The Sellwood school has a major impact on the dance arts in the Portland region

DAVID F. ASHTON - Pausing for a group photo, some of the 120 cast members of the May production of Don Quixote are shown in rehearsal at Sellwoods Classical Ballet Academy. Dancers from what has become greater Portland's nexus of ballet – the Classical Ballet Academy – performed in a series of shows over several days in mid-May.

While the performances were held at Portland State University, countless hours of rehearsal had previously taken place at the renowned Inner Southeast Portland studio, at the convergence of S.E. Milwaukie and 17th Avenues, in Sellwood.

"For one of our four programs, 'Don Quixote', they've been working on their performances since the end of January; some of them doing so up to five days a week, and also coming in weekends on rehearsals," said the studio's Director Sarah Rigles. "A couple of them are missing the first part of their high school prom tonight to be able to go to rehearsals; that's a real sign of dedication!"

"Don Quixote" is a comedic ballet: Fun, fast-paced, and all set in Barcelona, Spain. "Our choreography comes from the classical notes, with some restaging – while keeping the integrity of the original choreographer, Marius Petipa. It is performed by the academy's advanced, 'pre-professional' students," Rigles remarked. "The dancers rose to the occasion of doing the original choreography, which is oftentimes more difficult."

The dancers also put up a contemporary modern jazz show called "Visions"; a ballet version of "Beauty and the Beast"; and, with their youngest students, a program called "Petite Carnival of the Animals". That adds up to about 450 dancers during those four performances.

Although the students put in long rehearsal hours, and give up some of their social lives, many of them are Honor Roll students in their academic school.

"In addition to learning dancing, students gain a whole bunch of poise, confidence, and time management that they will carry forward in their lives – as well as learn discipline, which will help them as adults," Rigles commented.

With students ranging from three years old into their 70s, classes are offered for people of all skill levels, Rigles obeserved.

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