Former Dance Student to Host Benefit

Jane Pojawa

Ryan Olaes, once a star of Glendale’s dance department, is the exception to the rule: an art major who actually works as an artist. In this case, as a professional dancer.

As dancer and chanteuse Gia Ryan, Olaes has been entertaining adoring fans at the Palms nightclub for a couple of years, since leaving Glendale to pursue a career in entertainment.

As a headliner at Club Illusions on Friday nights, Gia’s performance brings to mind a young Madonna with higher kicks. But the glamorous onstage persona belies what Ryan’s friends knew all along: under that sequined gown beats a heart of gold.

When Ryan saw the devastation wrought by the earthquake and tsunami, he knew he had to help.

“There were so many international students in the dance department at Glendale,” Ryan said. “I had a lot of Japanese friends – too many to ignore. The rationing is really hitting people hard and I want to help.”

Thus, the “Japan Disaster Relief Entertainment Fundraiser” was born. Ryan is planning three events for April, the first scheduled for April 4 at the Palms.

He is pulling largely from the West Hollywood community to provide entertainment for the variety show.

“We have everything from comedians to dancers to guitarists, and we’re still getting volunteers.”

All types of entertainers are welcome to share their talent as are tech crew members and general support volunteers. Items and services, such as memorabilia and music lessons, are also being solicited for the silent auction.

The other events are tentatively scheduled for April 16 at The Other Door, and a yet-to-be-announced date at the Roxbury Park Community Center.

Ryan is no stranger to fundraising. He started with the AIDS Walk in high school, and now volunteers with the foster care program in West Hollywood.

“My parents became very active in the foster care program,” said Ryan. “I have a caregiver’s certificate from the state, but I learned the most through hands-on experience.” The Olaes family has welcomed an additional six children into their home through foster care.

“You’re never too broke or too busy to give something back to the community or to help others whose problems are worse than yours,” said Ryan.

“Without the program [at GCC], I would not have taken dance seriously,” said Ryan. Now those skills are being used not just to earn a living, but to benefit others. “I don’t know how much money we’re going to raise, but I do know that it’s more than I could give by myself,” said Ryan.

The charity picked to receive any funds that are raised is Lady Gaga’s “We Pray for Japan” campaign.

“Lady Gaga has been a huge supporter of the GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender] community, and we want to support that,” said Ryan.

The primary final recipient is Japan’s Red Cross. All of the participants will also receive a “We Pray for Japan” wristband, to keep the public’s attention on Japan’s ongoing crisis.

The benefit at the Palms will begin around 7:30 p.m. on Monday and then turn into a club at about 10 p.m., with another show around midnight. This event is for people 21 and older, as it is being held at a bar, with an expected $10 donation at the door.Doors open at 6 p.m.

The Palms
8572 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA. 90069

To volunteer, make a contribution, or for information:
or call (310) 652-6188.

New benefit:
Friday, April 22 at 6:00pm – April 23 at 2:00am

Location: The Other Door
10437 Burbank Boulevard
North Hollywood, CA 91601