The Festival Ballet Theatre will bring a timeless love story to life during its spring production of"Sleeping Beauty,"which is set to grace the Irvine Barclay Theatre on March 24 and 25.
In true corps de ballet fashion, guest American Ballet Theatre principal dancers, FBT's professional members and a select group of Southland Ballet students will reconcile fabled storybook characters, such as Princess Aurora, Puss 'n Boots, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf.
"Sleeping Beauty" was originally performed by the Russian Imperial Ballet in January 1890. The full-length production of the beloved classical ballet is set to Peter Tchaikovsky's score and consists of four acts and two intermissions.
For the Fountain Valley-based FBT, the spring production is the biggest production of the year, aside from its winter production of "The Nutcracker."
"Sleeping Beauty" is part of an ongoing cycle of ballets that Artistic Director Salwa Rizkalla has presented at the Barclay for more than 10 years. FBT's last edition of "Sleeping Beauty" was performed in 2009, a rendition that Rizkalla considered successful.
And now, with a new vision "to take people back to the pure elegance of the classical dance," Rizkalla will dust off the whimsical fairy costumes and bring back the production's elaborate sets along, with the timeless fairytale love story.
"I think the story is very well-known," Rizkalla said. "It got even more well-known with Disney."
The legend begins when the long-awaited princess, Aurora, is born. Tragically, she is cursed to prick her finger on a spindle and must sleep for 100 years, until a handsome prince awakens her with true love's first kiss. And, you guessed it, everyone lives happily ever after.
"There's a lot of non-verbal dialogue," company member Roma Daravi said. "For the dancers, you have to know how to act. It's a huge part of being an artist, in order to get the story across.
"I mean, everyone knows the story of 'Sleeping Beauty,' but there's always that little girl out there that doesn't know it, and you want to make sure she gets the same experience that everyone else does."
Even though "Sleeping Beauty," with its Disney legacy, is sure to provoke a flock of young girls, Rizkalla stressed that the production will be enjoyable for the entire family.
"It's also a love story," Rizkalla said. "So, it's appealing for the young and for the old, because it's not just a children's ballet."
The ballet features internationally acclaimed dancers Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky, principal dancers with the American Ballet Theatre who are familiar to Orange County audiences who have attended past FBT productions.
In real life, Dvorovenko and Beloserkovsky are married.
Together, these principal dancers will rehearse their roles in New York and join FBT during the week before the performance.
"Both of them are really perfect," Rizkalla said. "The good thing about a husband and wife dancing together is that they usually practice together."
But while the principal dancers are hard at work in New York, the Festival Ballet company is feverishly preparing for their arrival as they too finish up a string of weekend rehearsals that initially began in the first week of February.
"Irina and Max are, I would say, my favorite principal dancers," said Daravi, who will play Lilac Fairy for the Sunday performance. "I've always looked up to them, and to be able to be onstage dancing with them is just amazing. It's truly something that can't be bought, just being able to dance next to them."
When audiences fill the Barclay later this month they will witness a classic ballet production, but behind the scenes, an educational goal will be taking shape.
"We look at American Ballet Theatre as one of the best ballet companies in the world and our ballet company gets the best every year in every production," said Rizkalla. "I believe always [combining] the stars with the young, up-in-coming protégés always helps them to rise to the level."
"It's not just a performance, it's an educational experience," she added.
Next year, Festival Ballet Theatre will celebrate its 25th anniversary and its school, Southland Ballet Academy, will turn 30. The years have amounted to immense community awareness, as demonstrated through sold-out houses.
As of Wednesday, the March 25 show had sold out and limited seats still remained for March 24, according to Connie Jankowski of Festival Ballet's marketing team.
If You Go
What: The Festival Ballet's production of "Sleeping Beauty"
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 24, and 2 p.m. Sunday March 25
Where: Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine
Tickets: $40 for general admission, $30 for children