American Ballet Theatre to open school at Segerstrom in Costa Mesa

American Ballet Theatre creates William J. Gillespie dance school at Segerstrom Center for the Arts

One of the country's leading dance companies is opening a school in Southern California.

New York-based American Ballet Theatre announced Tuesday that it has partnered with Segerstrom Center for the Arts to open the American Ballet Theatre William J. Gillespie School on Segerstrom's Costa Mesa campus.

"If we're going to be a national ballet company we need to act like one and have a program on both coasts," said Kevin McKenzie, ABT's artistic director.

The company has staged shows, including world premieres, at Segerstrom for 27 years. Talks to create the school have been ongoing for the past year. The school is named for a prominent Orange County philanthropist who provided a grant for its creation. Segerstrom is not announcing the size of the grant.

"You will never meet a more passionate, knowledgeable and committed supporter of great dance than William J. Gillespie," Segerstrom President Terrence W. Dwyer said. "He cares very deeply about the young people learning to dance that constitute the future of the art form."

The new school will open in September 2015 with an annual 36-week program that includes nine class levels for ages 3 to 14. Registration begins Wednesday. Tuition starts at $1,150, and scholarships will be available.

One benefit of enrolling in the school will be the chance to be among the first to audition for ABT performances at the center, including the March 2015 world premiere of Alexei Ratmansky's "The Sleeping Beauty" and the December 2015 premiere of Ratmansky's "The Nutcracker."

The curriculum will resemble that of its sister school, ABT's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, established 10 years ago.

"We want to use the power of our brand, so to speak, to reach deep into the community and replace what we lost when we as a society decided we didn't need arts education," McKenzie said. "That job is left to places like ABT and the Segerstrom Center."

Added Dwyer: "This will be a flagship program for us for many years to come."

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