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DANCE : From Spotlight to Sidelines to Behind the Scenes

<i> Zan Dubin covers the arts for The Times Orange County Edition. </i>

You can take the dancer out of the ballet, but you can’t take the ballet out the dancer.

At least that’s James Jones’ experience. After abandoning a ballet career--which included stints with respected Frankfurt and Zurich troupes--to create a successful computer business four years ago, Jones returned last winter, as a choreographer, to his first love.

Ballet Pacifica will perform his neoclassic “Concerto in D,” set to Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto, Friday and Saturday at Irvine Barclay Theatre. It’s the troupe’s first performance of the work.

When it was all business and no ballet, “my life wasn’t balanced,” the Laguna Beach resident said. “I have a deep love for dance, and I don’t want to just put it away because I think I don’t have time for it.”

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Jones, 40, founded ComputerBooks, a medical softwear outfit, in 1990 upon earning an MBA at UC Irvine, where he first studied ballet as an undergrad in the early ‘70s and taught ballet from 1980 to 1989. He switched to business, he said in a recent phone interview, because “my mind was just wanting something besides rehearsals,” and he wanted training to help run South Coast Ballet. Jones served as artistic director of the South Coast troupe from 1982 to 1985; it disbanded a few years later.

But last year, he was asked to choreograph a waltz in the “Nutcracker” for Ballet Pacifica. Founder Lila Zali had been one of his early ballet teachers, and he happily accepted the request, later resurrecting his 1984 ballet “Liebeslieder Waltzes” for the troupe’s concert this past March.

Still hungry for involvement, he volunteered to revive “Concerto in D,” which he created in 1982 for his UCI students, who gave the work its premiere. He’s added two new movements to the 18-minute piece, including a central pas de deux .

“It begins with female dominance over the male,” he said, “then goes into male dominance over the female, then the couple comes to a compromise; they work out an equal balance, a give-and-take.”

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Balletomanes on their toes will know that Jones’ ballet is danced to the same Stravinsky work George Balanchine selected for his vaunted 1972 “Violin Concerto.”

Indeed, Balanchine greatly influenced Jones, who worked with the master in the late ‘70s as a member of the Zurich Ballet, Jones said, “the only company, outside of (Balanchine’s) New York City Ballet, that premiered his works.”

But why risk comparisons to one of ballet’s titans? Simply, Jones said, because he much admired the concerto and felt compelled to use it.

“I’m not pretending to be Mr. B,” he said, using the common nickname. “I’m just saying what I want to say to the music. Some of it has his style to it, but it’s still me.”

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* What: James Jones’ “Concerto in D” will be danced in Ballet Pacifica’s season-end concert, also featuring “Our Town” by Philip Jerry, “Counterpoint” by Molly Lynch and “Duetto” by Israel (El) Gabriel.

* When: Friday, May 13, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, May 14, at 2:30 and 8 p.m.

* Where: Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine.

* Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to the Jamboree Road exit and head south. Turn left onto Campus Drive. The theater is on Campus near Bridge Road, across from the Marketplace mall.

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* Wherewithal: $15 for adults; $12 for students and seniors, who may also purchase $6 rush tickets two hours before each performance.

* Where to call: (714) 854-4646.


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