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The Crowd: Ballet performances draw diverse, enthusiastic crowds

The Crowd: Ballet performances draw diverse, enthusiastic crowds
A scene from American Ballet Theatre's "Harlequinade," which recently played in Costa Mesa following a successful run in New York. (Photo by Erin Baiano)

“Everything was beautiful at the ballet.” The famous line from “A Chorus Line” speaks volumes as it applies to the recent tour de force ballet performances at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa.

In December, American Ballet Theatre opened on the boards of Segerstrom Hall with “The Nutcracker.” Among the cast of magnificent dancers were 40 students from the William J. Gillespie American Ballet Theatre Academy at SCFTA dancing alongside the pros.

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On opening night, Dec. 14, Tiffany & Co. hosted a lavish holiday post-performance party in South Coast Plaza’s Jewel Court. The event was attended by cast and crew as well as VIP donors and sponsors, including the Gillespie student performers and their proud families and friends. Among the generous event sponsors mingling with the cast were Cliff and Kathy Fleming, Beverly Youssorfran, Tara Windermar, Prince Kellan Hayag and Clara-Lani Mefford. They were all welcomed by South Coast Plaza’s Debra Gunn Downing and her distinguished barrister beau Charles Kanter.

Following “The Nutcracker” in January, American Ballet Theatre returned to SCFTA for its 29th visit since the center opened in 1986 with a new production, “Harlequinade.” The West Coast premiere of the extravagant ABT production opened Jan. 17 starring talented dancers Danill Simkin in the role of Harlequin and Skylar Brandt as Columbine.

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Once again, The William J. Gillespie School of Dance incorporated 40 students working with the veteran performers in what was billed as “commedia dell’ arte.” The whimsical performance was the ideal vehicle for the center to create its first “Kids’ Night at the Ballet.”

Sold out, enthusiastic crowds of junior ballet fans filled the burgundy seats of Segerstrom Hall, relishing the chance to be a part of something unique and special. For young dancers dreaming of a future that would include the opportunity to perform on a stage such as Segerstrom, “Harlequinade” was transformative.

South Coast Plaza once again opened its classy doors, welcoming guests to a post-performance repast on opening night. Center donors, along with ABT board members who had come from New York for the opening of “Harlequinade” joined patrons, coast, crew and the young Gillespie dancers for congratulatory toasts in Jewel Court, which was decorated for the occasion by Dodie Sy and floral designer White Lilac.

Quattro Caffe catered for guests, including South Coast Plaza’s Managing Partner Elizabeth Segerstrom, SCFTA President Terry Dwyer, center Executive Vice President Judy Morr and ABT Board Chair Andy Barth along with ABT Executive Director Kara Medoff Barnett. Also front and center were ABT Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie and “Harlequinade” choreographer Alexei Ratmansky.

B.W. COOK is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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