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A local comes home as contemporary ballet company BalletX takes the Irvine Barclay stage

BalletX dancers perform. The company will appear at Irvine Barclay Theatre on Jan. 24.
(Sharen Bradford)
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Andrea Yorita danced on the Irvine Barclay Theatre stage for the first time as a young girl.

“My very first show, when I was 3 years old, I was a ladybug,” said Yorita, “and it was on the Barclay stage.”

On Jan. 24, Yorita returns to the Barclay with her dance company, BalletX.

“It feels like a full circle for me to be coming to perform at the Irvine Barclay,” said Yorita. “It has been there at every stage of my life. I very much know the stage as a kid, and then I performed there when I was at UCI. Now performing there as a professional dancer is such a full circle.”

The Irvine native studied dance in Orange County with Academy of Dance in Santa Ana, where she trained in the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus under Merle Sepel, Rebecca Tsivkin and Mignon Furman. After high school, Yorita attended UC Irvine, where she graduated with a BFA in dance performance in 2012 before joining BalletX.

One of the nation’s premier contemporary ballet companies, BalletX is based in Philadelphia and led by co-founder, artistic and executive director Christine Cox.

“BalletX is a contemporary ballet with a focus on new works, discovering new ways to move and bringing humanity to the ballet technique,” Yorita said.

The company is known for its progressive approach to ballet and its fresh presentation of brand-new dances.

“We do a lot of world premieres,” Yorita said. “We have done so many world premieres since the inception of the company. So we are always learning different ways to move from different choreographers and bringing their voices and their stories and translating it through our bodies.”

Yorita said she also appreciates the emphasis BalletX puts on diversity, which is a switch from classical ballet that often puts a focus on uniformity.

“Everybody here is very different. Everybody comes from different backgrounds, different careers, different training and different ways they came about dance. I think you see that a lot in their dancing,” said Yorita. “When I watch my co-workers, I love to see that we are individuals. We are not cookie-cutter and all have the same type of body. We have very different bodies and very different looks, and I feel like that is pretty unique.”

BalletX dancers Andrea Yorita and Richard Villaverde.
(Iziliaev)

BalletX’s upcoming show in Orange County will includeUmoja,” by Tiler Peck, principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. The dance, named from the Swahili word for “unity,” is meant to inspire feelings of togetherness.

BalletX pushes dancers to explore the contemporary realm, and Yorita said at a recent show in Philadelphia she danced in flat ballet shoes, then pointe shoes, then sneakers.

“We do a lot of trying to morph back and forth between styles,” Yorita said.

But she admits contemporary dance was something she might never have explored without her training at UCI.

“Going to college really opened up my eyes to the contemporary dance world. Had I not gone to UCI, I probably would have aimed myself at a more traditional ballet company,” said Yorita. “At UCI, I was so lucky to have been exposed to a large range of styles from classical ballet to modern to jazz … I don’t think I would have auditioned for BalletX had I not gone to UCI.”

As for her homecoming performance next week, Yorita assures audiences there is something for everyone.

“We have the more ballet-based piece by Tiler Peck for those who like the more traditional ballet lines, but then we also have very emotional work too. We have the fun and light stuff and the edgy piece from Jennifer Archibald,” Yorita said, referring to “Exalt,” by the Canadian-born founder of Arch Dance Co.

“There is something in there for everyone to like. The whole thing is going to take you on a very crazy journey in the best way possible,” she said.

Tickets for BalletX can be found at thebarclay.org.

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