'Zombie' ballerinas, the Leigh Purtill Ballet Company will host a virtual fundraiser Saturday featuring ballet horro movie "The Dead Shoes." / Photo by Jessica Peralta.
Leigh Purtill is no stranger to the dynamics of ballet and movement. Her experience in film, and teaching and choreographing ballet keeps her and her ballet company thriving, even despite a pandemic. She’ll keep things moving when she hosts a virtual fundraiser film event, Halloween in August, 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29.
The event will feature her short ballet-themed horror film, The Dead Shoes, followed by games, prizes, and a costume contest. All via Zoom. Even though she says the company fundraiser will not be the same this year due to COVID-19, she will continue to have fun and inspire others to take part in the event.
“This event isn’t nearly as big as anything we’d do on-stage or in-person, but at least it feels like a bit of Halloween in summer,” Purtill says. “Our online event is a low-key mini-fundraiser which is really just an excuse to start celebrating Halloween.”
She’ll also lead a “very basic Halloween-themed ballet class” that she says anyone can do.
“I expect the whole event to be about 75 minutes long,” she says. “It’s all family-friendly stuff, of course, with a touch of scare.”
After growing up and training in Boston and New York, she came to Los Angeles to find better opportunities to perform and even teach her deepest passion, ballet. But she also has a seemingly contradictory passion for zombies and horror movies. It’s these two loves that ultimately gave her the idea to create her popular zombie ballet, Sweet Sorrow, which was scheduled to make its fourth annual run in October, until it was postponed to 2021 because of, rather ironically, the pandemic.
“I have always had a deep passion for dancing, even in my early childhood,” she says. “It was something I was good at, and as I grew older I realized that I wanted to take things a step further. Even better, my passion for zombies and horror movies gave me the idea to pair the two ideas together to make something great.”
Being an artistic director does require a lot of work, but Purtill says it is very rewarding. In the beginning of her career in teaching ballet, she talks about how she originally anticipated only directing one event. However, after the event turned out to be a huge success, she continued to coordinate other events, and eventually her business grew with her. In fact, she explains how many of the dancers that she taught when she first started ballet are still with her to this day.
“I never thought that I would actually end up opening a school to teach ballet. I just thought I would maybe have one or two events, and it would be over with,” she says. “It also warms my heart to be able to watch the dancers that I have taught grow and acquire the skills they have today.”