Southern California Ballet voted Best Dance Studio in 2018 Best of North Inland Reader's Poll for the fourth consecutive year.
by Michelle Tremblay
This summer, Southern California Ballet, the premier dance training institute serving Poway and North County San Diego, will be offering five weeks of summer camps for children ages four and older. According to Toby Batley, Co-Artistic Director for Southern California Ballet, the dance camps promote health and well-being and provide a great way to build kids’ confidence and express their creativity. “Weeklong dance summer camps always give young dancers the chance to springboard their training and make great advances,” Batley said.
A Discover Dance camp will be offered to children ages four to nine. For dancers 10 years and older, a more concentrated training program called Summer Intensives will be available. “We teach young children the joy of movement through classical ballet and other forms of dance,” noted Batley. “Our older intensives give students the chance and time to focus and perfect what they have been working on throughout the year.”
Southern California Ballet is unique in that it provides a high level of training provided by expert teachers who have experience from all around the world. Both Batley and his counterpart, Co-Artistic Director Martha Leebolt, are award-winning principal dancers from the United Kingdom. Both have been nominated for and won national dance awards in the United Kingdom many times throughout their dancing careers. “Our Director of Cecchetti and Founding Director, Sylvia Palmer, is an expert in the Cecchetti curriculum and an examiner and Fellow of Cecchetti USA,” added Batley. “Sylvia was also nominated last year as dance teacher of the year in Dance Magazine.” Also part of the team is Suzan Stone, an Associate with Cecchetti USA. “Susan attended the Cecchetti International teaching conference in Florence this past summer,” shared Batley.
It’s important to the entire team at Southern California Ballet to stay involved with the local community, and they do so in many ways. “We regularly attend and perform at most of the community fairs,” noted Batley. “We hold workshops for Girl Scouts. We hold four performances of our annual Nutcracker especially for schoolchildren. We also hold free creative dance classes at the Rancho Bernardo Library for young children, and perform in senior living communities.”
This year, Batley is excited to announce that the intensives camps will be centered around the classical ballet Cinderella. He assured that the camps will include other genres of dance, as well. “It is a balance of athleticism and artistry,” described Batley. “The camps are fun!”
For more information about Southern California Ballet’s summer camp programs, visit SouthernCaliforniaBallet.org.
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.
Voice of San Diego
By Kinsee Morlan
For most ballet companies across the country, ticket sales from annual performances of “The Nutcracker” account for a large chunk of their operating budgets.
“We live off ticket sales from ‘The Nutcracker’ for the rest of the year,” said Martha Leebolt.
Leebolt and her husband Toby Batley are the new artistic directors of Southern California Ballet. The professional dancers took on their leadership roles in September, when the company’s founding director Sylvia Palmer-Zetler retired after 30 years.
Southern California Ballet’s upcoming performance of “The Nutcracker” will be the duo’s directorial debut. They did a little tightening and streamlining, but because it’s their bread and butter, they didn’t want to fiddle with too much, too fast.
“We haven’t messed around too much with the actual show this year,” Batley said. “We just had so much to do, and it’s so new to us and such a big job.”
Change will come, though. Southern California Ballet will continue as a classical ballet company dedicated to professional performances as well as training kids. But Leebolt and Batley, who’ve performed in ballets internationally, say the company’s shift can be seen in next year’s programming.
In the spring, they’re bringing back “Coppélia,” a fun, lighthearted piece that the company hasn’t performed in 15 years. Eventually, they’d also like to start writing and producing original ballets.
The duo said they’ll also be doing a bigger marketing push next year, working to turn something that’s long been perceived as the company’s biggest weakness – the fact that they’re headquartered in a far-flung venue in Carmel Mountain Ranch – into its biggest strength.
They said people assume they have to see “The Nutcracker” and other ballets at the Civic Theatre or some other fancy downtown venue in order to see world-class performers, and that good shows couldn’t possibly be happening in the suburbs.
“We want to show our face and make sure people know we’re here and that you don’t have to go all the way downtown to see a quality ballet performance,” Leebolt said. “We’re up here, and we’re doing just as good of a job.”
San Diego Union Tribune
by Lisa Deaderick
Toby Batley got an admittedly late start in his training for an ultimate career as a professional ballet dancer. He took it up at 14, after being told he was good at it, and the discipline and creativity of the form hooked him. The England native trained at the Royal Ballet School in London, going on to eventually dance for Northern Ballet in England, where he became a principal dancer.
