Columbia City Ballet Dancer Leonardo Victorino Reveals What it Takes to be Dracula

by Christina Xan

 Victorino, as Dracula, with Principal Dancer Claire Richards in the role of Lucy Westenra

Victorino, as Dracula, with Principal Dancer Claire Richards in the role of Lucy Westenra

Based closely Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the Columbia City Ballet is putting on its annual performance of Dracula this weekend, a show they have been doing for more than two decades.

Last week, I was able to sit down with ballet dancer and company member Leonardo Victorino to talk about what it’s like to get into the role of Dracula, a role he has been playing at CCB for four years.

“I’ve been dancing for 11 years now,” said Victorino, adding that he was inspired by his parents to start dancing, “My parents are musicians, and I grew up in the arts conservatory.”

Victorino experimented with several art genres like painting, violin, and drama, before finally finding the art form that’s enchanted him for the past several years, ballet: “When I was 16, 17 years old I decided to start dancing,” Victorino said, “It was a passion I had but was scared to follow because of negative perceptions. Fortunately, I did it, and it’s the best thing I’ve done.”

When asked why ballet was the art form that spoke to him, he said, “I feel like with ballet, I was able to do all the art I had done in the past in one. I had the drama, the music, the art, and I got to keep moving and expressing myself.”

Though he started dancing seriously as a teenager, Victorino said he believes dance is something that has been inside him since he was born: “When I was a baby, and my mom put me on the bed, she saw me stretching out on the bed,” he paused and smiled, “She thought I looked like a ballet dancer.”

This passion built and built, and he was dancing in a company in Pennsylvania before finding CCB: “I came to Columbia in 2015 when I got offered the job here,” Victorino said, “I immediately started playing Dracula, which was both scary and a huge honor.”

Victorino talked with me about the detailed physical and emotional process it takes for him to get into the role of Dracula: “The moment everyone goes on stage, and I’m left alone, I start getting in the mood of Dracula. As soon as I sit in the chair to start doing my makeup, that’s the moment Leo is leaving, and Dracula is coming,” he shared, “I try to keep far from distractions during the show because the stage is a full-time job. I know I carry the name of the production.”

Furthermore, Victorino shares that he watches documentaries about Dracula as a character and about Bram Stoker as an author so that he can fully understand the mindset of the character: “I’ve learned that to be Dracula I have to feel pleasure in the pain,” he said, “I have to convert the natural in me to the opposite.”

 For Victorino, telling a story through dance is just as and even more important than telling it through words: “Telling a story through dance allows me to express myself without words. The words are kind of dangerous because sometimes you don’t know how to express through them,” he added, “I can express anything inside of me just by movements. I can put out positive and negative energy through my body.”

Victorino also shared with me his two favorite scenes to perform: “The death of Dracula is my favorite scene because of the process of bringing this tragic death to the audience,” he continues, “the second scene where I bite Lucy and she is becoming a vampire is also really fun because we have a very intricate and sensual dance.”

When asked what his goal for the show is Victorino said, “Everything that I’m feeling is important; the stage is the reality for me, and I want to bring this expression as real as I can to touch the audience,” he concluded, “Really, I just hope people come and that they have a good time. Oh, and if they want to see me after the show, I promise I won’t bite!”

To see Victorino and the rest of the production in Columbia City Ballet’s Dracula, get your tickets to attend either Friday, October 26th or Saturday, October 27th.

 

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Grant Show, in town to play Dracula for the Columbia City Ballet, talks with Jasper (pt. 2)

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In Part 1 of our interview with Grant Show, he discussed the challenges of taking on a dance role as the titular Count in Dracula: Ballet With a Bite, presented by the Columbia City Ballet this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 24-26 at the Koger Center.  Discussion now turns to his career, and how a role in community theatre long ago led to a career as an actor.

Jasper:  I take it you're on a break now, since you have a new series (Devious Maids, on Lifetime.)  Congratulations - how's that going?

Grant Show:  Thank you.  It's going great.  We finished our season real strong.  We started out OK, and had this really nice build, as far as the audience, which I think is a really good sign.  I think the show is really great - I never really had any doubts about it.

Jasper:  So it's officially coming back for another season?

Show:  Oh yeah, definitely.  We go back to work in January.  It'll be back on the air I think the beginning of April.  We're starting earlier this year than last year. Last year was a summer show, and this year it's going to be more of a spring show, in 2014. The cast has been pared down quite a bit, but it was massive, that cast. It had like 18 members, and I think we’re down to 12, which is a big cast anyway.  They've told us a little about what's going to happen next year. I'm excited about it.    My character Spence, and Rosie, who are sort of star-crossed lovers throughout, are broken up in the end, and it takes Spence down a really bad path. He ends up becoming a hot mess. (laughs) I'm looking forward to it.  That was the way it was described to me: he's a hot mess. (laughs more)

spence rosie

Jasper:  You're often described as "television star Grant Show," or "Grant Show from Melrose Place," or from your new series...but you actually began as a stage actor.

Show: Well yeah, I had done a lot of stage.

