The performers of Festival Ballet Theatre recently graced the stage at UCI’s Barclay Theatre with its production of Don Quixote. The performances took place to packed houses on the evening of Saturday, March 19, and on the afternoon of Sunday, March 20. These performances marked the return of Festival Ballet Theatre to the Barclay, following its successful 12 show run of The Nutcracker, during the winter season of 2021.

The ballet’s narrative is a variation on one of its titular character’s adventures from the original Don Quixote novel by Miguel de Cervantes. Specifically, during the first part of the novel, Quixote, who lives in a world of his imagination and fancies himself a chivalrous knight, plays an incidental role in reuniting two couples. In the ballet, Quixote (Charles Johnston) and his loyal companion Sancho Panza (David Moskowitz), stumble into a situation wherein Lorenzo (Sayat Astrayan) forbids his daughter Kitri (Jeraldine Mendoza) from being with the barber Basilio (Dylan Gutierrez). Rather, he wants his daughter to wed the obnoxious and awkward nobleman Gamache (Sergei Domrachev). Throughout the story, Quixote stumbles around in scenes that are confusing and mystical to him, and he eventually plays a key role in Basilio’s plot to gain Lorenzo’s blessing to marry Kitri.

Photo by Dave Friedman

The production featured guest dancers Jeraldine Mendoza and Dylan Gutierrez, who have already received great reviews performing in these roles in prior Festival Ballet Theatre productions of Don Quixote, but this was their first time working together on the production for Orange County audiences. All of the dancers acquitted themselves admirably, and the performers in the more clownish and character-based roles did wonderful jobs as well.

The production featured dazzling choreography by Alexander Gorsky and Marius Petipa; brilliant stage designs and construction by Vladimir Madved and David Scaligone; terrific costume design and construction by Cyndee Ely, Heather Lerma, Kaye Michel, and Barbara Vieuretta; and was performed to the delightful score of Ludwig Minkus. Notably, the performance also featured many children in small roles [no pun intended]; most of these children are members of the Festival Ballet Theatre Trainees and Junior Company, and some of them (who portrayed little cupids in Quixote’s fantasy dream sequence) are students of Southland Ballet Academy – a division of Festival Ballet Theatre. The production was directed by Salwa Rizkalla. 

Photo by Dave Friedman

Rizkalla is Festival Ballet Theatre’s artistic director. For the past 30 years, she has been entertaining Orange County audiences with the numerous colorful presentations of the Festival Ballet Theatre – as well as providing top-tier classical ballet training at Southland Ballet Academy. 

As the official school of Festival Ballet Theatre, Southland Ballet Academy has been cultivating, training, and inspiring an appreciation for classical ballet in dancers of all levels since it was founded, in 1983. In the time since it opened, both Rizkalla and the academy have established national and international reputations and have played a leading role in cultivating world-class dancers. The school is currently comprised of eight state-of-the-art studios, located in both Irvine and Fountain Valley.

Photo by Dave Friedman



In the interest of any wanna-be dancers out there, Southland Ballet Academy’s International Summer Intensive program provides dance instruction by world-renowned artistic directors, ballet masters, and choreographers. The program culminates in a showcase, called the Inspired Young Dancer Performance, which gives the dancers an opportunity to perform on a stage.

For additional information about Festival Ballet Theatre or the Southland Ballet Academy, visit their website: www.festivalballet.org. For information about upcoming shows at Barclay Theatre, visit www.thebarclay.org.

Photo by Dave Friedman