“As dancers, our careers are very short-lived. The rigorous training and demanding schedule take their toll on your body and mind, especially after 13 years. I always thought that I would like to be an artistic director and I was always imagining how things could be done differently,” he says of the recent role he’s taken on as co-artistic director of the Southern California Ballet, with his wife, Martha Leebolt. “So when the opportunity came along for us to take the helm of the studio where Martha trained, we jumped at the chance.”
Batley, 33, lives in Rancho Bernardo with Leebolt, and has had various roles created for him as a dancer, has been nominated for national dance awards, and named among the top dancers in his field. Now, with this leadership position he took on this past September, he and his wife have been focused more recently on their company’s upcoming performance of the holiday classic, “The Nutcracker,” at 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, and again at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17, at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts. He took some time out from rehearsals and planning to talk about his journey from full-time dancer to co-artistic director and what’s in store for audiences at Southern California Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.”
Q: You and your wife are both artistic directors for Southern California Ballet. Is working as co-artistic directors a common thing at ballet companies?
A: It’s very unusual. Art is so individual, and as artistic directors, artistic vision is inseparable from you and what you do. However, Martha and I have worked extremely closely for the last 13 years. We built a career together as dance partners and it became kind of symbiotic. It was a natural progression for us to continue our work together.
Q: How do you divide the responsibilities between the two of you?
A: We share the teaching as equally as possible and it’s useful to have each other as back-up, as finding substitute teachers can be a nightmare. Outside of the studio, we work together even more. If one of us does something, then the other will check it over. This is all new to us, so we need each other’s support to make important decisions. I am more tech-savvy than Martha, so I tend to do all of that kind of thing, and I like design and to have things work well. Martha is much more organized, and she is a far better “people person”, so she handles the people side, especially because sometimes my British personality doesn’t translate well here.
Q: Tell us about Southern California Ballet.
A: It is a ballet academy and pre-professional company founded by Sylvia Palmer in 1983. She moved here after a career as a dancer in the National Ballet of Canada and brought with her the cultural history of that company to found her own ballet school, in exactly the same manner that all the great companies of the world were founded. Martha and my careers have been rooted in full-length story ballets and it is our passion to speak through dance. This style and tradition is what we want to continue.
What I love about Rancho Bernardo ...
We love pilates. It keeps us moving and strong, and our teacher at the pilates studio we go to is so good that we persuaded him to come teach contemporary dance for us at Southern California Ballet. We also love our local steakhouse restaurant, which is walking distance from where we live and makes us feel at home since everyone walks everywhere in Europe.
Q: How does a ballet company operate?
A: Every ballet company is different. For example, Martha and I danced in the United Kingdom for a large-scale, professional touring ballet company performing over 150 shows a year. We were very lucky to be part of one of the leading companies in England that was fully funded with a full-time staff of over 130 people. Southern California Ballet is much smaller and performs only a few times a year at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts. Ballet companies are led by artistic directors whose vision will make up a large part of the identity of the company. Sometimes, the artistic director is also a choreographer who will stage most of the work the company does, and other times, the director may be someone who mainly commissions works by other people.
Q: How long have you been artistic director?
A: I have been artistic director since Sept. 5. It was always a goal for me to run an artistic organization, I just wasn’t sure what or where. We settled here because of Martha’s connection with the Southern California Ballet.
Q: When did you know you wanted to become a professional dancer?
A: When I first started, I only enjoyed dancing because lots of people told me I was good at it. It wasn’t until I joined the Royal Ballet School in London that I really became serious and understood that I could both make this my profession and do well. Not many people get paid to do what they love. For me, I didn’t even realize it was a career until a few years after I had already been in a company. I was just doing what I loved.
Q: What is it about dance that you love?
A: It’s the athleticism coupled with the artistry. Going somewhere on stage that is different from reality, the chance to pretend to be a character and inhabit a role that is as different from me as possible.
Q: And why did you focus on ballet?
A: Originally, I thought I was more interested in modern dance and tap because I started late and felt that they were more accessible to me. However, deep down I always preferred ballet. I liked the control and the discipline that it demands.
Q: As a principal dancer, what was your training schedule like?
