"Hmmmmm. Wow!! The color and motion seems so much better this year, and the male dancers seem to be a bit stronger than in the past. I love those two Japanese ballerinas, and there just seems to be more color and motion in the troupe this year. Did she just miss there? The girls in the party scene are really. . . .!!!" Wait a minute, let me go and ram my head into the wall a few times to regain my senses! What the heck am I doing critiquing the latest Nutcracker???? No one would ever believe it.
Well, actually, I am getting better at understanding what is going on about the stage, and recognizing perhaps a well-executed move or a mistake or two here and there, and I am also gaining a greater appreciation and affection for the art as a whole. Although I was prevented from watching the entire production each time it was performed this past weekend, I generally think that these were the best presentations I have seen since becoming associated with the Pavlovich School of Dance and the Columbia Classical Ballet around four years ago. And of course, the shining little star was my son Joey, who had his biggest part yet since taking up dance and performing in the Nutcracker, though unfortunately they don’t really give the little boys much to do in the way of dance steps (they are little more than window dressing). But Joey does love being on the stage; he seems to glow when he is out there. I hope he gets to dance in the Wizard of Oz again. Several of the dancers and teachers said he took a more active role in leading this year. As you can expect, I was darn proud of him. Perhaps the influence of my Brazilian friend Renata Franco (who served as Ballet Mistress this year) had a good impact on the overall look of the Nutcracker this year.
If you ever get the opportunity, you should watch a ballet from backstage, because you get a better appreciation for the athleticism of the dancers, as well as an understanding of all the work that goes into putting on these shows beyond all the hard work of the individuals on stage. This year I think things were much calmer and organized. Columbians are blessed to have a number of good ballet groups, both professional and in the local colleges. It is hard to see how they all make it financially.
Most of the time I was trapped in the dressing rooms, supervising the boys. This year I had a smaller group with me, two of which (I think) are Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier’s grandsons. Last year I had about 12 of them to look after and that drove me crazy. Much more manageable this year; unfortunately, because of transportation problems, I wasn’t able to do as much at the Koger as I normally try to do. Larry Payne, one of the board directors, was also back there a lot, and he has a good rapport with the boys and members of the company.
It was very nice to get to meet Alberto Liberstoscioli, a new dancer from Italy. We chatted a bit (he shared the dressing room with Waldilei Goncalves, another of our Brazilian friends). II also met Damien and Oleksandr. One of my favorite dancers is the beautiful and talented Japanese ballerina Akari Manabe. One nice thing about the company is its ethnic diversity, with dancers from Brazil, Cuba, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Ukraine, and of course from the United States. I do miss our old Brazilian dancer friends, Junior and Humberto.
The motto for the company (which is celebrating its tenth year) is Music + Dance = Joy. No doubt about it, and you could feel the joy on the stage.