Exhilarating, Nurturing, Stimulating

Festival Ballet Theatre is Orange County’s premier, accomplished professional ballet company.

Our mission is to enrich Orange County’s artistic and economic vitality, to inspire love and appreciation for dance, and to invigorate ballet by:

  • Presenting a season of exhilarating classical and contemporary performances,
  • Providing a nurturing environment for dancers and choreographers,
  • Offering stimulating educational outreach programs.

With reverence for classic masterpieces and a focus on developing future tours de force, Festival Ballet Theater is committed to presenting the best of dance, enriching lives, and developing a new generation of audiences and artists.

We offer professional-quality classical productions and highlight the works of world-renowned choreographers, giving audiences a rich, fulfilling experience with each of our nearly two dozen annual performances.

 Exhilarating, Nurturing, Stimulating

Festival Ballet Theatre is a well-established nonprofit arts organization founded in 1988 by Artistic Director Salwa Rizkalla. For nearly three decades – surviving economic downturns and other adversities – Festival Ballet Theatre has continuously presented a complete ballet season with world-class artists in Orange County. FBT was also the bid winner of Ballet Pacifica’s Assets Auction in 2007, purchasing the dissolved company’s name, sets, costumes and photography archive in order to preserve these treasures for both Festival Ballet Theatre and the Orange County dance community.

How we carry out our mission

  • We present treasured classical ballets in high-quality productions. Our varied repertoire of full-length classical ballets has included The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Don Quixote, Giselle, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake.
  • We strive to enrich the experience of Orange County’s dance audiences by
    • presenting cutting-edge contemporary works,
    • highlighting the work of world-renowned guest and resident choreographers who have received critical acclaim for original ballets around the globe,
    • and fostering the next generation of contemporary choreographers.
  • Our contemporary repertoire includes Secret Garden, Alice in Wonderland, Midsummer’s Night Dream and The Firebird
  • We bring the respected professional international dance world to Orange County for interaction and engagement with both our audiences and dancers.
  • FBT provides employment opportunities for professional dancers in Orange County, offering high-caliber onstage experience and an opportunity to achieve excellence close to home.
  • Engage young dancers from around the community and provide the opportunity to perform alongside Festival Ballet Theatre and professional dance artists.
  • We present educational outreach programs to increase the developmental growth and creativity of children by introducing them to:
    • The historical art form of ballet, dance and musicality through a variety of education outreach programs and curriculum plans provided to teachers in their schools in our “Ballet to Schools” Program.
    • Performance for schoolchildren bused to the Irvine Barclay Theatre for a live show in a theatre setting and discussions to promote dance appreciation among area youth through the “Invitation to Ballet” Program.
  • Introduce artistically underserved children and adults to ballet through a variety of education outreach programs
  • Target and reach out to diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups
  • We present free dance performances in a variety of venues – through public and private schools and at libraries, museums, and public events.
  • FBT collaborates with other prestigious Orange County organizations and events including Pacific Symphony and the Festival of Children at South Coast Plaza.
  • Festival Ballet Theatre is the originator and home of Orange County’s International Ballet Festival and the Gala of the Stars, an August event that invites top-tier guest artists to share the stage for an unforgettable festival of incredible performances. The roster of events with famed ballet stars includes master classes for student protégés, receptions offering dancers and dance lovers the chance to connect and converse, and of course the dazzling display of dancers at their peak.

Our season

Festival Ballet Theatre is passionate about its role in keeping the arts alive and thriving in Orange County, creating and presenting dance for residents who appreciate excellence in dance performance. Our season each year includesmore than 20 performances at the Irvine Barclay Theatre: “The Nutcracker” in December and two full-length ballet productions, and the International Ballet Festival: Gala of the Stars. All of these use local dancers, enriching and enlivening the performing arts experience in our Orange County community.

Our performers: a who’s who of ballet

The company’s productions spotlight internationally acclaimed guest artists from prestigious companies such as American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, the Kirov Ballet, New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet, Royal Ballet, Mariinsky Ballet, Stattsballet Berlin and Stuttgart Ballet.

As part of our pledge to foster careers for those who show talent and drive, we offer selected dancers from our Southland Ballet Academy studios and open audition to the community the unique opportunity to dance alongside these international stars of ballet. Each of our productions offers an impressive roster of homegrown, up-and-coming Southern California talent.

Aspiring to heights of artistic excellence, FBT simultaneously attracts the best in professional dance to its home base while sending its own dancers out as artistic ambassadors to the nation.

Honors and awards

Arts Orange County named Festival Ballet Theatre Outstanding Arts Organization of the Year in 2001 and in 2014 recognized Artistic Director Salwa Rizkalla with the Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award.

Our director

Artistic Director SALWA RIZKALLA has contributed to the Orange County community for more than 30 years by presenting excellence in dance performance through Festival Ballet Theatre and providing top-tier classical ballet training at Southland Ballet Academy.

During her professional dancing career, Ms. Rizkalla graced the stage in leading roles in well-known classical ballets as well as contemporary pieces. She had the privilege of working under the direction of world-renowned choreographers Leonid Lavrovsky and Serge Lifar. As a young dancer, Ms. Rizkalla trained in the Russian Vaganova method and studied with ballet masters of the Bolshoi and the Kirov. As the culmination of her training, Ms. Rizkalla completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Ballet Pedagogy. She established Southland Ballet Academy in 1983 and debuted Festival Ballet Theatre in 1988. In addition to teaching and directing, Ms. Rizkalla was a faculty member of several area institutions.

Many arts organizations have recognized her service. The Orange County Music and Arts Administrators and Orange County Performing Arts Center jointly named her the Orange County Arts Educator of the Year Award for Secondary Dance (2003); Youth America Grand Prix awarded Ms. Rizkalla Outstanding Teacher accolades since its inception; and Arts Orange County  recognized Ms. Rizkalla with the Helena Modjeska Cultural Legacy Award (2014). Ms. Rizkalla was named one of OC’s 100 Most Influential in 2017 by the OC Register.

Ms. Rizkalla has been honored to impact the lives of hundreds of students and their families through her teaching. She is proud to be a dedicated educator, an energetic  promoter of the arts, and an active participant in the cultural life of her community.