“This is a role I have wanted to do my entire life so I feel extremely thrilled and honored to not only dance the role but embody the character of Mercedes,” Tara Ghassemieh, Festival Ballet Theatre company dancer and Southland Ballet Academy instructor, exclaims. To prepare for her role as Mercedes in Don Quixote, Tara is rehearsing and studying many videos for the role. She adds “I have been working very hard inside the studio and outside the studio to be in the best shape possible so I can have the strength and confidence the role demands.”

FBT Trainee Olivia Harrigan is playing the role of the Gypsy Queen in Don Quixote. She says: “I am very excited to bring this character to life through creating a certain image on stage. I love being able to interpret a character and portraying my version of them through my personal style. This is my only role in Don Quixote, so I plan to utilize the solo moments of this character to determine the impression that she has on the audience.” Olivia shares that she has in fact read “Don Quixote” the novel and watched the “Man from La Mancha” movie. “I remember enjoying the movie more than the book, as I understood the plot and characters more thoroughly,” she said with a smile.

Meanwhile, FBT company dancer Skye Schmidt, who plays Kitri’s friend, confesses she hasn’t read the entire book but adds “Most of the characters in the ballet are actually composites of other in the book, so it’s interesting to find information on the original characters. I have not seen the movie but I have seen the ballet numerous times (it is one of my favorites since it is so lovely).” To prepare for her role, Skye has been researching how other companies portray the characters and what choreographic differences they may have. “I have also learned about the related characters in the play, Man of La Mancha, which is also based on the novel Don Quixote. Beyond that, I am working on differentiating my characters as much as possible by implementing aspects of Spanish character dance,” reveals Skye.

Festival Ballet Theatre presents Don Quixote on March 25th and 26th at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. International ballet stars Marcelo Gomes and Hee Seo are the featured guest artists. For tickets and information, click here.