With In-Person Graduation and Performances Canceled, Mirabelle Weinbach Says Farewell to Her Ballet Community and School Before Heading to Princeton
By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
Mirabelle Weinbach, a near-lifelong resident of the Palisades, started at Westside School of Ballet when she was 5 years old after she found herself dancing around her living room.
“My mom actually took me to see Westside’s ‘Nutcracker’ and she said I was bouncing in my seat the whole time,” Weinbach recalled with a laugh.
Now, the Princeton-bound ballerina is saying goodbye to a program that she has participated in since pre-ballet, making her way through different levels to the six-day-a-week, intensive regimen she has been on for the past several years.
“I fell in love with the performing and training,” Weinbach shared of her journey with the school.
But what was supposed to be a teary farewell tour quickly shifted due to the pandemic shutting down in-person classes and performances. Since Safer at Home orders went into place, Westside has switched to live-streaming classes through Zoom and Instagram live.
“So from my living room, I’m holding onto a chair and taking class,” Weinbach explained, “but it’s nice to be able to see everyone’s faces, especially on Zoom, because we’re all there, so I can see all my classmates and my teachers.”
She shared that the cancellation of the school’s spring performance, which was meant to be Weinbach’s final show with Westside, has been tough.
“The spring showcase was really going to be like—as cliché as it sounds—the final bow,” Weinbach said. “Not having that is really sad. There’s this ballet that I was supposed to dance called ‘Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux’—that and ‘Serenade’ are my two favorite ballets—and that was my dream role since I was really little.”
Though Weinbach said that it was bittersweet not being able to perform the role on stage in front of an audience, she shared that she is grateful for the opportunity to have the experience of rehearsing it for a few weeks before things shut down.
But that doesn’t mean that Weinbach is leaving the ballet school without a long list of accomplishments she has achieved over the years, including dancing the role of Sugar Plum Fairy for the past three Westside performances of “The Nutcracker” and Russian Girl in George Balanchine’s “Serenade” in the 2019 spring showcase.
“I think that’s the hardest role I’ve ever done—just physically, it’s exhausting,” Weinbach said. “It’s like 30 minutes straight of jumping and turning, but it’s such a touching and moving piece.”
Another unexpected shift of events were end-of-the-year activities she was planning on participating in as a senior at Brentwood School, including senior prom and a graduation ceremony. But she shared that because the entire school community is going through it, she feels that they are all in it together and it is not as upsetting to roll with the punches.
Weinbach said that her time at Brentwood School was “fantastic” and that she feels it set her up to go forward in her life, including attending Princeton starting this fall.
“I feel very confidently that I received a very good education, and was constantly inspired to learn,” she said. “I think that set me up well to move forward, and it was fun—it’s just a fun place to go to school.”
Weinbach, who applied as an English major, is thinking that she will want to study engineering.
“At Princeton, mechanical and aerospace engineering is one department,” Weinbach explained. “I’ve always been interested in space, I find that really fascinating, and that it’s combined with mechanical engineering, I like just making things in general. I’m always crafting and doing stuff like that, I think that definitely ties in.”
Weinbach explained that ahead of starting at the school, she joined a group on Facebook with other members of the incoming class where she expressed an interest in dancing, and received personal messages from current students from different dance groups reaching out and introducing themselves. She said that the community there reminds her of the close knit community at Westside.
Though she has no plans to go into dance professionally post-graduation, she said that the possibility is there and that she plans on staying in shape by dancing at the university.
“I definitely want to stay in fighting shape throughout college,” Weinbach said, “because it feels good to be able to take a class and feel like, ‘Yeah I can still do this, I still got it.’”
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.