LOS ANGELES — The love of dance starts young and the ladies at the Westside School of Ballet are learning from the best.

Adrian Blake Mitchell teaches there, as does his girlfriend, Andrea Lassakova.

What You Need To Know

  • Adrian Blake Mitchell grew up in Southern California and started ballet at 8 years old
  • He has been living in Russia for the last seven years as part of the Mikhailovsky Ballet Company in Saint Petersburg
  • Mitchell and his girlfriend, Andrea Lassakova, had to flee from Russia when the war in Ukraine began
  • Since coming back to Southern California, Mitchell has already performed with Westside School of Ballet in addition to teaching the next generation

The couple met seven years ago at a dance company in Russia. Mitchell, a Southern California native, would go on to achieve some of the highest heights in ballet, studying at the same schools as Baryshnikov and Nureyev, then joining the prestigious Mikhailovsky Ballet Company in Saint Petersburg.

However, when the war in Ukraine began, he and Lassakova had to flee, leaving everything behind.

“Part of the reason we wanted to leave Russia in the first place is just because of the political situation in general,” Mitchell said.

“It just felt like a very volatile place. Once the war began, it was hard to go to the bank and get cash. Our flights were canceled, and [it] just felt like we were really gonna end up in a really bad situation, so we left as fast as we possibly could.”

Lassakova, who is a native of Slovakia, says they only had two days to prepare to move all the way across the world to Santa Monica, Calif.

“Because of everything escalating, we were really scared, so in two days we packed all of our apartment, shipped it to Holland, took all of our stuff, and just left the country.”

Since coming back to Southern California, Mitchell and Lassakova have already performed with Westside in addition to teaching the next generation of dancers at the school.

Martine Harley is the artistic director at Westside Ballet. She’s proud to have welcomed three dancers departing Russia, including Mitchell and Lassakova.

“To be able to be invited by Westside and to come to Los Angeles to just feel grounded, to have a purpose, to have a date to come and dance again, it gave them a sense of direction again, when they felt very lost at that time,” Harley explained.

Mitchell now heads to New York for some touring now that he’s found peace in his dance here in Santa Monica.

“There’s a huge psychological relief having left and being here where it’s sunny and everything is generally OK and great, compared to the people of Ukraine who have it so tough,” Mitchell said. “Many people in Russia are also suffering. It’s definitely a relief to be back home, to be doing what I love to do.”