FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., Aug. 23, 2016 – Orange County’s resident professional ballet company, Festival Ballet Theatre, delivered an exceptional night of dance at its 9th annual Gala of the Stars on August 12, a singular evening that showcased outstanding international ballet stars at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

Performing to a sold-out crowd were San Francisco Ballet’s Yuan Yuan Tan and Vitor Luiz, Xander Parish of Mariinsky Ballet, American Ballet Theatre’s Maria Kochetkova and Daniil Simkin, New York City Ballet’s Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild, Southland Ballet Academy alumnae Jamie Kopit, now with American Ballet Theatre, and Agnes Su, who dances with Stuttgart Ballet, Constantine Allen, also of Stuttgart Ballet, Mari Kawanishi and Federico Spallitta of Staatsballett Berlin, and Festival Ballet Theatre company dancers.

Festival Ballet Theatre presented the West Coast premiere of a John Cranko duet by Stuttgart Ballet’s Agnes Su, a Newport Beach native who spent her formative years at Southland Ballet Academy, with Constantine Allen. Daniil Simkin’s performance of Pacopepepluto was a world premiere.

This unique celebration of ballet invited international artists from some of the world’s most prestigious dance companies to perform along with FBT’s own accomplished resident dancers. The August 11&12 gala festival included summer intensives and master classes for dance protégés, dinners and receptions with the guest artists, culminating in the theatre performance for an appreciative 750-member audience.

Friday night’s master of ceremonies Quenby Hersh, former corphyée of Scottish Ballet and Southland Ballet Academy alumna, announced the Orange County dancers awarded scholarships:

  • Clara Mason – awarded a trainee position and scholarship to Ballet West; the Huntington Beach resident will be moving to Salt Lake City.
  • Anya Lydon – awarded a trainee position and scholarship to Dutch National Ballet; the Huntington Beach resident will be moving to the Netherlands.
  • Ashley Lew – awarded a four-year scholarship to Princess Grace Academy in Monaco; the Irvine resident will be moving to Monaco.

At intermission, Christopher Powney, Artistic Director of the UK’s Royal Ballet School, announced the recipients of additional scholarships related to his academy. The recipients were Alexandra Hoffmann from Master Ballet Academy in Arizona and Matoi Kawamoto from Japan. He also introduced the launch of the new Royal Ballet School’s International Scholars program, stating, “As exciting as it is to come to London and live in a boarding school for dancers, I am a big believer in the family unit, and in taking this step at the right time. This program is for promising dancers who wish to remain stateside but who may join us in the future. This recognition is to keep the relationship going.”

Recipients included Irvine resident Lily Turner from Southland Ballet Academy, Isabella Kulmer from School of Russian Ballet, and Takumi Miyake from Japan. This scholars program includes the opportunity to participate in The Royal Ballet School full-time training course at White Lodge in London for two weeks during the academic year and a scholarship to The Royal Ballet School’s Summer School.

Festival Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Salwa Rizkalla commented, “It was again a stellar night for ballet and the arts in Orange County. It was a night to savor because it confirms that Orange County and our Southland Ballet Academy is producing world-class quality dancers. This gala festival gets better every year with all the beautiful dancers from world-renowned companies that we are able to attract.”

For more information about the upcoming 2016/17 season and other events and programs, please visit


About Festival Ballet Theatre (FBT)

Festival Ballet Theatre is a nonprofit organization founded in 1988 by Salwa Rizkalla. Its 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.


About Salwa Rizkalla

Artistic Director Salwa Rizkalla has served the Orange County community for over 30 years by presenting excellence in dance performance through the nonprofit 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.

Ms. Rizkalla’s contributions have been recognized by many local organizations:  she was named Orange County Arts Educator of the Year Award for Secondary Dance (2003); Youth America Grand Prix Outstanding Teacher from 2002-2015, and Arts Orange County’s winner of the the Helena Modjeska Lifetime Achievement Cultural Legacy Award (2014).

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.

Elizabeth Farmen

Festival Ballet Theatre
9527 Garfield Ave.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Phone: 714.962.5440