Guests from afar dance in 'Don Quixote'

Festival Ballet welcomes two from American Ballet Theatre for Irvine Barclay performance.

March 13, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • AJ Abrams and Roma Daravi rehearse for their roles for "Don Quixote" on Tuesday at the Festival Ballet Theatre in Fountain Valley.
AJ Abrams and Roma Daravi rehearse for their roles for… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Like any dance performance, Festival Ballet Theatre's production of "Don Quixote" puts its cast through many tempo changes. Its two leads, though, may be operating on a particularly difficult time scale when they join rehearsals Thursday.

Which is to say, they may still be on China time.

The Fountain Valley-based dance company has enlisted Cory Stearns and Hee Seo, a pair of principal dancers with American Ballet Theatre, to join its regular troupe Saturday and Sunday at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. Wednesday, Stearns and Seo were scheduled to fly in from New York — en route from the other side of the world, where they've been performing on tour.

Festival Ballet has a hectic half-week ahead, with dress rehearsals and a meet-and-greet Thursday with Fountain Valley Mayor Pro Tem Michael Vo. But the stars will get to overcome jet lag first — for 24 hours or so, anyway.

"We're giving them a recovery day," communications director Connie Jankowski said.


Festival Ballet, which started in 1988 as the resident professional company of Southland Ballet Academy, has sent alumni to American Ballet Theatre, Scottish Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and other world-renowned groups. The exchange works the other way, too: For each of its productions, the Fountain Valley company brings in guest artists to play central roles.

When the company put on "The Nutcracker" in December, it featured more than half a dozen guests, including several trained in Russia. The shows this weekend in Irvine will include Stearns and Seo as "Don Quixote's" love interests — the barber Basilio and the innkeeper's daughter Kitri, who is betrothed to another man.

As far as Jankowski is concerned, though, Stearns and Seo won't be the only big names in the show; Dance Magazine spotlighted Southland Ballet Academy last year in a special issue on how to run a successful dance studio, and Pointe Magazine listed it the year before as one of the country's top local studios.

"The stars know when they come to dance with us, they're going to be in a high-quality performance that they're going to be proud of," she said.

Much of the Fountain Valley cast has experience, to say the least. A.J. Abrams, who plays the toreador Espada, has studied at Southland Ballet Academy for nearly 20 years; Roma Daravi, who plays the street dancer Mercedes, began working under artistic director Salwa Rizkalla at age 3.

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