Ballet routines anything but

Penelope Koulos has a tough show ahead of her this weekend, as Ballet Repertory Theatre prepares for its first production of the school year. But tacked in the corner of the bulletin board at the Orange County Dance Center is something to encourage her.

That's the small slip of paper declaring the record she set Nov. 18 in the Huntington Beach studio, where instructors keep track of athletic feats their students achieve durihng rehearsal. Penelope, a junior at Wilson High School in Long Beach, pulled off a fouette – a move in which the dancer spins around on one foot while the other leg whips around – 120 times in a row, breaking her own record of 85.

So why did she stop after 120?

"My calf cramped," Penelope, 16, explained.

"And we all went crazy," added her classmate, 17-year-old Megan Steinkirchner.

Saturday evening, Penelope, Megan and nearly four dozen other teenage dancers will take the stage for the company's annual Fall Festival at Golden West College. Terri Sellars, the co-director of Ballet Repertory Theatre, said records like Penelope's actually help dancers prepare for a production – because the show's routines, which never call for that many consecutive moves, end up seeming easy by comparison.

Of course, that's only by comparison. Sellars, who teaches ballet classes every day at the dance studio at 5872 Edinger Ave., said only the hardest-working students aged 13 and older are accepted into Ballet Repertory Theatre.

"These are the most dedicated," she said. "These are the kids who are here two to three hours a day, every day after school."

This year's Fall Festival, which runs Saturday and Sunday at the Golden West College Theater, features Spanish- and Russian-themed ballets, including "Bolero," "Paquita," "Don Quixote" and "Prince Igor." Spokeswoman Sylvie Nguyen said the organizers were inspired to focus on Spain after the country dominated the news this year – the country won the World Cup and Tour de France, while Spanish-born Pau Gasol was among the championship Los Angeles Lakers.

"We thought, since Spanish flair is in the air, we'd go along with that," Nguyen said.

The production features 45 students – 40 of them girls – along with younger jazz and ballet students from the center and several guest artists who danced with the company during their teenage years. Among them is Christopher Sellars, the co-directors' son, who choreographed one piece and will perform the Moszkowski Waltz, an intricate duet in which the male dancer throws and catches his partner multiple times.

Christopher Sellars, a member of Ballet West in Salt Lake City, said he and his partner, Katie Critchlow, have rehearsed the piece for a year. He noted that due to its demanding nature, the piece is rarely performed.

"It's not done often anymore, especially the version we're doing, because the moves are quite difficult," he said. "I can't do it with every girl, so she's quite talented."

If You Go

What: Ballet Repertory Theatre's Fall Festival

Where: Golden West College Theater, 15744 Goldenwest St., Huntington Beach

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

Cost: $13 to $16

Information: (714) 895-8150

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