Ballerinas of Los Angeles founder Michelle Lebowski (Leo Evidente, courtesy Lebowski)

New Networking Group for L.A.-Based Ballerinas Hosts First IRL Event

Last October, Michelle Lebowski was watching her peers during an open class at Santa Monica's famed Westside School of Ballet when a thought began to weigh on her mind: "I have a lot of beautiful friends who are really talented dancers," she says. "But I kept wondering, why don't they have jobs?" This struggle led Lebowski to found Ballerinas of Los Angeles, a new networking group, slated to hold its first in-person event on February 9.


Those familiar with the Los Angeles dance scene can empathize with the 23-year-old L.A. native. Even after years of experience and pre-professional training at the Joffrey Ballet School, Colorado Ballet and Indianapolis Ballet, Lebowski wasn't able to sign with an L.A.-based commercial agent as a dancer without hip-hop experience. "In L.A., hip-hop is such a force—which is a great opportunity for a lot of dancers—but it sort of leaves the rest of us ballet dancers displaced," she says.

In recent years, companies like Los Angeles Ballet and American Contemporary Ballet have managed to secure support despite the city's lack of a strong ballet tradition. But how do freelance ballet dancers in L.A. land those few coveted company or project-based gigs? Or how do artists potentially meet collaborators to create new opportunities in a town that's notoriously sprawling and isolating?

Lebowski sees the problem as stemming from a lack of community; she hopes that Ballerinas of Los Angeles will change that. The project stems from an effort to increase visibility, and create a virtual and physical meeting place where Southern California–based dancers can network, meet new collaborators and gain knowledge of the field.

Lebowski started with an Instagram account, a place to repost photos and videos of various L.A.–based dancers and friends. Awareness was the name of the game, and since its inception in October the group has grown into a network of roughly 1,000 artists. "As a professional ballet dancer in L.A., I have found so much strength and comfort in the community of dancers," says Chelsea Johnston, a former soloist with Los Angeles Ballet who's a member of Ballerinas of Los Angeles. "I'm sure all of us can identify with how exponentially better it feels to go into a large audition alongside a friend, or walk into a casting call or meeting having been referred by a fellow dancer," says Johnston. "We are all in this together and I feel so strongly that growing our "we" is vital to advancing and preserving the art form."

Black and white photograph of Lebowski in a black leotard and white tutu kneeling against a large window in profile. She has one arm lifted.

Michelle Lebowski (Leo Evidente, courtesy Lebowski)

This weekend, Ballerinas of Los Angeles will move from social media to an IRL meet-up with its inaugural event: Ballet and Coffee. "Together we will not only dance," says Lebowski, "but express our passion for ballet, meet possible new colleagues, discover new photographers for your next photoshoot and meet directors and choreographers." Specifically, the event will feature a class taught by commercial choreographer and former State Street Ballet soloist Chasen Greenwood, followed by a networking hour with guests such as photographer Oliver Endahl of Ballet Zaida.

To join the community, connect with Ballerinas of Los Angeles on Instagram, or attend Ballet and Coffee on February 9 from 11:30 am-2 pm at Align Ballet Method, located at 6085 West Pico Blvd.

Latest Posts


Viktorina Kapitonova in "Swan Lake Bath Ballet" (photo by Ryan Capstick, courtesy Corey Baker Dance)

Please Enjoy the Quarantine Genius of “Swan Lake Bath Ballet”

That old saying about limitations breeding creativity—hat tip to Orson Welles—has never felt more relevant than in these lockdown days. Here's the latest brilliant dance project born (hatched?) of quarantine restrictions: "Swan Lake Bath Ballet," a contemporary take on the classic featuring 27 A-list ballet dancers performing from their own bathtubs.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Project 21 dancers (from left) Selena Hamilton, Gracyn French, and Dyllan Blackburn (Photo by Quinn Wharton; hair and makeup throughout by Angela Huff for Mark Edward Inc.)

How Project 21 Is Shaping the Next Generation of Competition-Dance Standouts

"I wish I had a better story about the name," says Molly Long, founder of the Orange County, CA–based dance studio Project 21. In truth, it's a play on the fact that she was born on the twenty-first of August, and 21 is her favorite number. "I was away on a teaching tour, the audition announcement was going live on Instagram the next day, and I desperately needed a name. Project 21 was just the least cheesy of the options I thought of!"

The fact that fans might expect the name to have some profound meaning speaks to the near-mythic status Project 21 has achieved on the competition and convention scene since its founding in 2014. Long's dancers are all wholly individual, yet jell seamlessly as a group, and are consistently snagging top prizes everywhere on the circuit. Each season brings a slew of new accolades, high-caliber faculty, and legions of devoted followers.

The industry has taken notice of the studio's unique ethos. "Molly gets through to her dancers in a special way, and they have this incomparable level of commitment to their craft as a result," says dancer and choreographer Billy Bell, who's worked closely with Long and her dancers. "That's what sets them apart—it's like a little dose of magic."

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search