Santa Monica, California
Alumni Spotlight: Pallas van der Kroft-Sluyter – May 2019
In this interview between Westside’s first Sugar Plum Fairy, Pallas van der Kroft-Sluyter, and most recent Sugar Plum Fairy, Mirabelle Weinbach, we get the unique experience of contrasting both dancers’ insights on performing this iconic role 50 years apart.
For decades, Westside has been a welcoming home to many young dancers and has facilitated both lifelong friendships and first-class training. Pallas and Mirabelle bond over their experiences as The Sugar Plum Fairy and their time at Westside.
Pallas first came to Westside at the advice of a former teacher who highly recommended Rosemary Valaire. Shortly after joining Westside, Pallas was awarded a Ford Foundation grant which enabled her to fully commit to her training. She soon fell in love with ballet through the encouragement and teachings of both Rosemary and Yvonne Mounsey and wanted to mirror their movements. As she says in the interview, “I learned more just by watching, feeling, and emulating Yvonne.”
Today, Pallas tries to channel Yvonne’s teaching style by emphasizing the importance of artistic expression as well as clean technique with her students. As Pallas fondly recalls her enriching time at Westside, Mirabelle discusses how lucky she feels that she has had the opportunity to receive instruction from her current teachers at Westside who keep the lessons of Yvonne and Rosemary alive.
When talking about her teaching career, Pallas notes her other teaching influences such as Maggie Black who was one of her teachers in New York City. Though she feels that Maggie Black taught her so much as a dancer and was a truly amazing teacher, she really attributes her career and teaching style to the ballet foundations she learned at Westside. When teaching, Pallas often thinks, “I wish I had known this when I was dancing!” She focuses her teaching on artistry and musicality – as she believes those are the two aspects that make a wonderful dancer.
Both Mirabelle and Pallas relate how the music felt when they first danced the role of Sugar Plum in The Nutcracker. Mirabelle talks about how the role helped her mature as a dancer. As she notes, Sugar Plum is a role where the ballerina must be both warm and regal, making it a part that has a dichotomy unlike many other roles, especially in the Nutcracker itself. Pallas also connects to this point, as she was only 13 when she first danced this part and felt the same way as Mirabelle. She, too, had to mature for the part and take the rehearsals very seriously so she could perform at the level that Rosemary and Yvonne expected. If it weren’t already obvious, the role of Sugar Plum is as meaningful to a dancer whether they performed the part last week or 50 years ago. Performing Sugar Plum is a tremendous honor and each dancer seizes the opportunity to create their own artistic moment.
See our previous Alumni Spotlight with Kiva Dawson here: LINK
Watch interview here:
A native of Los Angeles, Pallas Sluyter has had an extensive and varied career touring the world as a professional dancer, choreographer, teacher, and coach. She has lived and worked for a number of years in Europe, and is director of her own school and performing arts Company, Pallas-Dance.
Pallas began training in classical ballet at the age of four. At eleven she was awarded the prestigious Ford Foundation scholarship from New York City Ballet, for four consecutive years, for her studies at Westside School of Ballet in Los Angeles. As the recipient of numerous scholarships she trained at the School of American Ballet (New York City Ballet), The American Ballet Theatre School, The San Francisco Ballet School, Ballet West Summer Program, and Dupré Dance Academy.
She has worked with choreographers Kenny Ortega, Paula Abdul, Bill Goodson, Daniel Ezralow, Ann Marie DeAngelo, and Laurence Blake, to name a few. She has performed in musical theater and sailed around the world on the high seas, performing in many Broadway musical adaptations, as a dancer/singer/ Ballet Mistress on the Holland-America Line. Pallas also produces and hosts the internationally broadcast radio show, podcast, and Youtube channel, ‘Pallas On Air’ (formerly ‘Pallas’ Dutch Invasion’), in which she interviews rock stars, jazz legends, and up and coming artists.
Photo credit: Danielle Vermeij