Arts and Culture

Shani Gilchrist



Columbia: 3 reasons to go to the ballet

Posted 2/15/2014 2:07:00 PM

Columbia is known for many things, including “famously hot” summers and historic homes. One thing you might not know about the capital city will have you ready to head this way if you’re a ballet fan — Columbia is a haven for the classical arts.

The city is home to some of the finest classical music events in the state, and it has become a crucial incubator for the international ballet scene.

It’s unusual for a mid-sized city to more than two dance companies — usually cities have one professional operation and one civic. Columbia has three big players (not including the contemporary dance outfits like The Power Company and Unbound. Together, these three companies have produced some of the country’s most influential and famous dancers, such as:

* Melanie Person, co-director at The Ailey School in New York
* Sarah Hairston, principal dancer with the Cincinnati Ballet
* Brooklyn Mack, soloist with The Washington Ballet
* Sara Mearns, principal dancer at the New York City Ballet 
* Mathias Dingman, soloist at England’s Birmingham Royal Ballet 

“I don’t know if it’s the cornbread, the grits or the water, but there’s a lot of talent coming out of Columbia,” Mack said in an article I wrote recently for the Free Times.

Clearly, this talent has something to do with their success. Here are the three companies that make Columbia a delightful place to go the ballet:

Ann Brodie’s Carolina Ballet: Columbia’s pre-professional civic ballet has an extensive classical, neo-classical and contemporary repertory. Led by Executive Artistic Director John Whitehead and Artistic Director Mimi Worrell, this group kicks off the Christmas season with its legendary performances of The Nutcracker at Township Auditorium. The company can also be counted upon for crowd-pleasing favorites like “Giselle” and “Tales from Beatrix Potter.”

Columbia City Ballet: Led by William Starret, this professional company knows how to put on a show. This year’s annual performance of “Dracula” at the Koger Center for the Arts starred Grant Show (yes, that Grant Show, from “Melrose Place!”) Past performances that have drawn attention from all over the East Coast have included a collaboration with artist Jonathan Green called “Off The Wall and Onto the Stage”, “Don Quixote” and “Sleeping Beauty.”

Columbia Classical Ballet: Artistic Director Radenko Pavolvich is not only known for raising future stars in his studio, he also brings the world’s stars to Columbia every year for “LifeChance: International Gala of The Stars.” Each spring the charitable event draws dancers from esteemed institutions such as the Kirov School, The Washington Ballet, The American Ballet Theatre and the Bolshoi Ballet. While giving audiences an incredible show of local and international talent, CCB brings awareness to other local nonprofit organizations each year.

Ballet fans visiting Columbia should know that they are in good company. Seek out a performance by any of these groups and you won’t be disappointed!