Jasper: You studied theatre in college, at UCLA.

Grant Show, as Rick Hyde in "Ryan's Hope"

Show:  Well yeah. My first real job (as Rick Hyde, on Ryan's Hope) was a television job, and then I did a lot of back and forth, gosh, for ten years maybe.  And then once I got Melrose Place, once you're on a show, it's really hard to do theatre.  After I left Melrose Place, for the next three or four years I did a bunch more theatre (including Wit on Broadway, and The Glass Menagerie, as the Gentleman Caller, with Elizabeth Ashley at The Alley Theatre in Houston)  and then I moved out to California, and it's very difficult to do both. Your agents don't want you to do theatre.  There’s no money in it. They don't believe the long term, about how it develops you as an actor, as an artist.  They just don't get it.  They don't see any advantage in doing theatre.  They're not doing it, but for us, it's fun.

Jasper: You actually took a break from television after your first series, and went off to London to study at LAMDA (the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts) - what was going through your mind at that point?

Show:  I knew that what I was doing, on a daytime soap, wasn't what I wanted to do.  And I also knew that I wasn’t really that good of an actor yet. There was something they were doing over there, and I wanted to go see what they were doing.  I don't even know how much I learned, but it was fun.  I had a good time.  It was like a year of summer camp for actors.

Jasper: Similar to your undergrad experience?

Show:  No, more intense.  A lot more intense. We worked every day, seven or eight hours a day, for nine months.  I couldn't have not learned something - I had to learn something.  What, I couldn’t tell you.  But it was great.  If you have the opportunity...I knew I wanted to do it for at least a year before my contract was up. So I saved up my money, I was young, I was 27, so let's go have fun.  And I did.

Jasper:  Did you always plan on being an actor?

Show:  No.  I was going to be a pilot.  I had planned on flying for the Air Force. But we were poor, and I was in a public school, and you're not going to get into the Air Force Academy out of a public school, so the only real private education I could get was at a parochial, or religious, school.  Very early into being there, I realized I didn't like people telling me what to do. So I left there, and quit that whole plan.  I was well on the way - Eagle Scout, Senator's letter of recommendation... there's a whole bunch of steps you have to have.  I had gotten it all stacked up already, but I just needed to get the right education.  I realized "Yeah, not for me - the military's not gonna do it for me."  So I kind of goofed off for a long time.  I did some plays in high school, just as something to do.  I was a couple of years out of high school, not knowing what I wanted to do, and I did a community theatre play, and I was like "You know?  If they'll pay me to do this, I like this."

Jasper:  What was the show?

Show: Oh, it was some musical revue.  And I don't sing. It was just something that somebody put together, it wasn't a big thing.

Jasper: But you enjoyed it enough, to pursue that as a career?

Show:  Oh yeah. And I've been very, very, very, very blessed.

Jasper:  Do you know what ran on cable not too long ago?  Ice (a made-for-tv natural disaster movie that ran on ABC in the summer of 2000, about Californians struggling to escape and survive a sudden Ice Age.)

Show:  Oh my godddddd.

Jasper:  You know, one of your co-stars in that movie was also a famous screen Dracula -  Udo Keir, who was Andy Warhol's Dracula.

Show:   Yes, yeah I know that. God, they missed the boat on that (Ice.)  That could have been a good, good, fun movie. I just think that....it was okay....

Jasper:  It was actually pretty good.

Show:  It was okay.

Jasper:  The story was actually...

Show:  It was okaaaaay.

Jasper:    Just done on a miniscule budget, but a pretty cool idea.

Show:    It just missed. You never get any time on those things. You get it, and you've got a couple of weeks, maybe, at most,  and they fly you up, and then you start working on it, and it's just work work work work.  And after we're all done, I'm like "Aaaah, god, we could have done this, we could have done that..." I  had all these thoughts in my head about what we could have done.   It's nature of the beast.

Jasper:  We're also fans of Burn Notice, and big Bruce Campbell fans. Any stories about working on that series?

Show: Aw, he's great. (thinks) Nothing all that crazy happened. I loved it.  You know, Jeffrey (Donovan, the star) and I tested opposite each other for that role that Jeffrey ended up doing, so it was probably going to be between me and him. And when they asked me to come in and do a few episodes, I was like "No, I'm not going to come in and play a co-star to someone I read opposite!  I'm not going to be his supporting actor.  They were like "Why don't you read the script, and see?"  And it wasn't just a supporting actor to him, it was a pretty big character, and I had a lot of fun doing it.  I just love those guys. Matt Nix, the creator - he's great. He's terrific.  I talked to him about his whole writing process, and he was really super-supportive, and ready to talk - he's just a good dude.

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Jasper:  Apart from your new series, which isn't even new any more, do you have anything else in the works?

Show:  No, that's it.  Katherine and I bought a house on the Marina peninsula that is 90-some years old, that hasn't been touched in 40 years. We're remodeling that, so that's kind of nice.  But I go back to work in two months. So there's not really enough time for anything.

Jasper:  So nothing on the side?

Show:  This.  This is it right now.

