Virginia National Ballet presents world premiere of ‘Aida’

Company co-founder reimagines the Verdi opera as a ballet.

photo by Elysabeth Muscat Hegab

In 2013, Rafik Hegab—an Egyptian native who danced with the Cairo Opera Ballet Company—co-founded the Gainesville Ballet School and Virginia National Ballet Company, performing original work each season. Beginning Feb. 17, the Hylton Performing Arts Center will host the company’s world premiere of Aida, a Giuseppe Verdi opera that Hegab has reimagined as a ballet. And later this spring, the company and school will relocate to a new 5,400-square-foot property in Manassas. Hegab spoke to us after a recent rehearsal.

Why was Aida selected as the basis for this new ballet?

I wanted to do something [in a] pharaonic style. I found Aida; actually, it came to my mind. I danced  Aida when I was a dancer in Cairo for a ballet company, but I danced it as opera because there is no ballet. This is the first time someone do [sic] Aida as full ballet.

What choreographers have inspired you?

I worked with a lot of choreographers when I was a dancer in Egypt, and I believe every choreographer I worked with left a touch in me. But I don’t look to try to copy someone or their style; I just get inspiration by listening to music.

What should the audience expect?

This is very unique. It’s not common that someone [is] choreographing this style, pharaonic style. We have built some decor overseas actually in Egypt. The decor is really nice, costume is [sic] really nice, choreography, music is amazing. Also the story is really beautiful, and I’m doing my best to make the choreography match the music, to be as good as the music.

What’s in the store for the Virginia National Ballet?

I work hard to find ballets that [have] not been done here in the area before, and I choreograph it and give it to people with my vision in it. So this is my blend that I develop, new performances for [the] audience to see, because most people, their idea about ballet is just Swan Lake, Cinderella, Giselle. So [I’m] just trying to show that there’s a lot of different stories, different styles.

(February 2018)