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Pacific Festival Ballet: Twirling Across Town Once Again!

Tree-lighting ceremonies, holiday fairs and pop-up ice-skating rinks are all cherished memories in our community. We build each holiday season around family favorites and to have them disappear over the past few pandemic years has been disheartening for us all.

Pacific Festival Ballet, as a dance community, has felt that loss as well. Not only were live theatre performances shut down for 20 months, but so were the numerous community outreach events that PFB engaged in every year. These festivals, street fairs and visits to retirement villages or fire stations allowed performers to step off the Civic Arts Plaza stage and pirouette into the hearts and streets of the Conejo Valley.

Another missed moment are the children’s outreach performances that Pacific Festival Ballet produces twice a year. In partnership with Community Educational Entertainment, close to 5,000 children annually attend field trip performances to “The Nutcracker” and various spring ballets.

“I love the response from an audience full of children,” says Artistic Director Kim Maselli. “They are so genuine and authentic with their reactions. Often our original ballets premiere to a children’s audience first. I know right away if the humor works, what they love and what they don’t!”

Ballet Today, the outreach program of Pacific Festival Ballet, raises funds each year to provide a theatre experience for children or families in the community who may not have the means to purchase tickets for a ballet.

“We do not want to limit our audience only to those who can afford a theatre ticket,” comments Michael Maselli, Executive Director. “We want to share the performing arts experience, and especially the ballet, with everyone.”

Meeting performers in costume has proven to be a magical moment, almost like meeting Disney characters face to face. Some children hide behind a parent while others rush up to the dancer for a big hug.

Stepping out of the stage lights and into everyday settings brings the beauty of ballet into the crowds. People young and old are mesmerized seeing this art form up close and personal. 

“I felt like a real-life Cinderella when, after my performance of ‘Cinderella,’ I was greeted by a group of little girls all dressed up like me!” says Alexa Kernan, PFB ballerina.

Organizations PFB has partnered with include Casa Pacifica, Support for the Kids, Boys & Girls Club, Safe Passages, Gabriel’s House, University Village, and Motion Picture and Television Retirement Community.

This year as the pandemic tide slowly ebbed, we all breathed a sigh of relief. With the return to school, work, theatres and entertainment, life began to take on a normal flow. The final missing piece for Pacific Festival Ballet was the restart of Ballet Today. Community outreach and children’s field trips were the last to restore and that component of the company was greatly missed.

With “The Nutcracker” 2022 season in pre-production, PFB re-engaged its outreach to see if student field trips were a consideration for the new school year. The immediate response was overwhelming and within six weeks “The Nutcracker” children’s outreach performance was sold out!

“I was so thrilled to hear the appreciation and eagerness from so many teachers,” says Ramona Brandes, Director of Community Educational Entertainment. “To have 1,800 children back in the Kavli Theatre will be a treat for all of us! We had to quickly get the spring ballet of ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ on the calendar to accommodate the overflow!”

Encouraged by the field trip response, additional effort was put into traditional community events for the upcoming holidays. The first invitation was returning to perform segments of “The Nutcracker” at University Village. The next is a live preview performance at The Oaks Mall on December 11 at 2 p.m. and the third, a performing opportunity at the Westlake Rotary Club’s Holiday’s in the Village: A European Marketplace December 4 at 2 p.m.

“Being able to engage with the community again feels like the missing piece of our puzzle,” says Maselli. “We love our live theatre seasons as one of the resident companies at the Bank of America Performing Arts Center, but a part of our purpose is to step off of the stage and into our community. We are happy to be back!”

Join us this season for “The Nutcracker” on Saturday, December 17 and Sunday, December 18 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale now at the BAPAC Box Office or Ticketmaster.

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