Tonight, Columbia was treated to a wonderful experience, a crowd-pleasing performance put on by the Columbia Classical Ballet and several guest artists from around the world. Lifechance: International Ballet Gala of the Stars not only gathers great dancers and offers fresh material to dance lovers of the Midlands, it raises money for charity, in this case for the Palmetto Health Children's Hospital Special Care Center. It also, I think, allows local dancers the chance to work with their peers, develop new skills, and form networking friendships that can be helpful down the road. Despite its size, Columbia does not lack for opportunities to see a wide range of dance, but this annual event (the fourteenth)---put on largely through the hard work of Radenko Pavlovich---brought together a diverse and accomplished group. This year's production was probably the best attended and most rewarding ever. Thanks to our good friend Renata Franco, the boys and I were treated to excellent seats and we left the auditorium inspired and thrilled. The Koger Center seemed to be practically sold out and the dapper crowd was in the mood for high-level entertainment and was very appreciative of the presentation. They came to see the best young dancers displaying their talents and they were not disappointed.
The star of the show was hometown favorite Brooklyn Mack, whose coach and mentor is Pavlovich, and he did not let down his legion of local fans. Although many of the male danceurs were excellent, when Mack steps----no, SOARS---onto the stage, he is a thing of beauty and energetically shows why he is such a sparkling talent. His jumps are tremendous, his enthusiasm infectious. He feeds off the crowd, and the Washington Ballet is lucky to have him as a principal. His Song for You, done to the music of Donnie Hathaway (one of my favorites) was wonderful, as was his duet with Grace-Anne Powers in Le Corsaire (though I think I would have liked a better selection of costumes for that one). Many times I heard people gasp in awe and comment positively on this jump or that move.
Not to be outdone by any measure, the corps of Columbia Classical Ballet gave three beautiful performances. While Satanella and Majissimo were delightful in every way, I was simply blown away by the job they did in Assassin's Tango. It was an absolutely delightful arrangement, and it had the crowd atwitter. I thought all six ballerinas and the six guys were great (and as always, the ladies were lovely). I must compliment the choice of costumes, especially the black outfits, in all three parts. The dancers were crisp and seemed to be enjoyed themselves. Lauren Frere and Journy Wilkes-Davis have become something of a pair on stage (they also starred together in the recent Nutcracker), and since both are tall and svelte, they match well in their duets. Of course, my favorites are Renata and Akari Manabe, but then again I am somewhat biased. Akari can simply melt you with her smile and Renata is a genuinely beautiful spirit. Kaori Yanagida (and I think Aoi Anraku, though I might be wrong) got the center stage in the first dance. DeeDee Rosner and Kaleena Burks were also great. I think the company really showed the crowd how lucky we are to have them here. Satanella was very good and set the tone for the evening. They can really be proud of their performance tonight. I may not be a ballet afficiando, but I was really impressed and pleased to have seen it.
I will not bore you with a detailed description of every guest performance, though I will say that they were uniformly excellent and each brought a different flavor to the banguet. We were treated to dances put on by five members of the Boston Ballet. Several really stood out. Lia Cirio and Sabi Varga's Tsukiyo pas de deux was sensual and impressive. Cirio is strong, almost feline, in her command of the stage. I thought there was a little too much arm movement in As One, but overall, she is impressive, as was her partner. Jeffrey Cirio, James Whiteside, and Whitney Jensen were also good.
Two dances given by members of the Trey McIntyre Project of Boise, Idaho, were crowd favorites and extremely well performed. Chanel DaSilva and Dylan G-Bowley's Wild Sweet Love was athletic and playful, and really got a rousing reception. G-Bowley's Nitelite was equally impressive. I would love to see Mack and DaSilva share the stage in a duet someday.
The adorable (ok, she's only thirteen) Alexandra Parsons of North Carolina danced two beautiful numbers and she definitely has a wonderful future ahead of her. Alexander Buber (of Belarus via Japan) was crisp and light in much of his dancing, and I enjoyed the Flower Festival at Genzano, with the lovely Kayo Sasabe. Much credit should be given to Sasabe, whose initial foray onto the stage was interrupted by a technical glitch; the crowd warmly applauded her return. Rounding out the first act were Meaghan Hinkis and Alberto Velazquez, from New York's American Ballet Theater, in Don Quixote, and I thought both were good, though Hinkis seemed to outshine her partner.
My only criticism was that too often, dancers standing in the wings had their shadows projected onto the backscreen, possibly by the lighting being at a bad angle or the performers standing too close to the stage. For example, it was disconcerting when G-Bowley was performing his modernist dance, to see the shadow of Parsons twirling behind him. Most people probably didn't even notice it, though.
Overall, I think the night was wonderful. I am delighted that my son dances with this group. I wish I was about twenty and could dance with them. Much thanks should be given to the cities of Forest Acres and Columbia for providing funds for the arts, because we are a much better community because of it.