Malibu Ballet Society celebrates 25 years

Georgian Dance photo by Patrick Bernath.

Dozens of Malibu celebrities come out to support

the society, which, under JoAnna Jarvis’ guidance, has touched thousands of lives through outreach work.

By Betty Bailey/Special to The Malibu Times

If you have a daughter, or have raised one, in Malibu, chances are JoAnna Jarvis has touched your lives. For 25 years, Jarvis has taught dance to girls and young women, shaping their muscles and minds, and helping to boost their self-esteem. In addition to teaching at the Ballet by the Sea studio, Jarvis has touched thousands of others, whose lives have been enhanced by her outreach work with the Malibu Ballet and Performing Arts Society of which she is the founder and currently the artistic director. These dancers share their love of the arts with people in nursing homes, institutions and in “at risk” area schools.

“I believe in the arts as something that makes your soul a little more gentle and open to other things and feelings and people,” Jarvis said. “It makes your soul more flexible.”

Saturday, Jarvis was honored for her efforts at the Malibu Ballet Society’s 25th anniversary celebration benefit. More than 350 people attended the event at George Rosenthal’s Malibu Estate Vineyard, including Dick Van Dyke, Pat Benatar, A Martinez, Mira Sorvino and Daniel Stern.

“It’s not that JoAnna has just taught kids how to dance, it’s that she has enriched their lives,” said Denise Ritchie, whose daughter, Emma, is on a full scholarship from the Ballet Society. “She has quietly, for 25 years, taken her passion and given it to the community. There are everyday angels and she’s one of them.”

Malibu residents Benatar and Neil Giraldo gave a special performance at the benefit.

“She has worked so hard to promote the arts for children,” Benatar said. “She has given so much to the children in such an unselfish way.”

Van Dyke presented Jarvis with a gold fleur-de-lis necklace.

“In remembrance for all the good work and all the young people you are going to help in the future,” he said.

Perhaps the most touching speaker of the evening was Kim Breault, a former student of Jarvis’ who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age 10.

“JoAnna believed in me when no one else could,” Breault said. “And the Malibu Ballet Society granted me a scholarship.”

“Kim was a sweetheart and she was a hard, hard worker,” Jarvis said. “She came back from a doctor’s appointment one day and he had told her she would never be a dancer. I said, ‘It’s your choice. You can choose to believe that, or you can dance. What do you want to do?’ She chose to dance.”

Today, Breault is on Broadway and in touring musicals.

As for the future, Jarvis says she would like to work with more “at risk” children.

“I would love to see us get into things like the Boys and Girls clubs,” she said. “There must be other clubs around where we could go and teach dance on a regular basis.”