A: As a professional dancer, I was contracted for 33 hours of rehearsal a week, as well as nine hours of class a week, and then I would go to the gym and work out or do body maintenance for probably another three or four hours a week. There were also the 150-plus, full-length performances a year to do. So about 50 hours a week, 48 weeks a year.
Q: You’ve had numerous roles created specifically for you. What happens during the process of creating a new role as a ballet dancer?
A: First, we read the book and do as much research on the story as possible. For example, when we created the “Great Gatsby,” I read the book (I lost count how many times), watched the movies, and had an amazing dramaturg who would give Martha and I extensive material on 1920s America, including paintings, biographies and descriptions of the time. Then we would go into the studio and begin working out how Gatsby might move and act. We were particularly interested in telling stories and being as much actors as dancers. We were encouraged to really get under the skin of our roles, to learn who we were portraying and how they fit into the story as a whole. The next step was to work with the choreographer on creating steps, then scenes, and then slowly the ballet would come together. It is a true team effort and no single person holds all the pieces. One of the most exciting parts for me was always hearing the music for the first time and then of course, hearing it played live by our orchestra.
Q: What was one of your most challenging roles? And why was it particularly challenging?
A: Heathcliff in “Wuthering Heights” is a very hard role both physically and emotionally! He is such a wild character, and that, coupled with the extremely difficult partnering involved, always left me wiped out afterwards. I thoroughly enjoyed it though!
Q: What was one of your favorite or most gratifying roles to play? Why?
A: I used to laugh because people always asked that question and I would always choose the one that I was currently doing. I guess that’s a good sign! But Winston from “1984” was definitely high up on my list. “1984” was a very special ballet to me as it was so different from everything else. It had a great story arc, I could feel the audience go on the journey with me as I played Winston. I also loved dancing Romeo. I enjoyed the extreme of the crazy romantic character that would do anything for love. Most dancers aspire to play the leads in “Romeo & Juliet” — probably because of the music. I was lucky enough to dance two very different versions, Northern Ballet’s original and Jean Christophe Maillot’s!
Q: Your company is getting ready for your production of “The Nutcracker”? What can people expect from these performances?
A: They can expect a very authentic and cohesive production, which has a strong narrative and holds the audience. Sylvia, our founding artistic director, was adamant when she created this version 26 years ago, that the ballet have a strong, clear storyline and all the parts fit together and make sense. She didn’t want to throw in random crowd-pleasing numbers, which don't fit in with the rest of the ballet. Instead, she relied on the magic of the story to keep people engaged. We have over 100 company members, students, and parents performing in the show, as well as three guest artists.
Q: Everyone seems to do “The Nutcracker.” What do you think it is about this particular story that has endured over the years?
A: “The Nutcracker” epitomizes this time of year, especially the music. Tchaikovsky was a genius. Even if you have never seen or heard of “The Nutcracker,” his music will make you think of Christmas. I guarantee that everyone has heard at least some part of “The Nutcracker” (probably the “Trepak dance”) even if they don’t realize it. From the party scene to the finale, it is about the holiday spirit of people coming together. The magic of Christmas is apparent all the way through from the first time we meet Drosselmeyer to the snow scene and Clara’s journey to the land of the sweets.
Q: What do dancers enjoy about performing “The Nutcracker”?
A: It has a lot of dancing. Most ballets showcase the principals, but “The Nutcracker” challenges everyone involved, from snow and flowers all the way up to the sugarplum Grand Pas de Deux. The divertissements (the many short dances in the second act) give many performers the chance to shine as soloists.
Q: What’s been challenging about life as a dancer? And in your new role so far as an artistic director?
A: The challenging thing about being a dancer is the total dedication that it requires. It consumes 100 percent of your life. For everything that one considers doing, the effect that it might have on your ability to perform is what makes your decision about doing it. That gets very tiring and constraining. At some point, dancers have to make the decision between their personal lives and their dancing. As artistic directors — it’s only been three months — so far it has been all the different hats that one has to wear! It is very difficult to be sitting in an office looking at a budget, then to shift and start working on marketing, design and social media, and then to plan and execute your teaching work. Of course, casting is also a gigantic task! It’s tough to cast a ballet with over 100 performers, trying to keep things fair, accommodate for dancer availability, and on top of that, to maintain a high quality artistic product!
