Dancer. Born Elisaveta Borisova Zalipskaya in Tblisi, Russia, Lila Zali came to the United States in 1921 at the age of three. Her parents were both professional opera singers. Her father had a contract to join the Metropolitan Opera in America, but unfortunately died before they made it to the U.S. Lila and her mother instead joined some family in Washington, D.C., where Lila began ballet lessons.
During World War II, she organized a trio of dancers, including her good friend Barbara Stuart, called "The Three Debs," to do a USO tour. When she returned to New York, she starred in a weekly CBS television show called "Balleretta." She later was principal dancer of another weekly ballet program called "The Don Lee Show."
Lila later moved to Los Angeles where she met her husband, Nicholas "Kolia" Levienne. Kolia was a prominent cellist, who had toured with Anna Pavlova, accompanying her as she performed "The Dying Swan." Lila and Kolia joined with Michel Panaieff in a company called "Ballet Musicale" which later became Los Angeles City Ballet. Kolia also did film studio work and that led to Lila's involvement in films. The many movies she appeared in included "An American in Paris" (in which she was Leslie Caron's stand-in), "Limelight" with Charlie Chaplin, "Daddy Long Legs," "Gaby," "Anything Goes," "Silk Stockings" and "The Ten Commandments." She also appeared on "The Colgate Comedy Hour" with Harpo Marx and Tony Martin.
Her ballet teacher during this time was Imperial Russian Ballet star Adolph Bolm, whom she also taught for. In addition, she taught at the studio of Michel Panaieff, which included her most famous student, a young Cynthia Gregory.
Lila and Kolia vacationed in Laguna Beach, CA and decided to move to Laguna permanently in 1959. Kolia started the Laguna Beach Chamber Music Society, and Lila opend her dance studio. She began a small ballet company called Laguna Beach Civic Ballet which later became Ballet Pacifica. Under her direction, the company evolved into a semi-professional group, performing 60-70 times per year. She served as director, choreographer, costume maker, fundraiser, and many other roles until 1988.
Lila served on the board of the National Association of Regional Ballet, which later became Regional Dance America, for many years, including serving as president. She also worked for many other organizations such as the Laguna Beach Arts Commision and was very active in Soropimist International of Laguna Beach, for which she also had been a past president.
She continued to teach daily classes when well enough, up until four days before her death at the age of 84.
Nicolas Kolia Levienne