DANCE! 90210

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BEVERLY HILLS PEOPLE  Friday, December 19, 2003

A Q&A Chat with folks in our city!


By: Kendra Kozen – Courier Staff Writer

      Janet Roston is the Artistic Director of The Advanced Dance Theater Group, The Company ‘04 (the dance company of BHHS).

      Courier: Are you a BH native?
      Roston: I grew up in Ladera Heights in Los Angeles and went to Inglewood High School. My family belonged to Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills. I was very involved in their youth group, so lots of my friends went to Beverly Hills High School.
      Courier: Tell me about your family.
      Roston: I have three brothers, two older and one younger. I grew up in a household filled with boys and while I was not an athlete, I never was a “girly girl.” My father, Ellsworth,  is a patent attorney and was president several times of Temple Emanuel. My mom, Lois, is extremely creative. She was always cooking and making crafts when I was a kid. She’s an amazing party-giver. I get all my creativity and ability to organize productions from her. I’m married to the best, kindest, supportive man, Barry Weiss. He’s a hairdresser but also runs our instructional dance video business. My son, Jonathan, is in 8th-grade at Beverly Vista School and is Student Body President. He’s absolutely hilarious; he keeps me laughing every day. My brother Warren and sister-in-law Alissa (Board of Education Vice-President) live three doors away.  It’s great to have his family down the block...my nephews use our basketball court and I get to traipse down the block to borrow milk.
      Courier: When did you first become interested in dance?
      Roston: I had taken dance class a bit as a child. In high school I performed with Nili Kosmal’s Israeli Dance Company; I was the youngest member. Modern dance didn’t become a real interest until I started Pomona College. As a freshman I auditioned for the Scripps College Dance Company. I was accepted to the company but it was clear to me that they had taken me on raw talent, not training. I started to study dance with intensity to make up for my lack of technique.
      Courier: Tell me about your dance training.
      Roston: As a junior I transferred to UCLA, which at the time had one of the best dance programs in the country. I studied ballet, modern dance, and choreography. I always had an interest in other dance styles so I studied jazz dance and hip-hop extensively; also ethnic styles such as Indian Bharat Natyam and African dance.
      Courier: Tell me about your experience and career as a dancer/ choreographer.
      Roston: I’ve never had a need to perform. Early on in my training I realized that my interest was in choreography. After college I established myself as a professional commercial choreographer. Over the years I’ve choreographed for film, television, commercials, corporate shows, stage, and world tours. I’ve won awards for my stage and concert choreography. Recent credits include the films “The Last Shot” with Matthew Broderick and “How Does It Feel” with Blair Underwood. I recently was nominated by the American Choreography Awards for the KCRW commercial, “Balance.”
      Courier: Who or what inspires your creativity?
      Roston: It’s hard to define what sparks an idea. When I’m choreographing for musical theater I sometimes feel like I’m channeling movement information. I instinctively draw upon references I don’t even know I’ve remembered, such as movies, old musicals, period dance styles, or even cartoon characters. The dance I’ve created for this year’s Company ‘04 concert mixes the video game “Dance, Dance, Revolution” and George Orwell’s “1984.” That idea started when I was in a video arcade last Winter Break. I watched these boys playing DDR.  Their legs were moving so fast but their faces were frozen watching the screen, like automatons. Over the months the image stuck with me but the movement style needed to be connected to a theme. I reread “1984” and felt I could connect DDR with the world of Big Brother. You can see the result in the Dance Company concert on January 14th-17th, 7:30 p.m. in the Beverly Hills High School Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased at the box office before the performance or from the Student Store.
      Courier: Where are some of your favorite spots in BH?
      Roston: What I love about Beverly Hills is that it is basically a small town. When you go out for coffee at Peet’s or to the Farmer’s Market you run into someone you know. We moved into Beverly Hills five years ago so our son could live in the same neighborhood as his school. The intimacy of the community hit me immediately upon moving when I went to the supermarket in my jammies and ran into someone I knew. (Not that you have to dress up to go out but one is certainly not anonymous in Beverly Hills!)
      Courier: Over the past 20 odd years you’ve been teaching, how have BHHS students changed?
      Roston: I don’t think the students have changed in 23 years; dancers are dancers. I work with students who aspire to become strong dancers and choreographers. Many of my students are serious, excellent students who have talent as a dancer; but sometimes my students are very quirky, don’t do very well in academic classes but shine in the Dance Company. Many of them have been incredibly gifted and have gone on to professional careers.
      Courier: What are some of your best memories teaching at BHHS?
      Roston: The best memories of working at BHHS is my relationships with the Dance Company members. When a student becomes a member of the Dance Company they join a special family. I have formed long-term friendships with so many of my students. Often, they come back to assist me with the Dance Company.
      Courier: What are your goals for the future?
      Roston: I’ve started directing television commercials and I’d like to head more into that area. It’s exciting to work in film and to helm a large group of people, to make decisions about the color, mood, and qualities of a final product. Commercials have to tell a visual story quickly; I like the efficiency you have to bring to each shot and the speed with which you complete a project. As the Artistic Director of the Dance Company, I’ve become adept at directing many people working in their particular creative aspect of a project so it seems like a natural progression. I’m particularly interested in commercials with children; as a choreographer I’m known as someone who works well with kids. It’s from teaching for so many years.
      Courier: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
      Roston: Spare time? I’ve got a Dance Concert to produce! I take ballet regularly and jazz and hip-hop when I’ve got time. I love to travel, there is so much more of the world that I plan on visiting.

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Janet is represented by 


4342 Lankershim Blvd.
Universal City, CA  91602

Tel: 818-506-8188 Fax: 818.506.8588