Q: What’s been rewarding about life as a dancer? And as an artistic director?
A: As a dancer I enjoyed the athleticism that it required and the pride of achieving that. So far, as an artistic director, the rewarding part has been sharing our knowledge and seeing what we can do for dancers here, as well as the improvements that they make, sometimes in small steps, and sometimes in giant leaps!
Q: What has your work taught you about yourself?
A: That I am impatient. I always expect instant results but things take longer than that. I am learning, though.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: Do your best — that is all that matters.
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?
A: I love “Star Trek”!
Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.
A: We love the Safari Park and feeding the giraffes. I also love the beach and can make a good attempt at something resembling surfing.
by Emily Sorensen
njoy a magical ballet experience with the Southern California Ballet’s 26th annual production of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16 and 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17 at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts, 15498 Espola Road.
This will be the first production of “The Nutcracker” since SCB founder and artistic director Sylvia Palmer-Zetler retired earlier this year. She was succeeded by former SCB student and Rancho Bernardo High School graduate Martha Leebolt, as well as Leebolt’s dancing partner and husband, Toby Batley.
“(Being artistic director) has been really good,” said Leebolt, who danced with the Northern Ballet in Leeds, England for 15 years prior to returning to San Diego. “There’s obviously been a lot of work organizing things, but it’s been really rewarding.”
Leebolt said she and Batley have not made any significant changes to the production this year. The duo re-choreographed and restructured parts of the second act last year while directing, which Leebolt said they will retain for this year’s show.
The show has also had some tweaks, she said, to tighten up scenes and make sure the audience is kept on track to follow a certain character through the show. “We made sure it was streamlined,” she said.
The show will continue its tradition of bringing in guest artists to perform the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. Leebolt guested as the Sugar Plum Fairy twice, in 2014 and 2015.
This year, Laura Somers Moreton, a dancer with the Atlanta Ballet, will perform the role. David Ward, formerly of the Northern Ballet and Balletmet Columbus, will dance as her Cavalier. San Diego native Isaiah Bindel, formerly with the San Francisco Ballet and DanceDawsonSF, will perform as the Snow Cavalier.
Most of the roles will be filled by 92 students from the Southern California Ballet, as well as 14 adult volunteers, mostly parents, who will portray the parents in the party scene. “It’s really fun to have the actual parents onstage (with their children),” Leebolt said. “It’s a real family affair.”
Leebolt said things have been “constant” since she and Batley took over as artistic directors on Sept. 1. “We have not stopped,” she said. “But everyone has been dancing really well, the volunteers have been amazing, everything has been running smoothly.”
Even with “The Nutcracker” preparing for performance, Leebolt said there won’t be much of a break, as the SCB will be preparing for its spring performance, “Coppelia,” followed by exams for students.
“It’s a constant well, but we’re keeping on top of it,” she said. “It’s hectic but going well.”
Tickets for the show range from $25 to $43 for adults, with discounts for children 18 and under, students with I.D., seniors, military and groups available. Tickets are available at the box office, by calling 858-748-0505 or online at powaycenter.com.
by Emily Sorenson
Southern California Ballet founder Sylvia Palmer-Zetler was recently honored by the national Dance Teacher magazine for her work teaching ballet.
She was one of four dance instructors nationwide to receive a 2017 Dance Teacher Award. Her fellow award-winners were Dawn Axam of Atlanta, Georgia; Bridgit Lujan of Central New Mexico Community College in New Mexico; and Sue Sampson-Dalena of Fresno.
The award honors four outstanding educators for their contributions to the field of dance, according to the magazine’s website. The winners are selected from nominations sent in by students, colleagues and other members of the dance community.
“I’m still in shock,” said Palmer-Zetler of the award. “It’s huge. It’s such an honor, I never expected that.”
Palmer-Zetler said she was in “really good company” with her fellow winners.
When she was originally contacted by the magazine about the award, she thought it might be a scam, she said, as she had been contacted by numerous fake award scams after earning her master’s degree. When she found out it was real, she said she was honored and everyone involved was very nice and helped her out at the Dance Teacher Summit, where she was presented with her award.
She did not announce her win, she said, so her students and colleagues were surprised by the centerfold article on her in the magazine’s July issue. “I told them, now you should appreciate me.”
