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Orange County Gala in August

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For those Southern Californians suffering ballet withdrawal over the summer, Festival Ballet Theatre’s annual "Gala of the Stars" may satisfy your craving. Every year, Artistic Director Salwa Rizkalla lures an amazing roster of principals and soloists from NYCB, SFB, ABT, Mariinsky, and other companies to Orange County. The Gala coincides with the completion of a summer intensive at Southland Ballet Academy, and apparently the invitees are also able to spend a bit of time with the students. Here’s the current lineup for the Gala on August 12, 2016:

Tiler Peck, New York City Ballet

Robert Fairchild, New York City Ballet

Maria Kochetkova, American Ballet Theatre

Daniil Simkin, American Ballet Theatre

Cory Stearns, American Ballet Theatre

Xander Parish, The Mariinsky Theatre

Yuan Yuan Tan, San Francisco Ballet

Jamie Kopit, American Ballet Theatre/SBA Alumni

A few of my personal highlights from the last few gala’s:

  • Lauren Cuthbertson (Royal Ballet) performing “Swan Lake Pas de Deux” with Xander Parish, just before intermission. This was a stunning performance in a relatively small venue, and seeing it up close was thrilling. But then, at the very end of the program, Ms. Cuthbertson returned to perform a portion of Wayne McGregor’s “Chroma” with Eric Underwood (Royal Ballet). Seeing Ms. Cuthbertson’s two exceptional performances from opposite ends of the ballet spectrum in one evening was unforgettable (2015).
  • You can’t help but love Daniil Simkin’s energy and pluckiness!
    • “Les Bourgeois” and “Don Quixote Pas de Deux” (with Maria Kochetkova) in 2014.
    • “Stars and Strips” and “La Pluie” (both with Isabella Boylston in 2013)
  • See 2013 highlights from Isabella Boylston, Robert Fairchild, Mathew Golding, Maria Kochetkova, Tiler Peck, Daniil Simkin, Damian Smith, Yuan Yuan Tan, and others…

This year's performance is Friday August 12th, 2016 at 6PM - at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in Irvine, California. Tickets for the performance (only) are ($65/$75). There’s also an after-show dinner package with dancers for $200. (Haven’t tried the dinner package, so can’t comment on that.)

P.S. If you’re travelling to the gala, as we do, you might also want to take in the New Swan Shakespeare Festival on an adjacent evening – also highly recommended. Both are conveniently located on the campus of UC Irvine.

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