.

"Kingdom of the Sweets," Westside Ballet's abbreviated 2020 Nutcracker, is now being showcased on Vimeo through to December 31st. Several beloved characters: the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, the Dew Drop Fairy, the vibrant Arabian, Soldier and Doll, were brought together, yet while staying apart.

In addition, to benefit Westside Ballet's Crisis Relief Fund, on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1st, the pre-professional ballet company released archival Nutcracker footage from past productions, as well as previously recorded dress rehearsals of selected solo roles performed by six high school seniors - filmed in an open aired 'Black Box' while the dancers were wearing masks and observing all Covid safety protocols. The company raised over $7,000 during the week towards their larger campaign goal of the $250,000 campaign -- which has thus far raised over $180,000 in the past nine months. These full-length Nutcracker dances will be available on Westside Ballet's public Vimeo showcase for limited access during the month of December.

Yvonne Mounsey's daughter, Allegra Clegg, wrote an end of year Letter of Gratitude to the community, commending the efforts of alumni such as Tiler Peck who stood up to help raise the funds to keep the legacy of Yvonne Mounsey alive for generations of ballet students to come.

"One thing is certain: dancers will always find a way to dance. A dancer's passion for their craft continues to grow and adapt in the face of any adversity," states Westside's Artistic Director Martine Harley. "This has truly been an extraordinary time, but you cannot quarantine a soul. Our advanced dancers have continued expressing themselves physically and emotionally through their music and movement.

"There is no doubt that we have all been challenged throughout 2020. Westside Ballet was committed to find a way to continue to share the beauty and joy of dance -- and also to provide our graduating high school seniors an opportunity to perform their dream roles. So, until our resilience is rewarded and when we can perform again for audiences... we decided to present an abbreviated version of the Nutcracker this year to our community -- and that in itself is reason to celebrate!"

Volunteer Guild President Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein states, "I can honestly state that for our close-knit ballet community, the magic of Westside's Nutcracker tradition has helped keep spirits and hopes alive during this unprecedented local, national, and worldwide health crisis. We were so thankful for our loyal audiences (who have attended our sold-out performances year after year at the world class Broad Stage) tuned in to Vimeo for our Virtual Nutcracker as well as on Giving Tuesday to enjoy clips of archival footage and specially selected recent solo rehearsals previously filmed in an open-aired setting.

Santa Monica resident Maya Zeevi, who started at Westside School of Ballet at age 5, was filmed dancing the coveted role of the Sugar Plum Fairy for her second time since she debuted in the role in the abbreviated Nutcracker Suite in 2019.

"Kingdom of the Sweets" also features one of several outstanding young male cast members from Westside School of Ballet's thriving 'Boys Ballet' Division. Santa Monica resident Zane Tahvildaran Jesswein (17), a Senior at Santa Monica High School, appears in his 8th and final Nutcracker performance, debuting in the principal male role as The Sugar Plum Fairy's Cavalier. (Because of physical distancing protocols, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier did not dance the pas de deux.)

Stella Grynberg (17), a Senior mathematics whiz at Archer School for Girls, performs also both the role of the Dew Drop Fairy and as Sugar Plum. "This unconventional performance of The Nutcracker illustrates my burning passion and love for ballet that I would not let die down during this pandemic. With the grit I have gained from 11 years of ballet training, I refused to stop dancing during the lockdown, and dancing in a mask is second-nature now," states Grynberg.

Other participating seniors are: Samara Koseff (Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences) who stars in the formidable Arabian role, re-choreographed with cultural sensitivity; Zoe Singh (Marymount High School) also performs as Dew Drop Fairy; and new to Westside, Natalia Burns, commuting from San Juan Capistrano, debuted also dancing in the role of Arabian - as well as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Pieces performed in "Kingdom of the Sweets" are drawn from Westside Ballet's original Nutcracker, a close rendition of George Balanchine's classical Nutcracker ballet, which in turn pays homage to Marius Petipa's original production in 19th-Century Russia--whilst also taking inspiration from the romanticist E.T.A. Hoffmann's "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King." Westside Ballet's co-founder Yvonne Mounsey danced professionally with George Balanchine, as one of his original New York City Ballet's prima ballerinas. Mounsey brought the Holiday Classic to Southern California in 1973 while adding a few touches of her own artistic choreography.

Many professional dancers have made their stage debuts in Westside's Nutcracker. A few of them include: Monique Meunier (NYCB, ABT); Anna Liceica (ABT); Joy Womack (Bolshoi Ballet and Kremlin Ballet Theater); Martine Harley (Houston Ballet); Melissa Barak (NYCB, Los Angeles Ballet, Barak Ballet); Stayce Camparo (Kansas City Ballet); Andrew Veyette (NYCB); and Francis Veyette (Pennsylvania Ballet). Among the newest are: Shelby Tzung (National Ballet of Canada); Lucia Connolly (Joffrey Ballet); Molly Novak (Semperoper Ballett, Boston Ballet); Severina Wong (Ballet West II); Giorgia Martelloni-Zabriskie (Dance Theater of Harlem); and Lyrica Brielle Blankfein who dances on Broadway in Anastasia the Musical.

This production is made possible in part by grants from Los Angeles County, the City of Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades Woman's Club -- and sponsorships from local Santa Monica individuals, businesses, and organizations such as Santa Monica College Public Policy Institute, The Huntley Hotel, Lyft Scooters, Urth Caffe, Morley Builders, and more. WSB is extremely grateful for this continued support of the arts in Santa Monica.

Launched in March during the first shutdown, this immense fundraising serves to keep the school and studios from closing permanently, whilst operating on a skeleton staff. Currently, there are limited online offerings and outside classes running at 25% occupancy. Donations will enable Westside to harness the latest technology enabling them to provide even more virtual instruction to adults and children. All donations to the fund will go directly to sustaining Westside Ballet's extraordinary team of dancers, artistic and support staff. The fund has raised an astounding $180,000 - recently surpassing their original goal of $150,000. The 'Ask' to the community has since been raised to $250,000 - as the original amount was set to cover losses during the first three months of shutdown and the subsequent expectant few months of limited studio classes. As the pandemic is spiking and Westside Ballet is now in their eight month of limited access to studios, utilizing an outdoor dance space and online Zoom classes, the Board of Directors voted to increase the Crisis Relief amount requested, to further ensure the school, in it's 53rd year, will be poised to weather the uncertainty of the pandemic and offer the legendary instruction Westside Ballet has become known for for years to come.

The "Kingdom of the Sweets" Virtual Performance was presented on Vimeo on Friday December 18th and will remain online through the end of December, here: https://vimeo.com/492620318

For Giving Tuesday, specially selected archival Nutcracker performances, along with previously filmed rehearsal solo performances of Westside's graduating high school seniors, were released over a ten hour period. These will remain on Westside Ballet's Public Showcase until January 1st. Available here: https://vimeo.com/showcase/6997255

All proceeds from these fundraising efforts will go towards the Westside Ballet Crisis Relief Fund. Westside is looking to engage 1500 Angels to Save Westside School of Ballet.

Crisis Relief URL: https://westsideballet.com/save-our-school/

Photo: Westside Ballet dancer Zane Tahvildaran Jesswein dances Sugar Plum Cavalier en mask, in an open-air Black Box for Westside Ballet's Virtual Nutcracker.  Photo by Todd Lechtick.


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