Palmer-Zetler founded the Southern California Ballet, then called the Black Mountain Dance Centre, 30 years ago, following a career as a dancer in the National Ballet of Canada and teaching at the National Ballet School of Canada.
She retired as the ballet’s artistic director in February, but has remained on as the director of the Southern California Ballet’s Cecchetti program, which is a progressive system of training dancers from a pre-ballet beginning level to a professional level. Dancers must pass exams to move on to a higher level of instruction, which Palmer-Zetler will administer. She is one of eight certified Cecchetti examiners in the United States.
Her new role at the ballet allows her to reduce her working hours to three days a week, giving her more time to travel and enjoy her family, she said. “Now the burden is off my shoulders.”
The new co-directors of the ballet are Martha Leebolt and her husband Tobias Batley, who recently retired from the Northern Ballet in Leeds, England. Leebolt is a former student of Palmer-Zetler. The duo look over on Sept. 1.
“We have really quality people taking over,” she said. “I’ve had my eye on (Leebolt taking over) for a long time. They’re so good, reputable, talented, a perfect match.”
Dance Teacher Magazine
by Kris Eitland
Canadian-born Sylvia Palmer-Zetler didn't plan to be a ballet dancer or a master teacher—she started out as a tapper. "But I was attracted to the music of ballet and the barre," she says. "I made the big switch at 16, which was rather late. Excellent teachers helped me find a new way to move." For the past 30 years, as the artistic director of Southern California Ballet (SCB), a pre-professional company and academy in San Diego, she's been that teacher for the thousands of dancers who have passed through her doors and gone on to join companies, tours and universities. Now, at 78, she's retiring—and passing the torch to a former student.
Palmer-Zetler studied under Kay Armstrong in Vancouver, British Columbia, and won a scholarship to the National Ballet School of Canada (NBS) as a teenager. Though she went on to dance and tour internationally with the National Ballet of Canada (1960–67), teaching was her true calling. Palmer-Zetler earned her teaching license from the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing in London, England, in 1974. She furthered her teacher training at NBS, eventually earning an MFA in creative teaching techniques. Her introduction to Cecchetti technique at NBS became a crucial part of her ballet instruction: She shaped her curriculum at SCB (previously known as Black Mountain Dance Centre, until 2015) around it. Today, she is one of only eight certified Cecchetti examiners in the U.S.
Her mark is everywhere at SCB. She has choreographed and restaged countless ballets for the youth company. Boxes of costumes and props are stacked on studio shelves. Posters and portraits of star students cover the walls—including one of Martha Leebolt, who went on to join Northern Ballet, in Leeds, England. Leebolt and her husband Tobias Batley, another Northern Ballet dancer, will take over as co-directors of SCB in September.
Leebolt admires Palmer-Zetler's disciplined and generous teaching style. "She provided me with a platform to accomplish my dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer," she says. "She allowed all types of students to train, regardless of obstacles. I've been lucky to shadow Sylvia and learn from her." Leebolt promises to carry on Palmer-Zetler's vision by maintaining a professional environment at SCB—including the lavish productions she is known for.
Palmer-Zetler will continue as SCB's Cecchetti Training Program director. After studying the technique intensively, she knows she can offer her students solid preparation for their exams. "About 2,000 of my students have gotten diplomas and teaching certificates," she says. "When my youngest dancers arrive, they look like little jelly beans, and I make them gorgeous." Her reward is watching them pursue professional careers and go on to dance in college.
She looks forward to working three days a week and spending more time with her husband Mark, who helped her found the school and has run lights and tech all these years. She knows she leaves the company in good hands. "I'll finally get Mondays off," she says, "but I can't retire completely. Like I tell my students, dance is something we can't quit."
Southern California Ballet has two new artistic directors: Martha Leebolt and Tobias Batley of Northern Ballet. They will succeed Sylvia Palmer-Zetler, who after over 30 years as the artistic director and academy principal, will continue as the director of the Cecchetti Training Program. Martha and Tobias were introduced to the community in late March, and will officially assume their new positions in September.
