BEVERLY HILLS PEOPLE Friday, December 19, 2003
A Q&A Chat with folks in our city!
Kendra Kozen – Courier Staff Writer
Janet Roston is the Artistic Director
of The Advanced Dance Theater Group, The Company ‘04 (the dance company of
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
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
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
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
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.
Janet is represented by
BOBBY BALL AGENCY
4342 Lankershim Blvd.
Universal City, CA 91602
Tel: 818-506-8188 Fax: 818.506.8588