Special dance a gift to mom

*****CORRECTION: The owner and director of the Orange County Dance Center should have been listed as Michael Houston.******

A “Prodigal Son” is returning home Mother's Day weekend to dance once again for his parents' local ballet company.

Christopher Sellars, 23, is a professional dancer at Ballet West in Utah and the son of Terri and Anthony Sellars, who run the Orange County Dance Center and its company, the Ballet Repertory Theatre.

He will return to Surf City this weekend, following an acclaimed appearance in George Balanchine's “The Prodigal Son,” to appear in the local company's full-length production of “La Bayadère” — considered its most challenging work to date.

The ballet is inspired by royal India, with beautiful jewel tones and a dreamy feel.

“We went all out on the costumes to make it really colorful and striking,” said volunteer Sylvie Nguyen.

The company chose to perform a more streamlined version of the ballet, with less pantomime, to make it more accessible to modern audiences, Nguyen said.

Although past performances have been in or near Huntington Beach, “La Bayadère” will be danced at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, as local venues are all under renovation.

Several variations from the ballet are used worldwide in competitions.

“I think it's every ballerina's aspiration to be able to dance those,” Nguyen said.

Its lead dancers will go on this summer to prestigious summer institutes; the company has been a springboard for many of the country's current professional ballerinas and dancers. The production also is unique in that it calls for two female lead dancers, who compete for the attentions of the male lead, performed by Sellars.

“I started taking ballet at 12 years old,” said Sellars, who originally started taking jazz dance and was told that ballet would help him with jazz. He said he felt no pressure to go into his family's profession.

“My parents never pushed it on me — it was my choice,” he said.

Sellars quickly realized the athletic appeal of male roles and discovered a love of partnering in performances.

“I was always around it,” Sellars said of ballet. “All my friends were at the studio. My best friend danced in the studio before I did. I would go to the studio to get rides to baseball and tae kwon do. It was like a second home.”

Two years later, Sellars started dancing for the center's company, and went to Philadelphia to train at the Rock School of Dance Education a year after graduating from Marina High School in 2003.

One year later, he was hired on by the second company of Ballet West in Salt Lake City, and was promoted to demi-soloist in 2008.

Sellars recently was commended in the New York Times for his leading role in “The Prodigal Son,” a Ballets Russes-style production, and is quickly gaining national acclaim.

“'Prodigal Son' was the most amazing thing I've ever done,” Sellars said. “You become someone else on stage, and that is so fun for me.?.?.?.?Things are going very well here, and I'm loving it.”

But Sellars always will have a base in Huntington Beach.

“I do enjoy coming back and doing shows at home,” he said. “Every vacation I get, I usually go home and dance — I would be bored and have no idea what to do if I didn't.”


WHO: Ballet Repertory Theatre

WHAT: “La Bayadère”

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine

COST: $12 to $18; mothers receive a special gift

INFORMATION: (949) 854-4646 or thebarclay.org

Reporter CANDICE BAKER can be reached at (714) 966-4631 or at candice.baker@latimes.com.

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