Thursday, June 20, 2024

The Los Angeles (LA) Youth Ballet Welcomes Two African American Stars to Perform ‘The Nutcracker’

LA Y B Nutcracker
The LA Youth Ballet – Nutcracker

*Have you ever seen a performance of “The Nutcracker Ballet?”  If not, if you live in, or will be in Southern California, here is your opportunity and if you have, here is an opportunity to see it again, with extra special guest dancers.  The December 21-23 performances at Glendale’s Alex Theatre, of the LA Youth Ballet’s critically acclaimed production of The Nutcracker will include African American ballet dancers Ashley Murphy and Brooklyn Mack, dancing the show-stopping roles of Sugar Plum Fairy and Sugar Plum Fairy’s Consort, respectively.

LA Youth Ballet, the premier ensemble of the Los Angeles Ballet Academy, is an advanced pre-professional student ensemble for accomplished classical dancers ages 13-19 that provides comprehensive ballet training combined with professional-caliber performance opportunities.  Their latest professional-caliber performance opportunity is a big one, performing with two of the most accomplished African American ballet dancers of our time.

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Ashley Murphy
Ashley Murphy

Ashley Murphy, a Shreveport, Louisiana native, is in her fourth season with The Washington Ballet.  In 2002, she trained and performed with Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH’s) Dancing Through Barriers Ensemble.  The following year, she was accepted into the actual DTH company and was associated with them for a total of 13 years.  During Ashley’s tenure with the DTH, the DTH went on an eight-year hiatus.  During the hiatus, she was influential in helping to restore the company by performing in the DTH Ensemble that continued to share the company’s legacy.  She has also taught for DTH’s Pre-Professional Residency at the Kennedy Center. Ashley has had the honor of performing for President Obama at The White House, on BET and on the game show Jeopardy, an episode I actually saw.  She has also represented the U.S. in a cultural exchange program in Jamaica as well as appeared on the cover of Pointe Magazine with other African American ballet standouts Misty Copeland and Ebony Williams.  Ashley was also featured in a Verizon Wireless commercial.  Ashley shared with Dance Magazine that she decided to leave DTH because, “I wasn’t really growing anymore—they didn’t need to pay attention to me because they knew I would work on things on my own. I felt like I’d become everybody’s mom.  I need to be in a setting where I’m more equal with other people.” She never regretted her decision to leave and found at the Washington Ballet.

Ashley recognizes she is a role model and gladly accepts the title and uses her position to encourage and inspire young people, especially dancers, to follow their dreams and not give up; she sure did not, even after she was told to “stay where she was comfortable.”  We should all be glad she did not listen to that unsound advice.

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Brooklyn Mack
Brooklyn Mack

Brooklyn Mack, an Elgin, South Carolina native, is an international principal guest dancer, who previously spent three seasons as a principal dancer with Orlando Ballet and up until this past August, had spent nine seasons as principal dancer of The Washington Ballet (TWB).   Brooklyn’s reason for pursuing ballet was a little unorthodox.  He had dreams of becoming a football player and saw a documentary where some football players took up ballet to improve agility, balance and speed, so at age 12, he made a deal with his mother that if she would take him to football tryouts, he would take up ballet.  He had only intended to do it for a month or two.  Two years later, he received a full ballet scholarship and the rest his history, but I will mention it anyway.  Brooklyn was an apprentice with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago before joining American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company.  Throughout his career, he has performed choreography spanning the classical, neoclassical, contemporary, abstract, and modern styles and has received numerous awards.

He has received the Senior Silver medals at the U.S.A. International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi in 2006 and in and Helsinki in 2009. Other awards he has received include the Princess Grace Fellowship Award in 2007, a Silver Medal at the Korean International Dance Competition in 2011, a gold medal in the Boston International Ballet Competition in 2012 as well as winning the Istanbul Grand Prix in 2012 and a Gold Medal in 2012 at the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria.  Brooklyn has been featured on ABC, NBC and Ebony Magazine as well as named in 2012 as one of the top “25 dancers to watch” by Dance Magazine. Brooklyn is highly sought after all over the world and has recently made is first appearance on some of the biggest stages of the world, including the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow.  Very impressive and there is more to come.

Darrion Sellman, who is 14 years old is dancing the Nutcracker and Andrea Paris-Gutierrez is the choreographer, president and artistic director of Los Angeles Ballet Academy, which is now in its 26th year.  Tickets start at $25 and are available through Alex Theatre Box Office,       818.243.2539 or www.alextheatre.org.

marilyn smith
Marilyn Smith

Marilyn Smith is a Los Angeles based writer/reviewer.  Contact her via [email protected].

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