The Villager September 19, 2002

Festive Fun
Ballet announces shows for upcoming season
By: MICHAEL MOORE, Villager editor

Complete with traditional favorites and a variety of other performances, ballet season is set to kick off in The Woodlands.

Festival Ballet of The Woodlands has announced its 2002-2003 season, which will kick off in December with the annual favorite "Nutcracker." The ballet will be held Dec. 13 through 15 at the Montgomery College Theater.

"We are simply excited about once again bringing great art to the stage at the college," said Deborah Rayburn, artistic director for Festival Ballet and the owner of The Woodlands Dance Academy. "We have a great group of dancers."

Festival Ballet's season will continue Feb. 15 and 16 with its mixed repertoire performance, "Classics to Contemporary." The performance will be highlighted by a Valentine's Day theme, and will include works by choreographer Rob Davidson and returning work by Houston Ballet principle dancer Tim O'Keefe.

The season will conclude with the June 14 and 15 performance of "Puss in Boots," with original choreography by Rayburn.
All concerts will be held at the Montgomery College Theater.

"We have a season planned that really speaks to the hearts of children, starting with 'Nutcracker' and ending in June with 'Puss in Boots,'" Rayburn said. "It's very much centered around children."

Festival Ballet is a six-year-old semi-professional ballet with its residence at The Woodlands Dance Academy. Festival Ballet is comprised primarily of professional dancers, but also incorporates advanced students from The Woodlands Dance Academy and other local dance schools.

"Even though we operate as a company, it's a great learning experience for dancers who think they might want to pursue a career in dance," Rayburn said.

Professional dancers with Festival Ballet include Norbert Nirewicz, a principle guest artist, and Rebecca Payne, who has danced with the ballet in the past. Payne portrayed the Snow Queen in last year's "Nutcracker" and took on the lead role in the recent presentation of "Cinderella."Payne will return this year in the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in "Nutcracker."

The centerpiece of the upcoming season, Rayburn said, will be the group's performance of "Nutcracker."

"With most ballet groups, that is the case," Rayburn said. "You can't deny it; it's a tried and true treasure. You cannot have ballet without 'Nutcracker.'"

Festival Ballet began auditioning dancers earlier this month, and will begin rehearsing for the holiday show as early as Sept. 21.

The majority of the roles will be performed by professional dancers and local dancers. Many young children, as young as age 5, will perform in the second act of the ballet as well, Rayburn said.

In order to promote "Nutcracker," Festival Ballet will hold a Sugar Plum Fairy tea on Nov. 16 at Montgomery College. Many of the dancers will appear in costume to interact with children who attend the tea.

"For the children, it's just a wide-eyed experience," Rayburn said. "The kids love it."

Rayburn said that all four presentations of "Nutcracker" typically sell out each year. This season, Festival Ballet will begin selling tickets to "Nutcracker" in mid-October.

"To help people out and plan better, tickets will be going on sale much earlier this year," Rayburn said.

For more information on Festival Ballet or The Woodlands Dance Academy, call 979-292-0117 or visit