Exhilarating, Nurturing, Stimulating

Southland Ballet Academy (SBA) offers a complete program for the serious dancer as well as anyone who wishes to explore the artist within.

Founded in 1983 to cultivate, train, and inspire an appreciation of classical ballet from beginner to professional dancer, Southland Ballet Academy is the official school of the nonprofit arts organization Festival Ballet Theatre.

We are committed to artistic excellence at any level. We invite you to visit, observe, and ask questions.

 Exhilarating, Nurturing, Stimulating

What we offer

We provide instruction for students ages 3 through adult. Dancers are placed in class levels that match their age and experience.

  • Ballet
  • Pointe
  • Character
  • Pas de deux
  • Boys’ classes
  • Contemporary
  • Stretch
  • Jazz
  • Hip hop

The depth and quality of our dance instruction, paired with our connection to Festival Ballet Theatre, Orange County’s premier professional ballet company, places us in the unique position to offer comprehensive dance education. Our students can participate in a variety of performance opportunities: year-end student recital, studio holiday shows, competitions, and the chance to audition for a variety of Festival Ballet Theatre productions to showcase their skills.

Our reputation for excellence is widely known and frequently recognized. Many professional dancers from Orange County began their careers in our studios, nurtured by our teachers and programs. Whether for fun or to launch a lifelong vocation, we help students achieve their personal goals as they experience the joy of dance and form lifelong friendships.

Our style and staff

Classes are presented in a positive, creative atmosphere by professional dance instructors who understand the intricacies of dance. Our goal is to offer age- and level-appropriate instruction to each student that will increase his or her skill and confidence. Each staff member is a nationally and internationally known, trained instructor in the Vaganova method, is accredited with a degree in dance, and has had a lifelong, professional career in dance.

Our history

Since opening its doors in 1983 as a ballet studio, SBA and director Salwa Rizkalla have secured a national and international reputation and played a prominent role in grooming world-class dancers. We have grown from a modest one-room facility to nine state-of-the-art studios in two locations, Fountain Valley and Irvine.

SBA is a favorite destination for dancers who visit to enjoy classes taught by world-renowned artistic directors, ballet masters and choreographers during the International Summer Intensive. They come to experience performing onstage at the Inspired Young Dancers Performance at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. They watch world-class guest artists performing at Festival Ballet Theatre’s International Ballet Festival: Gala of the Stars.

About our founder

Our founder Salwa Rizkalla’s vision is to perpetuate the discipline and technique of the Vaganova method of classical ballet. She studied this technique under the direction of the Russian masters and has combined it with the articulation of the European and American style to give every student dancer a unique and safe experience. In a caring, encouraging environment, students learn the art of dance; they grow in confidence, concentration, memorization, coordination, self-motivation and artistic appreciation of dance.

Our graduates

Dancers trained at SBA have gone on to perform with companies around the world, to date: American Ballet Theatre, Houston Ballet, Sarasota Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Ballet Austin, Eugene Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Washington Ballet, California Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Hartford Ballet, and others.

Dancer honors and awards

Throughout the years, SBA students have received scholarships – summer intensive programs as well as ongoing studies – from American Ballet Theatre (National Scholars), Dutch National Ballet Academy, Joffrey Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Princess Grace Academy in Monaco, Royal Ballet School (full year-round scholarships), San Francisco Ballet, Washington Ballet, and numerous others.

Our students have been invited to perform in productions and gala programs with American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, Kirov Ballet, Royal Ballet School, San Francisco Ballet, and Youth America Grand Prix.

Southland Ballet Academy graduates have been accepted – with scholarships – to top academic universities at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), University of California Irvine (UCI), Chapman University, University of Southern California (USC), and numerous others.

SBA students have won top honors and grand prizes in prestigious national and international ballet competitions and consistently receive significant honors and awards:

  • USA International Ballet Competition, Jackson, Mississippi: participated, 2002
  • Los Angeles Music Center’s Spotlight Awards: finalists, 1992, 1993, 2003, semi-finalists every year since 1991; winners, Classical Ballet Division, 2005, 2008, 2012
  • Youth America Grand Prix: many regional division awards including Grand Prix, 1st, 2nd and 3rd places throughout the years; YAGP New York finalist winners in:
  • 1st Place, Junior Division, 2016
  • Silver Medalist, Senior Division, 2012
  • Bronze medalist, Junior Division, 2011
  • Silver Medalist, Senior Division, 2005
  • Silver Medalist, Senior Division, 2004
  • Silver and Bronze Medalists, Senior Division, 2003
  • California Arts Education Emerging Young Artists Awards: Prizes, 2001
  • Japan International Ballet & Modern Dance Competition in Nagoya: Semi-finalists, 1993
  • Sixth Masaka Ohya Japan World Ballet Competition, Osaka, Japan: Semi-finalists, 1991
  • USA International Ballet Competition: Semi-finalists, 2002
  • Helsinki International Ballet Competition: Finalists, 2005

Outstanding School

Youth America Grand Prix has recognized Southland Ballet Academy numerous times with its Outstanding School Award, an accolade given to only a few select dance schools nationwide. YAGP also recognized Southland Ballet Academy founder Salwa Rizkalla with Best Teacher Award multiple times from 2002-2015. In 2003, Ms. Rizkalla was named Orange County Arts Educator of the Year for Secondary Dance. She was the Arts Orange County’s winner of the Helena Modjeska Lifetime Achievement Cultural Legacy Award in 2014. In 2007, Pointe Magazine named Southland Ballet Academy one of seven top producing dance schools in the nation.

Financial scholarships

Dancers who show promise, commitment and economic hardship may apply for need-based scholarships from SBA.

Performance Opportunities

Southland Ballet Academy offers many opportunities for students to shine in performances onstage.

    • Recital
      All SBA students are given the opportunity to perform in the Academy’s annual year-end recital. Each year students of all levels and dance disciplines perform with members of their class and experience the opportunity to cultivate poise and confidence in their performance ability.
    • Holiday Presentation
      Students enrolled in Tot Ballet, Pre-Ballet I and II have a special opportunity to perform in a winter holiday-themed studio performance for parents and friends.
    • Festival Ballet Theatre productions
      Selected Academy students are invited to audition for Festival Ballet Theatre’s annual productions of:

      • The Nutcracker
      • Contemporary Fall Production
      • Spring Full-length Ballet Production
      • Inspired Young Dancer Performance as a part of the International Summer Intensive

Our programs give students opportunities to perform for larger audiences and offer a gateway for future roles with the Academy’s resident ballet company, Festival Ballet Theatre. Additional rehearsals are required in addition to meeting minimum class attendance requirements. Roles are assigned depending on level and ability.