1910 ballet born again

Dancers rehearse for "The Firebird" at Festival Ballet Theatre's Fountain Valley studio.
(photo by Stasha Surdyke, Daily Pilot)

This centenarian is still kicking.

And plié-ing, arabesque-ing and jeté-ing.

“The Firebird,” a famed 1910 ballet whose music was composed by Igor Stravinsky, will make an appearance this weekend at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, starring the dancers of the Festival Ballet Theatre and one very special alumna. Newly choreographed by Nikolai Kabaniaev, the production tells the tale of Prince Ivan and the eponymous Firebird, who aids the prince in battle against an evil foe in exchange for eventual freedom.

“For this performance, we have invited one of our former dancers, Jade Payette,” company Artistic Director Salwa Rizkalla said. “She’s a dancer with the Washington Ballet. She was one of the silver medalists at the Youth America Grand Prix, and also had a scholarship from American Ballet Theater.”

“The Firebird” originally was choreographed by Michel Fokine.

“It is our version,” Rizkalla said. “It has a lot of dancing in it, and is very artistic, very enjoyable. There is no dull moment in it. It’s more exciting than any of the versions I have seen before.”

Rizkalla said it seemed like she and Kabaniaev were looking for each other when Ballet Repertory Theatre first sought a choreographer.

“He was a perfect fit for our company,” Rizkalla said. “My dancers are very classically trained; their lines are very beautiful — very seamless. Nikolai got that out of them.”

For the mixed repertoire portion of the program, the company selected the Pas d’Action from “Laurencia,” the story of a Spanish peasant revolution, set by Yuri Fateyev, the artistic director of the Kirov.

It also includes two new commissions of contemporary pieces by two award-winning choreographers, dancers and teachers: Molly Lynch and Viktor Plotnikov.

Rizkalla said the company is pleased to offer season tickets for the first time, which includes shows like “Firebird & Mixed Repertoire,” “The Nutcracker” in December and “Coppélia” in March.

For “The Nutcracker,” professional dancers from American Ballet Theatre will be performing the Grand Pas of the Sugar Plum fairy and her Cavalier; about 150 children from Orange County ballet schools also will be onstage, Rizkalla said.

Some special surprises also are in store for the season, she said, including educational opportunities and a one-night showcase of up-and-coming talent from some of the second companies around the country May 6.

Festival Ballet Theater aims to fill the void left by the sudden and much-bemoaned collapse of Ballet Pacifica in 2007.

“We have a hidden treasure in Orange County, the Festival Ballet Theatre,” Rizkalla said. “There are very talented dancers in our area. They are very recognized around the country and abroad. We are hoping to be the professional ballet company for Orange County, and to be able to get an audience that will come all the time and be proud of the homegrown talent.”

If You Go

Who: Festival Ballet Theatre

What: “The Firebird & Mixed Repertoire”

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive

Cost: Single tickets $20 to $40; season subscriptions $75 to $102

Information: (949) 854-4646 or