Westside Ballet’s Centennial Gala honors its founder and Balanchine lineage with a world-class gathering of alumni and friends

By Christina Campodonico

Westside Ballet students rehearse George Balanchine’s ‘Serenade’
Photo by Anne Slattery

New York City Ballet principal dancer Andrew Veyette; Joy Womack, the first American to graduate from the Bolshoi’s prestigious ballet school; Venice local turned San Francisco dancer-choreographer Nicole Haskins — each traces their dance training to Santa Monica’s Westside School of Ballet.

Joined by guest artists from Miami City Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet and California Ballet, they will each perform on Saturday during a gala honoring the memory (and what would have been the 100th birthday) of late Westside School of Ballet founder, Yvonne Mounsey, an original Balanchine ballerina.

Recruited by the legendary ballet master himself into New York City Ballet, Mounsey put a stamp on such roles as the Siren in the choreographer’s “Prodigal Son” and the Dark Angel in his ethereal classic “Serenade.” In 1967 she began passing on her knowledge of Balanchine’s dances and techniques after co-founding the Westside School of Ballet with Royal Ballet dancer Rosemary Valaire.

On The Broad Stage this weekend, Veyette — “at ease in ballets by both Balanchine and Jerome Robbins” according to The New York Times — will dance with Miami City Ballet principal Lauren Fadeley in “The Man I Love” from Balanchine’s “Who Cares?,” inspired by the music of George Gershwin.

Womack will partner with California Ballet principal dancer Zachary Guthier (also a collaborator with L.A.’s Barak Ballet) for a pas de deux from the ballet “Don Quixote.” Haskins will dance a playful duet from Balanchine’s “Harlequinade” with Westside Ballet guest artist Evan Swenson. A dinner follows the performance.

The celebration continues Sunday afternoon with 80 students from Westside Ballet’s school and company performing dances from Mounsey’s “Classical Symphony,” “Dances from Faust” and “Ecossaises” as well as Balanchine’s “Serenade.” Until recently the students performed in the original’s light-blue costumes; this year, they’ll dance in the original silk skirts, but with new bodices replicated exactly after the original patterns of Balanchine’s costumer Madame Karinska.

If Saturday’s professional lineup is any indication, audiences will be catching a first glimpse of tomorrow’s leading ballet stars.

Westside Ballet’s Centennial Gala performance starts at 6 p.m. Saturday (June 8) at The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. Tickets are $85 to $120, or $195 with dinner. Westside Ballet’s Spring Performances happen at 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday (June 9), also at The Broad Stage. Tickets are $35.Call (800) 595-4849 or visit westsideballet.com.