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Dreaming of Ballet on Broadway

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Wednesday, May 06, 2009, at 04:01PM
Dream State Ed Fuentes

Robyn Gardenhire, Artistic Director and Founder of City Ballet of Los Angeles.

“That’s it girl . . . show him he isn't all that,” says choreographer Donte Phillips. He's watching over Brianna Haynes and Macros Perez in rehearsal as a couple breaking up via leaps and movement. “Yes. That move needs to be fierce,” encourages Phillips.

Robyn Gardenhire, Artistic Director and Founder of City Ballet of Los Angeles, makes mental notes as she circles around the rehearsal at Red Shield, a Salvation Army facility just blocks west of L.A. Live. She dreams of finding her dance company a permanent performance home on Broadway.

City Ballet was founded in 2000 with the goal of creating a dance company that represents the diversity of Los Angeles. It offers dance lessons for children, including many from the inner city who can attend under a City Ballet scholarship program at no cost.

The program has encouraged dance students to continue their training. This year, students Melanie May and Stephanie Leiva received summer scholarships to attend Westside Ballet, where they will be under the eyes of Artistic Director Yvonne Mounsey, a former Principal dancer of New York City Ballet.

"Westside Ballet is set up with teachers who were students that [Mounsey] taught years ago. It builds a tradition and trains the next generation,” says Gardenhire. "I feel like I am doing the same, continuing on a tradition that came before me, when Irena Kovsmaska was my teacher."

Gardenhire's connection to the Broadway theaters was sparked in her childhood. "I used to take a bus from Lynwood to Beverly Hills to dance class, and my transfer was 7th and Broadway," she recalls.

She would love to make one of those theaters City Ballet's new performance home, and has started discussions with several venues.

In the meantime, the dance company is getting set for a performance at the Ford Theater on June 6. They will be present "Peter and the Wolf Jump Cool," a version of the 1936 classical Russian ballet performed to the 1966 Verve jazz label rendition by Jimmy Smith. Gardenhire choreographed City Ballet's update on the piece.

On May 21, the company will be holding its 7th Annual Scholarship Benefit, which raises money for its programs working with school students.

Its performance schedule also lists an October engagement at the Million Dollar theater. It could be a graceful leap forward for Downtown.

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