After years of wandering from this rehearsal hall to that one, Orange County's most prominent ballet troupe began classes last week in a new home, a move deserving of a celebratory plie or two.
Ballet Pacifica's new, 13,000-square-foot academy near John Wayne Airport has three airy studios. That roughly triples the troupe's class and rehearsal space. Previously it was using four locations around the county for classes and rehearsals.
As an important member of Orange County's cultural community, Ballet Pacifica deserves a higher profile. It hopes its new digs will help meet that goal and, not incidentally, increase donations.
The 16 members of the permanent company tend to have other jobs because the ballet pays only part-time wages. Artistic director Molly Lynch said if the money can be found to pay full-time salaries, the dancers can concentrate more on their art. Improved techniques can only delight audiences.
The company, founded on a shoestring as the Laguna Beach Civic Ballet in 1962, has grown with the county. Last year it moved its annual performances of the "Nutcracker" from the Laguna Playhouse to the larger Irvine Barclay Theatre. For the first time, it danced at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, in a collaboration with the Pacific Chorale.
Volunteers and ballet supporters also deserve credit for their help after the terrible Laguna firestorm in 1993. The flames destroyed nearly 30 years' worth of sets and costumes, costing about $1 million. But donors, volunteers and other dance companies managed to pitch in with equipment that let Ballet Pacifica stage another "Nutcracker" only six weeks later.
The conservatory offers classes for children 8 and older. The grooming of a new generation of dancers and the troupe's optimism as shown in moving to a new location offer evidence that for all its problems, the county's cultural life is thriving.