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Shana Habel (back left, in gray) leads a professional-development workshop for secondary dance teachers at Lula Washington Dance Theatre. Photo by Mesiya McGinnis, courtesy of Habel

"It's amazing that we're still here," says Shana Habel, arts advocate and dance advisor for the Los Angeles Unified School District. "The arts education branch of LAUSD has a lot of support for what we're doing, but that support can't always translate into funding, because the money's just not there. I tell teachers that the best advocacy we can do is to teach well."

In a city better known for Hollywood films than concert dance, the struggle to find funding for dance education probably doesn't come as a surprise. In spite of this, dance thrives in L.A. public schools, due in large part to Habel, the district's fervent champion for dance. As dance advisor for the second-largest school district in the country, Habel supports teachers in providing high-quality dance education and has advocated for the role of dance in a comprehensive K–12 program since her appointment in 2006. "I feel that I have this great opportunity to carry on the tradition in dance education that honors the philosophy that dance is for everyone," she says. Because of Habel's curriculum and professional-development initiatives and her unwavering support for the teachers she oversees, LAUSD stands out as a model for K–12 dance education nationwide.

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Mel Mah (left) and Kim Gringas hosted the event at Playground L.A. in West Hollywood.

At the end of last month, YOU GOT THIS, GIRL! (YGTG), a workshop to encourage young dancers to go after their dreams, threw the event YOU GOT THIS, L.A.!, held at L.A.'s newest studio, Playground L.A. YGTG was founded in September 2015 by professional dancers Mel Mah (Janet Jackson, Justin Bieber, Kanye West) and Kim Gringas (Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Chris Brown). Both women made the move from Canada to L.A. in 2011, and after accomplishing their dance goals wanted to give back to the next generation of aspiring professional dancers.

An all-female panel of industry experts, including Tiana Brown, Brittany Perry-Russell, Robin Antin, and Randi Kemper, shared their unique success stories and how they've navigated the entertainment industry. The night also included performances by Dana Foglia Dance, the band Bennett and spoken-word by dancer Tajana Bunton-Williams.

"It was really incredible seeing so many people show up at The Playground; we had around 130 attend the event," said YGTG co-founder Mel Mah. "Each person there was so invested in bringing positive energy into that space, and it was an incredible moment for the L.A. dance community."

She added: "It was motivating to see so many L.A. people from different industries gather and talk about how we can all make an impact, how to focus on the positive, the wage gap and sexism, how to stay inspired, and how we can empower others."

For more info about YFTG, visit ygtgofficial.com.

Photos by Ja Tecson; featured image by Wes Klain

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Körbes with Karel Cruz in one of her final rehearsals at PNB

The Los Angeles dance scene’s meteoric rise continues, with another major gain for the Golden Coast: the superlative Carla Körbes. We hadn’t finished drying our eyes following her retirement from Pacific Northwest Ballet earlier this month, when the announcement came she’d been appointed associate artistic director of L.A. Dance Project. While founding artistic director Benjamin Millepied is overseas running Paris Opéra Ballet, Körbes will be on-site, overseeing programming, casting and rehearsals.

She joins LADP managing director James Fayette, also associate director of the freshly launched Colburn Dance Academy, which trains pre-professional ballet students under the leadership of Fayette's wife, retired New York City Ballet principal Jenifer Ringer. (More on this in our July issue.)

And Körbes’ news comes on the heels of the announcement that American Ballet Theatre’s executive director Rachel S. Moore is also heading west as the new president and CEO of L.A.’s Music Center.

The migration continues! We can’t wait to see what Körbes achieves in her new role.

Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy of photographer

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