Calabasas dancer shines at performanceFree Access

TINY DANCER–Sofia Strausser, a seventh-grader from Calabasas, performs in the May 15 special show.       Courtesy of Todd Lechtick

Calabasas resident Sofia Strauser and a troupe of 60 ballet students appeared May 15 in a series of studio workshop performances for friends and family that marked the post-pandemic return of Westside School of Ballet.

The private shows also served as a final bow for seniors moving on to collegiate and professional careers.

Sofia is one of the younger dancers, a 12-year-old seventh grader at St. Mel School in Woodland Hills. She also enjoys singing and drawing. Her main academic interests are math and science.

Sofia said after college she aspires to be a neurosugeon.

During the spring of 2020, when the studios would normally be abuzz with dancers of all ages, the Santa Monica-based ballet school was forced to shut down. But using Zoom technology and social media outlets such as Instagram, the instructors at Westside still were able to conduct more than 50 ballet and conditioning classes each week.

An outdoor dance studio was constructed in fall 2020. Each week, classes are still held virtually for all to see and know that the beauty of dance and the arts will not be vanquished.

In last weekend’s workshop, Westside Ballet continued to honor world-renowned choreographer George Balanchine–– alongside many other classical musicians, choreographers and dancers––with a black box performance at the school’s upgraded Theater Studio Six.

The production was professionally filmed, and excerpts were released on social media. The full show will be available for a public viewing in early summer.

Spotlight selections included solo pieces from classics including “Sleeping Beauty,” “Swan Lake” and “Don Quixote.” Sofia appeared as one of the fairie in “Sleeping Beauty.”

Also presented was a Westside Ballet premiere of excerpts from “Donizetti Variations” with music by Gaetano Donizetti and original choreography by George Balanchine.

Classic met contemporary with a clever combination of musical styles as the program closed with Michele Bachar Mendicelli’s lively and fun jazz piece “Swing,” featuring the stylings of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Bette Midler and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

Prior to the pandemic, Westside Ballet provided about $100,000 in scholarships annually. The dance school, founded in 1967, established an endowment fund to expand both merit and need-based scholarships.

Acorn staff report