Silver & Gold:

Pacific Festival Ballet Finds Silver Lining

Silver linings and golden opportunities are the unexpected results of adversity for Pacific Festival Ballet.

In March, the resident ballet company at the Bank of America Performing Arts Center in Thousand Oaks came to a screeching halt, as did performing arts organizations around the globe. Theatre closures due to the COVID pandemic sent artists and productions into hibernation with no end in sight.

Last year, Pacific Festival Ballet celebrated the Civic Arts Plaza’s 25th anniversary with a spectacular gala collaborating with fellow resident companies, New West Symphony and 5 Star Theatricals. There was a sense of community accomplishment and a creative vision for the years ahead. In May 2019, PFB had premiered “Camelot,” the culmination of a five-year project and was preparing for their 26th season of everyone’s favorite holiday classic, “The Nutcracker.”

“I never dreamt we would be in this position,” says PFB Artistic Director Kim Maselli. “Walking away from our spring season was disappointing, as was losing our summer programs, but learning that our 2020 Nutcracker season was cancelled was devastating for our company and the dance community.”

Professional PFB alumni suddenly returned home, putting unexpected pauses on hard-earned careers. Walking away from thriving Broadway shows and prestigious ballet companies in New York, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Kansas City is unthinkable. 

After looking at reality, Pacific Festival Ballet began to do what it does best—embrace change, encourage and think creatively.

As soon as permissible, PFB allowed returning alumni access to studio space, one at a time, to maintain their skills and mental well-being. They also jumped into a campaign designed by PFB’s training school, California Dance Theatre, teaching virtual and outdoor classes and giving words of encouragement to younger students.

Alumni Jonalyn Saxer, who holds four Broadway credits, stepped away from the national tour of “Mean Girls.”

“It’s actually a blessing to be home and teach in a safe environment. This pause in my career has given me the opportunity to bring my professional theatre experiences back to the studio that launched me,” says Saxer.

Creatively, Maselli realized the need to shift the company’s focus from stage to film. As a summer experiment, she revised “The Secret Garden” and transformed it into a dance film set in beautiful locations around the Conejo Valley. This success prompted the concept of “A Holiday Angel.”  

“Our company and community need a way to celebrate the holidays this year more than ever,” says Maselli. “With so many beautiful alumni and dancers available I wanted to create something unique and special.”

The icing on the cake was securing Malibu resident Indiana Woodward as the angel. A soloist with New York City Ballet, Woodward found herself, like many artists, returning to her family while patiently awaiting the art world to rekindle.

Dancer Kara Covaleski, returning from Cincinnati Ballet, reflects, “Last spring I was cast as Snow White and was beyond disappointed when the company shut down. Performing with PFB again has given me that extra push of motivation and encouragement to get through these uncertain times.”

So, amidst the fears and uncertainties of 2020, this year has brought about unique circumstances providing silver linings and golden opportunities when least expected.

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