Our Soil and Our Seeds
The story of VS:P.E.C. begins with three individuals whose lives had been profoundly impacted by access to arts programming in high school, who deeply believed in paying it forward:
The Funder, Philip Rosenthal created the hit TV comedy Everybody Loves Raymond, which was on the air for nine years and continues in syndication. The Teacher, Kevin Kane, met Phil in 1980 when they were both theatre majors at Hofstra University. By 1996, Phil was writing for Television, and Kevin (now Dr. Kevin Kane, currently Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Education Dept. At UCLA) was teaching at Marshall High school in the LA Unified School District. While teaching at Marshall, Kevin created the seminal program, Theatre Workshop.
The Visionary, Monica Horan Rosenthal, met Kevin Kane in 1977 while they were performing in their high school play. In 1986, Kevin introduced Phil to Monica after Phil saw her perform in a play Kevin directed. Phil and Monica married in 1990, and Monica became a member of the Everybody Loves Raymond cast in 1997. Monica and Phil supported Kevin’s Theatre Workshop program from its inception. By supporting Kevin’s work, the Rosenthal’s were made acutely aware of the gross inequity in our public schools when it comes to access to the arts. Understanding that every student deserves a complete education that includes the arts, and having seen the impact Theatre Workshop was having on the students and entire community at Marshall HS, Kevin, Monica and Phil founded The Flourish Foundation. In addition to supporting the work being done in the field by Kevin, the Flourish Foundation provided scholarships to students, funded various teacher initiatives and arts programs and, in partnership with the Rosenthal Family Foundation, education equity advocacy.
Monica maintained the vision that one day, students who participated in programming created by Kevin and supported by the Flourish Foundation (students like Jackie Lopez, Leigh Foaad, Harry Weston and Ernesto Galarza), would not only work for the foundation, but eventually run and transform it to support the work they create. VS:P.E.C. is the realization of that vision.
Jackie was introduced to Leigh Foaad in 2002, when Leigh participated in Kevin Kane’s Theatre Workshop summer class at UCLA. In 2003-2004, Leigh became a vital part of Jackie’s work at UCLA. They discovered that together they shared a common passion for dance and performance and this connection resulted in the creation of Versa-Style in 2005, which has contributed to the evolution of The Flourish Foundation to Versa-Style: Performance. Education. Community.
As LA Natives, they embrace the culture and honor the history/legacy of Hip Hop dance by passing it on to the future generations. They have been guest choreographers for Santa Monica College, LA Valley College, Columbia College and University of Utah. Jackie and Leigh have served as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. through the Arts Envoy Cultural Exchange Program in which they were able to perform, teach and lecture in countries such as Israel, Egypt, India, and Colombia. As a mainstay of Hip Hop culture, Jackie and Leigh have traveled to several Hip Hop dance battles nationally and internationally, winning many victory titles in places such as Korea, Italy, Canada and France. In addition, Jackie and Leigh’s biography premiered in their documentary “Furious Beauty” at the LA Film Festival where it garnered glowing reviews.
Lastly, they were awarded with a Lester Horton Artist Appreciation Award presented by the Dance Resource Center in June 2015. Currently, they are both Lecturers for UCLA’s World Arts and Cultures/Dance Dept. They owe a lot of their fortune to the legends and culture of Hip Hop, as well as the future generations that have contributed in profound ways to the future of VS:P.E.C.
As shared in our Mission statement, Versa-Style: Performance. Education. Community. is led by former students of the program. The organization has flourished into what it is today due to the heart and effort of countless individuals over the years, and in particular we would like to recognize the contributions of Harry Weston, Alli Gray, Ernesto Galarza, Bianette Linares, Brandon Juezan, Cynthia Hernandez, Anthony Berry, G’bari Gilliam, Jessi Pontillas and Brianna Grey. These ARTivists have consistently contributed to the work, mission, and evolution of Versa-Style as an organization for many years and have offered formative contributions during our initial transition. Also part of this team have been our consultants, the incredible Rachel Levin and Andrea Sorin, part of the Fundamental team who have guided us on this journey. To all those involved in the building of Versa-Style over the years, THANK YOU it takes a village. We are grateful for the Los Angeles community who have helped us empower this organization. All of you and many more are part of our history, our present, and our future. Let’s keep on building in order to support the leaders of tomorrow and the hope for our city.
Versa-Style Next Generation…
May these young souls/artivists continue to inspire us all of the possibilities of what our world can and WILL be…
We hear you and may you all continue to GUIDE us.
The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow!