We had the good fortune of connecting with Diane De Franco Browne, Tania Grafos and Zoe Vidalakis, and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Diane, Tania & Zoe, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Pasadena Civic Ballet (PCB) is helmed by three Artistic Directors – sisters Tania Grafos and Zoe Vidalakis and Diane De Franco Browne. Their journey to pursue a creative career are similar but distinct.
For Browne, her father was a creative not by trade but as a passion. He handcrafted artisan jewelry from precious and semi-precious materials. This led to Browne’s interest in visual arts in high school and in college. With an interest first in movement and martial arts, it was during her collegiate years she discovered dance, selecting the discipline as part of a double major at UC Santa Barbara. Transferring to UC Irvine she had the opportunity to advance her training under icons like Anthony Tudor. While she knew she wanted a performing arts career, she was drawn to choreography and arranging space. She chose to pursue a masters to poise herself for a career path that would extend beyond the life cycle of a performing artist. Browne spent years teaching dance at the at the community college and university levels including Trade Tech, East LA College and USC. She was hired as faculty at PCB following her graduate work and then offered to take over the studio as Artistic Director/Owner when the Founder, Elly Van Dijk retired.
For sisters and Artistic Directors Tania Grafos and Zoe Vidalakis, creative blood also flows through their veins and they always dreamed of opening their own studio. Dance was a part of their family history with their mother having performed as a principal ballet dancer in Germany. Teaching artist blood was also passed down to them as their Mother instructed hundreds of students in ballet across community centers in Edmonton Canada. Both received ballet training under former prima ballerina of the Ballet Russe and Berlin Opera Ballet, Mme. Maria DeBrovsky and John Clifford of Los Angeles Jr. Ballet. This led to training and performing abroad. Both sisters performed while attending college including dancing as folkloric soloists. While in graduate school, Zoe used her artistic prowess to pioneer large student performances and productions at prominent venues in Southern California (Shrine, Greek Theatre). After watching their Mother bring ballet to communities in Canada they were given the opportunity to join Browne in taking over Pasadena Civic Ballet when the founder Elly Van Dijk retired. So pursuing the arts as a career has taken many forms for all three Directors.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Pasadena Civic Ballet has a legacy of cultivating young artists through academy/studio training while providing performance opportunities through full-length story ballet productions with professional artists. With over 40 years experience, our unique calling is our awareness that we are not only developing the next generation of artists, but nurturing the minds of individuals and human beings. Our students and alumni gain a sense of who they aspire to be as people first whether they decide to follow artistic careers, collegiate dance and or a future outside of performing arts. We celebrate this diversity and individuality whether our dancers advance to a prestigious training program, join the ranks of professional dance company or gain acceptance to top universities across the country. No business journey is easy, but we have the benefit of three artistic perspectives from our multi-disciplinary careers to guide our practice. We are not a competition studio, we are a studio, academy and Company that functions like a family unit. supporting each member in their journey to be the best version of themselves as a person and an artist.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I think we would say we dedicate our Shoutout to the City of Pasadena, as without the community we share our artistic practices with, we would be nowhere. We are continually inspired and encouraged by the spirit of the City before and during the pandemic. It is the collective esprit de corps of the community that moves us to continue putting our best foot forward and make the impossible possible.
City Hall Image: PC Melissa O’Gara For the rest can you please list as Photos Courtesy of Pasadena Civic Ballet