This Sunday students and residents of the Westside Ballet will take to The Broad Stage of Santa Monica to wow audiences with the twinkle of their toes, the bending their bodies, and… a graceful jazz tribute to Grease?

The Westside Ballet’s 2018 Spring Showcase returns for two performances, one a “varied classical” and the other a “contemporary ballet repertoire” which will feature male ballet performers in a Memorial Day dance, with the conclusion of the showcase a jazz tribute to the 40th anniversary of Grease.

While the Westside Ballet is filled to the brim with immense talent, one dancer of note is Zane Tahvildaran-Jesswein.

Son of Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District President Dr. Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, Zane is an aspiring professional dancer and has been training at Westside Ballet since he was 4-and-a-half years old. Now a wily veteran at 15, Zane is one of the most tenured and experienced of the dancers, having played roles ranging from the Cavalier in the Nutcracker and Grease’s Danny Zuko.

Zane talked to the Daily Press about the Westside Ballet’s upcoming show and what goes into being a ballet dancer.

What prompted you to begin ballet at 4 years old? You’re so young at that point!

It was actually kind of a family thing. My mother teaches belly-dance, my sister was performing ballet at a young age. I wanted to do something similar.

What are your goals with ballet? Looking to become the next Benjamin Millepied?

I would like to take it as far as I can. I adore the art, I love ballet. It’s not just an extracurricular thing, it’s a lifestyle for me. To get into a wonderful company like Westside Ballet, to dance, to spread my love of ballet, that’s the goal.

Can you walk me into what goes into a routine and workout? I imagine ballet dancers have to be lean and limber, quick on their feet; no way you can just walk off the street and do what you all do.

It’s brutal at times. Normal classes, I’ll have maybe 3 hours of class — sometimes longer — 5 days a week. That’s just technique ballet class. A lot of repetition, refining, improving to make it perfect.

Rehearsal for a show like this is 11 hours, sometimes longer, all-day, nonstop. A LOT of physical work. It’s quite gnarly.

You have to make sure each part of your body is physically toned and prepared so you don’t fail. A lot of mental and physical stress to your body.

Our upcoming show is this Memorial Day weekend, so we’ll be in the theater this week with all-day tech rehearsals; start off at 9 or 10 a.m., go til maybe 9 p.m. or later.

This is your 6th time at the broad stage, the theater’s 12th production — Do you still get nervous or is this second nature to you at this point?

I think I always get a little nervous. It’s funny, I’m always ready and in the zone, incredibly calm, then it’s a few seconds before I’m gonna go on and, well… but once I’m on the stage dancing, I lose myself. That’s why I love ballet. Once you’re out there, nothing at all compares. It’s an amazing feeling.

So, you’re the lead in a jazzy rendition of a classic movie musical, Grease. What will you bring to the role of Danny Zuko? How psyched are you for that ??!?!?

No kidding, man, it’s pretty great, I’m really enjoying it. It’s fun just to get into a character. A lot of friends have been telling me I’m like Danny Zuko, which I hope is a good thing. But it’s still a ton of fun. The costume really helps– leather jacket, sweet hair, its a big contributor.

Do you have a preference for classical pieces ballet pieces versus more contemporary, for example, the Nutcracker or Grease?

Almost all my training has been focused towards classical ballet. I’ve had a few bits of exposure to other stuff. Jazz is right after classical ballet, so with this Grease being jazz-based, it’s a natural and fun progression. I’ve done Flamenco characters, other dance stuff, just to try things. But yeah, to your question, I absolutely prefer classical.

So, why should Santa Monica come see this ballet showcase?

Dance is always changing, evolving, and adapting to people and how they want to see it.

I think it’s important for people to see this– it’s something they can love. Something classic and something new, all wrapped into one performance. It’s definitely a must-see kind of thing.

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