In the Sonoma Conservatory of Dance’s upcoming production of “Appalachian Cinderella,” two of the three male dancers are father and son.
It began six years ago, when 5-year-old Felix Rebolledo attended a birthday party hosted at the conservatory. When he came home he told his parents he wanted to take ballet.
He has trained at the conservatory ever since, participating in its stage productions, such as the winter holiday show of “The Snow Maiden,” in which he played a feisty and mischievous Jack Frost.
One morning last year while eating breakfast before school with his father, he casually remarked, “You know, on Thursday, there’s an adult ballet class at the studio, and you could easily go after you drop us off at school.”
His father, Mauricio, was surprised.
“Basically, I said, ‘Well, why wouldn’t I try it? I should try it, at least check it out,’” he said.
In the adult ballet class, Mauricio, 48, thought he knew what to expect, having watched Felix and his younger sister, Camille, dance at the conservatory.
He quickly found a new level of appreciation.
“It was very humbling to start learning the very basic things that I’d seen them do for years but had never tried to do myself,” he said. “It’s hard — it’s incredibly difficult — all the positioning and the level of awareness you have to have of your body and space, and then to pay attention to the music and timing. There’s a lot going on.”
What surprised him was he enjoyed it.
“I like the expressiveness of it, but also the challenge and the balance of it. I learned to appreciate ballet, I think, through the kids, and now really enjoy it myself. I like to see my progress and the work that it takes.
“When you see the dancers perform, you don’t always grasp all the time and effort it took them to get to that point.”
Not long after he embraced ballet classes, Patty O’Reilly, artistic director and lead instructor of the conservatory, approached him about performing in a production of “Por La Luz de La Luna,” the first Mexican-American story written for the ballet stage.
His first reaction was shock. The second, “I’m not ready to do this.”
But O’Reilly was smart. She told Mauricio straight out that his instructor, Siobhan O’Reilly, thought he could. She had pushed the right button.
“Personally, it was one of the best decisions I’d made in a long time,” Mauricio said. “It was incredibly fun to be part of that performance, but I think the sense of community you develop, particularly during the whole rehearsal process, was amazing to me.”
On the first day of rehearsals, instructor and guest lead choreographer Isabelle Sjahsam asked him how his cartwheel was. He didn’t have one.
She told him to get one in the next four weeks.
Fast forward to this year, when the Rebolledos agreed to roles in “Appalachian Cinderella.”
“As adults, we’re really good at protecting ourselves and staying within our comfort zones, where we know what we’re doing and feel confident we won’t fail,” Mauricio said. “As grown-ups, we take fewer and fewer risks, personally or creatively.