Central West Ballet is crossing the Atlantic for its first overseas trip.
The Modesto group is visiting Laval, France, from Saturday through Thursday and will give one performance and meet with French dancers.
"It will open new doors for the company," Central West dancer Joe Adkins, 17, said before the group left. "It will give the company more credibility and validation to go on a tour."
Founded 21 years ago as a youth arts group, Central West Ballet is a resident company of the Gallo Center for the Arts. While most dancers are students, the group has aspirations of one day becoming a professional organization that pays all its performers.
This trip came about because one of the ballet company's board members knows an official involved in Laval's cultural affairs. After visiting Modesto and watching a company dance class and performance, the official invited the group to travel to France.
Located in northwest France 160 miles from Paris, Laval has a population of about 50,000 and is surrounded by farmlands. The city has several medieval monuments, including a cathedral and a castle built in the 11th and 12th centuries.
Central West was able to get all the money for the trip from donors during its annual fund-raiser dinner last fall. Eighteen dancers — half the company — are on the trip, staying with host families to keep costs low.
"It's very exciting to go over there and show a new audience what we have to offer — our own technique and style," said dancer Marté Madera, 26.
The company will perform an all-contemporary program choreographed by Artistic Director René Daveluy: the serious pieces "Existence" and "Canvas Emotions," which they've performed in Modesto, and the more upbeat new piece "House of Folk."
Daveluy explained that the French officials specifically asked for modern dance works. They're not as interested in tutus and dancing on tiptoes.
He is excited that the dancers will get to meet with French teachers and dancers and learn other perspectives about the ballet world.
Central West dancer Kynaston Schultz, 18, said she was looking forward to going. "It's a great opportunity," she said. "It's France."
Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan can be reached at 578-2313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.