Los Angeles Ballet’s “A Chance to Dance” community classes transition to Instagram

By Katherine Brubaker

Los Angeles Ballet soloist Laura Chachich directs the West LA-based dance company’s “A Chance to Dance” free ballet class series
Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Ballet

The dance world has been thrown for a loop with the COVID-19 pandemic. With in-person dance classes being limited, dancers have had to reconstruct their approach to dancing together. To adapt, classes have moved to outside studio spaces and online.

Los Angeles Ballet (LAB) dancers running “A Chance to Dance,” an outreach program meant to bring dance to the LA community, have done just this by hosting live classes over Instagram, then posting the footage on their Instagram page.

“A Chance to Dance” was created in 2012 by LAB’s founding executive director Julie Whittaker and one of LAB’s former principal ballerinas, Allynne Noelle. Laura Chachich, a soloist with LAB, took over the program in 2015 as director. She has been spearheading the program ever since.

Chachich explained that prior to COVID-19, “A Chance to Dance” events included community days hosted one Sunday a month during LAB’s season. They would be hosted at Los Angeles Ballet Center on Exposition Boulevard in West Los Angeles and be taught by current professional ballet dancers for free. Classes would start at 11 a.m. and run until 2 or 3 in the afternoon.

“A Chance to Dance” tries to provide classes for all ages and skill levels. “We would start out the day with a children’s creative movement class, move to body conditioning, more like a Pilates or yoga, and then we would have our core ballet classes. We would have the youth level, intermediate level, the advanced level, and then we would often have a supplementary class, like a jazz or contemporary class,” said Chachich.

The program also includes “Behind the Ballet” seminars, which gave the community an inside look into LAB. Participants were told about the company’s repertoire, choreography, sets, costumes and got an inside look into production.

In 2019, “A Chance to Dance” expanded beyond the community days and took the program to Florence Griffith Joyner elementary school in South Los Angeles to further the program’s reach. Chachich and other dancers taught two different classes of student ballet, “which was one of the most fun experiences,” according to Chachich.

With the pandemic shutting down studios due to social distancing protocols, LAB has had to reinvent how the community participates in “A Chance to Dance.”

“We had to be creative, so we could reach the broadest audience possible. We are trying to invite people in who would not usually have the opportunity to be exposed to ballet,” said Chachich. She found that Instagram Live is the best platform on which to host the program.

“We now do events twice a month online. The classes are a little bit less – we usually have two to three classes per virtual event. We try to make each of them slightly different with different teachers and classes. It’s been really great to stay connected with the community and reach people in their homes,” said Chachich.

This adjustment with the program was not the only one Chachich has had to make. Being a professional ballet dancer who is unable to perform her craft is uncharted territory. “It’s so hard. For dancers, so much of it is about connection and that interaction with people. Now, some studios are able to open up again by wearing masks and stuff like that, but the first few months we were at home. Our company gave us squares of Marley [dance flooring], and we set them up in our homes three days a week, just to try and keep moving,” said Chachich.

Though the current circumstances have created obstacles, professional ballet dancers like Chachich have found a way to continue dancing and sharing their love for dance with the community. It seems that nothing can stop them — not even a pandemic.

The next “A Chance to Dance” happens live on Instagram from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 30. Follow @chancetodancela to follow along or visit instagram.com/chancetodancela.