SAN DIEGO—Armenian-American composer George Kirazian’s new and expanded ballet based on “The Book of Ruth: A Ballet” will premiere as a full-scale dance production by Mojalet Dance Collective. The performance will be held on September 30 and October 1 at the Poway Performing Arts Center, along with three additional contemporary dance pieces.
“The Book of Ruth” was composed by author, professor, and composer George Kirazian, and will be directed by Faith Jensen-Ismay, Mojalet’s Founder and Artistic Director. Based on the Old Testament story of the Hebrew woman Ruth and her family, the new work will combine traditional and modern dance components, choreographed by Jensen-Ismay to Kirazian’s music, recorded by The Parnassus Ensemble of San Diego.
Mojalet did a workshop production at the Vine Arts Village in April 2023, and the strong audience response prompted Jensen-Ismay and the company to expand the production to an extended version with additional music composed by Kirazian, which will premiere on the Poway stage.
“I am again excited to bring the classic story of ‘The Book of Ruth’ to life through the lens of dance. A story of dedication, perseverance, loyalty, acceptance and redemption gives us hope in humanity and for a more positive future,” said director Faith Jensen-Ismay.
When the elder Jewish woman Naomi loses her husband and both her sons, she implores both her widowed daughters-in-law to go back to their native land of Moab. One of them, Orpah, leaves. The other, Ruth, insists on staying with her mother-in-law Naomi, to embrace her people and her God. They go to Judah, where after a period of poverty, they meet a generous landowner named Boaz, who changes their lives.
“The Book of Ruth” in the Old Testament might well be the world’s first short story. The story also teaches its audience that love and devotion can heal after great losses and enable us to rise above our harmful prejudices against others.
Mojalet Dance Collective has been entertaining and inspiring San Diego audiences for more than 30 years with traditional, modern and contemporary dance productions, including many world premieres, as they are dedicated to developing new and groundbreaking work. Artistic Director Faith Jensen-Ismay has an extensive history as a dancer, teacher, and choreographer, working throughout the entire county of San Diego and beyond.
A longtime member of the Armenian community who helped establish the first Armenian Church in San Diego, composer George Kirazian is a retired college instructor of Humanities, English Literature and Composition, and Opera Appreciation. Born and raised in New Jersey, he completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at New York University and taught English Literature and Composition at Grossmont College for nearly 40 years and served as Chairman of the English Department. He also taught Opera and Music Appreciation at San Diego State University. He is a longtime resident of San Diego with his wife Dikranouhi. They have three daughters: Yvette (husband John Harpootian), Andrea (husband Steven Urrutia) and Lisa (husband Steve Kradjian), and six grandchildren: Mark, Eric, Zari, Dante, Ani and Mari.
Kirazian’s musical compositions include “The Book of Ruth: A Ballet,” various art songs, hymns, and a new version of “The Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Apostolic Church,” which has been performed and recorded by Pacific Camerata of San Diego, the Paros Chamber Choir of Armenia, and also performed by members of the Armenian Church of San Diego. He has also published fiction and non-fiction: “Easy Writing: A Practical Guide for Practically Everybody”; “A Time for Fathers” (short novel), and five young reader books: “The Sleeping Violet,” “Perry the Peacock,” “Beyond the Koala Kingdom,” “Leo and the Mulberry Flute,” and “The Princess of December.” To learn more about Kirazian and his work, visit his website.
The two performances of “The Book of Ruth: A Ballet” will be held on Saturday, September 30 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, October 1 at 2 p.m. at the Poway Performing Arts Center. The performances will be combined with three other original dance pieces performed by Mojalet: The Requiem (Excerpts composed by W.A. Mozart); Bubbles (Featuring music of Johann Strauss II); and Liquid Gold (Music mix by Jensen-Ismay), all directed by Jensen-Ismay.
Resident dancers performing in the production include: Amylin Canaria, Alyssa Combs, Avery Goudswaard, Jasmyn Hamblin, Alia Ismay, Robby Johnson, Alyssa Kinnear, Kathryn McLean, Nef Valle, Nicole Wooding, and Christina Wutz.