Power of dance: Liza Bercovici turns tragedy into beauty
By LA Stories Staff Downtown Los Angeles
PUBLISHED 5:00 AM PT Sep. 27, 2021
While on vacation in Grand Teton National Park, Liza Bercovici and her family went on a bike ride.
Her 13-year-old daughter Gabriella rode ahead with some of their tour group, enjoying the last few days of summer. Soon after Gabriella was out of sight, Bercovici received news that a van had hit someone from the group in a tragic accident. Dreading the worst, she pedaled as fast as she could, only to find what she was so afraid to discover: Gabriella had died.
“For weeks, I had no idea what was going on,” Bercovici said. “I could hardly get out of bed. My life was turned inside out and upside down, and the same for my family, too.”
It quickly became clear to Bercovici that she couldn’t return to work as a family lawyer. She knew she needed to do something new — and something to memorialize her daughter.
In this episode of “LA Stories,” Bercovici opens up to host Giselle Fernandez about her decision to step away from the life she knew and start a new one.
Bercovici’s daughter, Gabriella, loved to dance. In her honor, having no nonprofit experience, Bercovici created the Gabriella Foundation, now called Everybody Dance LA! The low-cost after-school dance program serves disadvantaged youth in Los Angeles. It has been wildly successful, and children who participate in it develop important life skills such as confidence, discipline and resiliency.
“I wanted to use what she loved to memorialize her, but also to make a difference in the lives of children and children in need,” Bercovici said.
Everybody Dance LA! has expanded to 28 locations, and every child who participates has gone on to college. Bercovici witnessed how having high expectations for kids inspired them to succeed. With that in mind, Bercovici went on to open not one but two charter schools — called the Gabriella Charter Schools — where dance is a part of the curriculum. Each is now ranked among the top schools in California.
The changes and achievements Bercovici has seen in the children from underserved communities bring her comfort and pride.
“Inequity in our society is very great. This is just one small step forward,” she said. “And at the end of the day, that’s the only way one can make change.”