Yvonne Mounsey & the Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica


A memoir by a former student

A few weekends ago, Westside School of Ballet held its annual Spring Performance at Pepperdine’s Smothers Theatre. And while each and every show that Westside puts on is a delight to all audience members, this year’s performances were especially sentimental to those who knew Yvonne Mounsey, beloved teacher and founder of Westside. Yvonne worked closely with her dear friend Rosemary Valaire to bestow upon her students the profound love of dance they were both known for. She lived a long and successful life before she passed away on September 29, 2012. The most recent Spring Performance was a tribute to her life and the gifts she gave to her students, and anyone else who was lucky enough to come into contact with her.


As a student of Westside Ballet, watching the show was both emotional and incredibly rewarding; emotional for obvious reasons, but rewarding because I was reassured yet again that Yvonne’s legacy will always live on. Even if I tried, I could never forget her characteristic quirks, or tidbits about her life that she would accidentally delve into instead of trying to recall a combination as she led class. Those combinations were not always easy to follow, especially when she demonstrated them with her hands using descriptions like “…and in and in, barum-dum-dum.” Tired as we may have been, we attentive students would attempt to get it, and eventually we would. Yvonne always had a way of helping her students understand, even if it wasn’t by using traditional English.

westside1If you’re looking for a place that will inspire your children to love dance, look no further (or at the very least give Westside a try). Children as young as three years old can start by taking Pre-Ballet Preparation classes, but Westside invites children of any age to explore their love of dance. Each and every teacher is kind and compassionate, but be prepared to work harder and harder as you move up among the levels (which is always an exciting occasion to be very proud of). One of the many fantastic aspects of Westside Ballet is the performing opportunities available to its students. Every year, students prepare for two springtime performances and five to eight Nutcracker performances, depending on the year. Although show time can get stressful, dancing in a Westside production is also an extremely gratifying experience.

westside3Westside will always hold a special place in my heart. It may not have been picture-perfect, but it saw me through the best and worst times of my teenage years, and left me with friends and teachers that I absolutely adore. Something about it truly brings people together, and can pull talent out of children that you may not have thought possible. If your kids are even remotely interested in ballet, I strongly encourage you to consider Westside as a place for them to hone their talent, and grow as both dancers and people. Take a look at the class schedule here to see what level and class times are best for you and your kids.