Santa Monica, California
A Los Angeles native, Martine Harley is a proud alumna of the Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica. She received her formative training from Yvonne Mounsey and Rosemary Valaire, former ballerinas with the New York City Ballet and Royal Ballet companies, respectively. She also trained on full scholarship at American Ballet Theater, as well as the summer school at San Francisco Ballet.
At age 16, Martine was the youngest member of the American team to compete at the International Ballet Competition in Moscow, Russia. Martine launched her professional ballet career at the age of 17 when she joined the Nevada Dance Theater, and at age 18, she joined the Houston Ballet, the fourth largest company in the United States.
During her 13 years as a dancer, Martine was a critically acclaimed soloist dancing featured roles in all the full-length classical ballets as well as contemporary pieces. She worked with such luminaries as Dame Margot Fonteyn, Ben Stevenson, O.B.E., Glen Tetley and Sir Kenneth MacMillan. She has danced for Presidents and dignitaries at the Kennedy Center in our nation’s capital and around the world from Canada to Scotland, Singapore, Jakarta and Hong Kong.
Upon retiring from dancing, Martine taught at the Houston Ballet Academy, the High School for Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, and was the Dance Coach for Bela Karolyi’s Olympic Gymnastic team before returning to Houston Ballet as Ballet Mistress and Artistic Coordinator for another 12 years.
In the fall of 2006, Martine moved back to California to be closer to her family and earned an Associates Degree from Santa Monica College and a Bachelor’s degree from UCLA while teaching in the school and staging the full-length Sleeping Beauty for Westside Ballet’s spring showcase in 2007, Les Sylphides in 2010 and Act II Swan Lake in 2011.
In 2013, Martine earned an Associates degree from Santa Monica College and continued on to UCLA, where she earned her B.A. in 2016.
Assuming Artistic Directorship of Westside Ballet in January of 2013, Martine has brought more than three decades of professional experience to produce new generations of dancers at Westside School of Ballet and it’s non-profit company, Westside Ballet of Santa Monica. Martine has grown the school and expanded the company’s repertoire to include Ben Stevenson’s world renown Prelude, David Lichine’s Graduation Ball, more classical and original works, while maintaining the Balanchine repertoire and honoring the legacy that is Westside Ballet.
Co-Associate Artistic Directors:
Caprice Walker – Lower Division
Caprice Walker received her early ballet training from Irina Kosmovska and continued her studies with legendary Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo stars Tatiana Riabouchinska and David Lichine.
Ms. Walker was a member of Ballet of Los Angeles under the artistic direction of George Balanchine. It was here that she met Yvonne Mounsey who served as ballet mistress to the company. The repertoire of Ballet of Los Angeles featured many of the most beloved ballets created by Mr. Balanchine including “Serenade”, “Allegro Brilliante” and “Symphony in C”.
A well-respected teacher, Ms. Walker has been a Lecturer In Dance at Loyola Marymount University and Santa Monica College, and is a member of The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing Incorporated.
Ms. Walker has choreographed extensively for younger dancers. Among the ballets she has created are “The Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra” (1995), “Mozartiana” (2006 ), and “Capriccioso” (2012).
ln 2011 Ms. Walker was invited by School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet, to attend the National Teacher’s Weekend at Lincoln Center where she had the privilege of observing classes and meeting the nationally acclaimed teaching faculty of the school.
Ms. Walker has been associated with Westside School of Ballet since its founding by Yvonne Mounsey and Rosemary Valaire in 1968 and serves on the Board of Directors for Westside Ballet of Santa Monica.
Francine Kessler Lavac – Upper Division
Francine Kessler Lavac is an alumna of Westside School of Ballet.
Having launched her professional career with the Harkness Ballet, she went on to become a soloist for Ballet West in Salt Lake City.
Francine also had the honor of dancing with Mikhail Baryshnikov in his CBS television special.
In addition to her role on the Artistic Staff, Francine’s career has included acting, being an acting and voice coach, and an adjudicator for the Music Center’s prestigious Spotlight Awards in Los Angeles.