Their hands arch with open lacey fans and legs glide above the floor at a 45 degree angle to their en pointe stance, in rhythm to the sounds of a flamenco-infused instrumental group and tambourines in the hands of ensemble dancers.
Flower girls and toreadors dance while the percussion creates a crashing beat in a scene reminiscent of Spain.
Dancers Samantha Schilke and Hana Goldstone of Ventura County Ballet glide across the dance floor with movements to echo flamenco dancers while performing an act of Don Quixote, with the poise and grace of professionals performing in a capacity well beyond their 15 years. Their enthusiasm radiates with the ensemble members in the scene.
And this was just the rehearsal.
Ventura County Ballet presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream and excerpts from Don Quixote April 26 and 27, in collaboration with dancers from the Santa Barbara State Street Ballet Company at Oceanview Pavilion Performing Arts Theater by the Beach.
The production is under the choreography direction of Rodney Gustafson of State Street Ballet, artistic director Colleen O’Callaghan and executive director Kathleen Noblin. Associate Director Marina Fliagina suggested the pairing of the two fanciful literary works of William Shakespeare and Miguel Cervantes.
Noblin opened the Ventura County Ballet in 1992, after being a student with Channel Island’s Academy Ballet Theatre. Ventura County Ballet performs three different productions each year, including a spring production and The Nutcracker in autumn.
Students began to rehearse dance steps for the spring performance in February, combining their hours of rehearsal with the work of State Street Ballet and guest performers three weeks before the show opening. The weekend before the show all dancers attended five-hour rehearsals on Saturday and Sunday.
The company combines students and continuing performers ranging in age from 11 to adult, including former American Ballet Theater dancers Callaghan and Daniel Baudendistel as Don Quixote. Baudendistel captures the essence of Cervantes’ famed knight, performing with an air of bravado in “The Celebration” scene of Don Quixote.
“We pride ourselves on having the children love ballet and love what they are doing,” Noblin says.
Noblin credits the young dancers’ level of professionalism to the students’ opportunity to perform with established talent such as Baudendistel and adult members of the State Street Ballet.
“A lot of these dancers I have had since they were 3 years old, and it’s the greatest joy,” Noblin says. Several students from Ventura County Ballet have been accepted to American Ballet Theater summer programs as well as other programs across the country. Summer programs last between two to six weeks for the students, taking “just about” the entire summer, according to Ventura County Ballet dancer Chloe Donnelly.
“It validates what we do,” Noblin says.
The pairing of the plays represents two lighthearted performances combining tales of love and comedy. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is Shakespeare’s tale of mischievous fairies plotting havoc among young lovers Lysander and Hermia, and the twists and turns that ensue from a rapid change of affection. Don Quixote captures the dramatic illusions of Cervantes’ gallant knight, used to examine the status quo during the powerful rule of monarchy overshadowed by religion and tradition. The excerpts from Don Quixote performed by the ballet from acts two and three are “The Vision” and “The Celebration.”
Both works combine upbeat dance, comedy and vibrant costumes with strong ensemble casts, including fairies and Spanish dancers. Noblin describes the Midsummer Night’s Dream fairies as providing an “ethereal quality to the ballet.”
The beautifully detailed costumes of both performances are the combined effort of parents donating time and skill to modify a selection carefully stored by Noblin. Parents also donate time and craftsmanship to create sets for the ballet productions.
In addition to the performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and excerpts from Don Quixote, performances for this year include Creatures of Prometheus on Nov. 7 -9 and The Nutcracker Nov. 22-23.
This is the first performance for the Ventura County Ballet at the Oceanview Pavilion. Noblin says she hopes for her performers to continue to use the facility in the future.
Ventura County Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Don Quixote will be performed on April 26-27 at the Oceanview Pavilion (575 E. Surfside Drive, Port Hueneme). For more information, visit