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."
In 1984, Dance Theatre of Harlem co-founder Arthur Mitchell took one of ballet oldest surviving ballets, Giselle, and gave it a uniquely American twist: He moved the ballet's setting from medieval Europe to an Afro-Creole community in 1840s Louisiana. The resulting production, Creole Giselle, featured an all-Black cast and was hailed by critics as a groundbreaking achievement. While the ballet hasn't been performed for quite some time, it was filmed for television in 1987, starring current DTH artistic director Virginia Johnson in the title role.
This weekend, we'll have a chance to witness this important work. On Saturday, June 6, at 8 pm EDT, the company will stream Creole Giselle on its Facebook page and YouTube channel as part of its DTH on Demand Virtual Ballet Series. And throughout the week, DTH is hosting preview events on its social media platforms with original cast members and current company artists.
Lorraine Graves and Lowell Smith in Creole Giselle
Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives
Congratulations to this year's graduating seniors!
You might not have had the chance to take that long planned-for final bow, but we're here to cheer you on and celebrate all that you've accomplished. And we've brought together stars from across the ballet world to help us; check out the video to hear their best wishes for your futures.
To further fête all of the ballet grads out there, we're also giving away 100 free subscriptions to Pointe... plus, one lucky bunhead will receive a personalized message from one of ballet's biggest stars. Click here to enter!
Updated on 5/27/2020
Since COVID-19 has forced ballet companies around the world to cancel performances—and even the remainder of their seasons—many are keeping their audiences engaged by streaming or posting pre-recorded performances onto their websites or social media channels. To help keep you inspired during these challenging times, we've put together a list of upcoming streaming events and digital performances.