This weekend, the ballet world lost one of its best. Yvonne Mounsey, director of Westside Ballet in Santa Monica, California, passed away at age 93. Mounsey started her career at 20 with Colonel de Basil's Ballet Russes. While the company was on their U.S. tour in 1940-41, she met George Balanchine, who later asked her to join New York City Ballet. However, Mounsey's greatest impact on the ballet world may have come later, as a teacher and director at Westside, where she produced such talents as Melissa Barak, Kylee Kitchens, Monique Meunier, Jock Soto, Andrew and Francis Veyette, among dozens of others. She even assisted one of her former students, Robin Gardenhire, with Gardenhire's City Ballet of Los Angeles School, offering support and scholarships to inner city students. "You know," she told me a couple of years ago, "I want to help out, especially children who need to dance and don’t have the money. One has to help. It’s such a lovely thing to be able to dance, to do ballet."
Bunheads tuning in to the season premiere of ABC's "The Bachelor" on January 4 may have recognized a familiar face: Dance Theatre of Harlem's Alicia Mae Holloway, literally bourréeing out of a limousine to greet bachelor Matt James. While Holloway unfortunately didn't get a rose that night, she did thoroughly enjoy being the long-running reality franchise's first professional-ballerina contestant, as she told Pointe in a recent Zoom call.
Alicia Mae Holloway
Renee Choi, Courtesy Holloway
Carla Fracci, a former principal dancer of La Scala Ballet in Milan, is among the rare class of ballerinas who continued to perform into her 50s and beyond. Romantic ballets were her calling card throughout her career. In 1987, when Fracci was 51, she was featured in a television special, dancing reconstructed 19th-century ballets in the style of historical ballerinas. In this clip of La Esmeralda from the program, Fracci and her partner Stephen Jefferies, a former principal at The Royal Ballet, deliver an extraordinary performance, capturing the verve and spirit of their characters.