Meet Martha Leebolt of Southern California Ballet in Carmel Mountain

SD Voyager

Today we’d like to introduce you to Martha Leebolt.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started dancing at Southern California Ballet (then known as Black Mountain Dance Center) when I was 11 years old under the direction of Sylvia Palmer-Zetler, the founder. After graduating from high school I moved to England and became a professional ballet dancer in Northern Ballet for 15 years. During that time in the UK, I rose to the rank of principal dancer, getting the opportunity to create numerous leading roles in different ballets, and performing around the world. In 2014 and 2015 I came back to guest in the Nutcracker as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the following year my husband, Toby Batley joined me in re-choreographing the variations of Nutcracker Act 2. After discussions with Sylvia and the board of SCB it was decided that we would take over as Artistic Directors in September of 2017… And here we are!

Has it been a smooth road?
Yes, it has been a pretty smooth transition. The biggest challenge is juggling so many different tasks at any one time. When you are dancing there is just the one focus. When you are running a school you are constantly thinking about every individual student, their progression, planning which shows will be performed, running the day to day schedule, budget… the list goes on and on. The challenge is trying to manage all these different aspects without getting overwhelmed.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Southern California Ballet story. Tell us more about the business.
Southern California Ballet is the premier dance training institute serving San Diego’s Poway and North County areas, and is the only dance academy in the broader region to offer Cecchetti method training and examinations, recognized by “Cecchetti USA” and “Cecchetti International”. It is a centre of excellence in Southern California, involving and enriching the community and bringing the art of ballet to EVERYONE and ANYONE whether as a participant, audience member or both. We hold ourselves to our slogan — “training that lasts a life time” As a 501(3) (c) non-profit organization, Southern California Ballet relies on its community, consisting of dedicated families and volunteers, that keeps dance thriving. Their involvement and commitment are essential to the life of SCB. A past nominee for “Best Nutcracker ” by The Tommy Dance Awards. We were the “No.1 Dance studio in the Pomerado news annual ‘Best of North Inland’ Reader’s choice poll 2015 & 2016” and our Nutcracker was recently reviewed as a favorite of San Diego Arts 2017: Dance and Performance section by Kris Eitland.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The importance of exercise in our lives is growing every day. Dance is one of the most effective forms of exercise that a person can do. Dance also encourages artistic expression, improves mental health and promotes physical wellbeing. We hope to change the image of dance from something that people think of as frivolous, to the reality that dance training is serious and teaches people important skills like focus, dedication, physical strength & co-ordination. Dancers are equal parts athletes and artists, one of the only activities that offers both of these qualities.

In the future we hope to be able to offer a higher number of classes with a larger facility so that we can share dance with even more people. Most importantly, more performance opportunities so dancers can share and celebrate their hard work with the community and with their families.