Ballet instructor spreads light, inspiration and love on the Westside
By Bridgette M. Redman
t’s good that Chasen Greenwood had a persistent friend when he was but a boy in Texas.
He already knew by age 10 that he loved musical theater, but his friend wanted him to take a ballet class with him.
“I said, ‘No, boys don’t take ballet,’” Greenwood said. “That’s not the cool thing in Texas.”
He did it anyway, taking a class at Lisa Owen’s New World Ballet in Richardson, Texas and his life was changed. He would go on to dance on full scholarships with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Houston Ballet and Ballet Austin.
He’d perform in the West Coast premiere of “Newsies.” He’s worked with Lady Gaga’s choreographer, Richy Jackson, and director Neal Brennan for an Xbox Super Bowl commercial. He recently choreographed a yet-to-be-released movie about a Black ballerina.
The reluctant boy fell in love with dance and his choreography even won him “Best Young Choreographer” at Regional America Southwest. Now a teacher at Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica, Greenwood said it is a place that helps him pursue his life goal of spreading light, inspiration and love.
“Like so many others, dance was my light,” Greenwood said. “It really was what got me through most of my childhood. I want to spread what the art form does for me. At Westside School of Ballet, I started meeting great adults and they helped me produce shows in Los Angeles.”
Light, inspiration and love became Greenwood’s mantra. His classes are open to anyone of any age, from ex-dancers to professionals and semi-professionals to those who are new to dance. He said he starts every class guiding his students in breath work and then tells them that the next hour and a half is for them.
“The one thing we all agree on is that we love dance,” Greenwood said. “For me, teaching is therapeutic. I can be having the worst day and when I show up, I am able to be with the dancers. No matter how busy I get, I will always go back to coaching. Dancers have always been my friends and the people I relate to. When people come to my class it’s important that we show up for ourselves and it doesn’t matter what our politics, religion or anything else is. We all love dance.”
Greenwood remembers teaching at Westside School of Ballet just as the pandemic was shutting things down. He recalled the last class he taught.
“It was when we didn’t know what was going to happen,” Greenwood said. “The last thing I said to my students was, ‘I’m sending you all love, I don’t know when I’ll see you again.’”
However, Westside School of Ballet found ways to safely dance through the pandemic—with strict protocols and safety measures in place. On Father’s Day in 2021, Greenwood was able to do his first show since the start of the pandemic—one where everyone was masked, they checked vaccinations and kept everyone distanced.
“We had a sold-out show and a lot of those adults (at Westside) helped to fund and raise money for those shows,” Greenwood said. “I hired 15 professional dancers and created all new work. We filmed it live with an audience and they got to see each thing twice because we filmed at different angles. They saw my directing, saw the product and saw what it was like to be on stage.”
After that, he did another fundraiser where he hired 12 to 13 dancers and brought on two other choreographers.
While Greenwood has loved live performance, he is now enjoying work on television and in film, and hopes to do more choreography for it. He also dreams of founding his own company, a contemporary ballet group that would collaborate with such organizations as Universal Studios and whose dancers would perform in television and film.
As someone who has lived all over the country, Greenwood acknowledges that there are challenges and sacrifices to living in LA. It’s expensive and the traffic is intense. But he loves the people and it is here where he wants to build his career.
He also credits Westside School of Ballet as re-inspiring his desire to teach. He said he is proud to be a part of the dance organization. It has not only kept him going, but restored his spirit.
“There is something about the energy that I can’t explain,” Greenwood said. “It sometimes gets me teary-eyed when teaching. When I see people completely together doing pliés, I get chills. It’s something I can’t explain with words, which is why I’m a dancer.”