Martha, a Rancho Bernardo High School graduate, trained at Black Mountain Dance Centre, followed by professional training at Ballet Met, and later joining Northern Ballet in England. Tobias was born in Manchester, England, and trained at the Hammond School of Dance in Chester, as well as the Royal Ballet School in London. He joined the Jeune Ballet de Cannes in France before joining Northern Ballet in 2004. Martha and Tobias have both been nominated for National Dance Awards multiple times, have repeatedly been included in Dance Europemagazine’s list of outstanding dancers, and have been guest artists at shows around the world. Discover more at www.southerncaliforniaballet.org.
by Lainey Kral
Southern California Ballet is focused on education, enrichment, and opportunities for growth, from the academy – which offers daily classes for ages three and up – to the company – which is by invitation and involves 15 hours of rehearsal each week and three annual productions. “As a nonprofit, our focus includes enhancing the community we serve,” explained Executive Director Kate Hirsh. This holds true for aspiring dancers and delighted audiences alike.
“Foremost at SCB is the best ballet training possible,” Kate said. “But nowadays, dancers must be versatile in many genres of dance, so we’ve added more variety beyond ballet.” In addition to Cecchetti curriculum ballet, creative and freestyle ballet, and pas de deux, the studio also offers modern, jazz, character, hip-hop, tap, and Broadway singing. As one mother shared on Yelp, “I love that when I pick up my kids from the studio, they are always happy. They love and respect their teachers and have fun while learning excellent technique.”
Classes are open to all ages, and Kate shared, “One of our most appreciated and best-kept secrets is our adult ballet and tap classes. We have daytime ballet on Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m. and evening classes for ballet and tap.” The studio is also proud of its growing boys’ program, with free and reduced tuition opening opportunities for male students to discover the art of dance.
The company is already hard at work preparing for its 2016 presentation of The Nutcracker. This year, SCB celebrates its 25th year showcasing the beloved holiday favorite. “We have engaged Martha Leebolt, a graduate of SCB, and her dance partner Tobias Batley to restage the second act as well as rehearse and train dancers of the academy,” Kate said. “Martha and Toby are world-renowned dancers, have worked with top international choreographers, have won numerous dance awards, and are now guest artists performing throughout Europe.” This year’s The Nutcracker will also include new costumes for the youngest dancers – the rosebuds and butterflies in “The Waltz of the Flowers.”
SCB’s mission of community enrichment continues with The Nutcracker performances especially for local schoolchildren and seniors. Visit the SCB website to learn more and reserve tickets.
by Liz Onufer
The Southern California Ballet (SCB) celebrates 30 years of training local dancers and providing community outreach. SCB’s primary mission is to offer training in the dance arts and provide ballet performances for the general public. “SCB is a testament to the quality of instruction, performances, and dedication of many individuals who believe the art of ballet is a tradition worthy of sharing with their community,” said Kate Hirsh, Marketing and Development Director.
Founded in 1985, the nonprofit ballet company is the only dance organization in the San Diego area to be affiliated with the Cecchetti method, an internationally recognized ballet curriculum for beginners to professionals. The Academy’s accomplished instructors reflect the quality of the Cecchetti curriculum. All of the faculty are internationally accredited dance instructors and many have danced professionally. In addition to the ballet curriculum, the Academy also offers all levels of creative dance, tap, character, modern, jazz, pointe, pas de deux, and conditioning classes. “The atmosphere is very friendly and professional. The students concentrate and work hard to improve their skills and absorb corrections,” said Artistic Director Sylvia Palmer.
The growth of the school’s programs will now be aided by its recent merger with Black Mountain Dance Centre, a school established in 1983 by two of the original founders of Southern California Ballet, Sylvia Palmer and Mark Zetler. “This natural transition will allow the school, now named the Academy, and company more opportunities to expand dance programs, extend foundation support, and continue community outreach programs,” said Hirsh. Upcoming performances include Alice in Wonderland in early September and the holiday tradition, The Nutcracker, which will be performed in December. “It is not a studio that produces dance for competition. The company focuses on the art form by producing traditional and contemporary ballets, all of which take place at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts,” Hirsh added.
To recognize 30 years of instruction and performance, Southern California Ballet looks forward to a few special events. A gala will be hosted at the end of January and the annual Spring Program will be performed in April, featuring internationally acclaimed alumni of the Southern California Ballet. In addition, a scholarship fund is being created in the name of the founding artistic director, Sylvia Palmer. Today, the studio that at one time needed to hire guest artists to create high-level productions now looks to its own alumni who have pursued dance professionally to return and support the program that built their foundation.