Jasper:  Have you visited Columbia before?

Show:  No.  I've played golf in Greenville.  Columbia is great though. I haven't really seen much of it. I've seen from the hotel to the studio, and from the studio...to the hotel.  That's all I've seen.  I keep waiting for someone to give me some barbecue. I love me some pork.  But I'm just so busy - this is really kind of a lot, this is (laughing) kind of ridiculous trying to get me ready to do this in four days. So that's all I'm doing. So then I get home, and I'm in my room, doing the steps, and it's not the newest building in the world.  So the floors are all wood, and all creaking around, and I'm sure the person below is like "Yaaaaaa - damn you!  Stop it!  What are you doing up there?"

Jasper:  Thinking about arts now in the broadest sense - what do you see as the role of the arts, and acting, and drama, from a societal viewpoint?

Show:  In the biggest, broadest sense, it's just a sort of visceral understanding that no man is an island, that we're all in this together.  In a real broad sense, that's it - we're all here together.

Jasper:  What do you see happening in the future with the performing arts, especially at the local level, with local playhouses, local ballets, local opera companies that are struggling in the current economy?

Show:  It feels like you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I'm not in it that much, though, I'm not in the trenches. I mean I know you guys just lost a ballet company (in Charleston.) But maybe that's an opportunity.  I believe it's an opportunity for William. He's definitely going to pick up the slack there.  I think it's unfortunate that it's the first place (arts) that money is taken away from, but it's a fact of life. Live theatre, or ballet, if they can't survive because no one's going to see them, then maybe they're not relevant anymore.  I believe they are. And I believe they will.

Jasper:  Finally, what are some favorite roles you have played?

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Show:  Both of them are in television shows.  I did a series, gosh, almost ten years ago now, called Point Pleasant.   Marti Noxon (an executive producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, and consulting producer on Glee and Mad Men) was the producer.   I played this guy who had sold his soul to the Devil.  He was basically the Devil's Pope. It was all supernatural crap, and he was just really fun.  The guy could do anything. He didn't give a crap about anybody.  He was a true villain, and that was really fun to play. And then the opposite side of the spectrum, the character I played in Swingtown, Tom Decker - he just wanted to make sure that everybody knew they were invited to the party.  He was the guy that says "you're good enough, you're pretty enough, and damn it, people like you.  Come on in - let's have sex!"  He was really fun, to just be free to just be welcoming to everyone, and your  whole goal is to try to make everybody else feel good about themselves. That was really fun.

Jasper:  And is there any role that you've always wanted to play?

Show:  (without hesitation) Yeah - James Bond!  I think I was born in the wrong area (i.e. America), and I missed my boat on that one.  But what guy doesn't want to play James Bond?

~ August Krickel

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Dracula: Ballet With a Bite

 

Columbia City Ballet presents Dracula: Ballet with A Bite at the Koger Center, running from Thursday, Oct. 24 - Saturday, Oct. 26, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at Capitol Tickets, online at www.capitoltickets.com, or by calling (803) 251-2222. University students are encouraged to take advantage of special discount student pricing on Thursday, Oct. 24: all tickets are $10 with a valid student ID.

 

"This creature, this man, this person, this thing" - Actor Grant Show talks about playing Dracula for the Columbia City Ballet (pt. 1)

mm I very nearly miss actor Grant Show as I arrive at Drip on Main to talk about his upcoming role in the Columbia City Ballet's Dracula:  Ballet With a Bite. Dressed casually in workout clothes, looking down at his smartphone, he could be any young urban Main Street or Vista professional, stopping off for coffee after a jog or a visit to the gym, and not a visiting star from Hollywood on a break from rehearsal.  His publicity photo as Dracula doesn't do him justice.  He's the leanest, wiriest, tannest, fittest guy you can imagine, looking not much older than his character Jake Hanson did from 1992-1997 in the popular Fox series Melrose Place.   Since then, he's starred in a number of series (Point Pleasant, Swingtown, Accidentally on Purpose) cable television movies (Sex and the Single Mom, Natalee Holloway) and feature films (last year's The Possession) and has had recurring roles in series like Big Love, Burn Notice, and Private Practice.  Currently one of the stars of Lifetime's hit Devious Maids, which will return for a second season next spring, Show will portray the the blood-sucking Transylvanian Count in three performances this coming Thursday October 24 through Saturday October 26, at 7:30 PM at the Koger Center.   He shared some thoughts about this production, and his career this past Friday afternoon, the day before the production opened out of town in Savannah.

Jasper:  How did you first become involved with Dracula?

Grant Show:   Because William Starrett is pretty persuasive, as I'm sure everyone in Columbia already knows.  My wife, Katherine LaNasa (currently seen as Lizzie Ambrose on A & E's Longmire)  was a dancer. She danced with William in Europe. She stopped dancing professionally when she was in her 20's - she danced from when she was about 16 to about 26.  So I've known William for a couple of years now; William came out for our wedding.

Jasper:  You're a newlywed, correct?  Congratulations!

Show:  A year.  We're just past newlyweds now.  Thanks!   Katherine and William are doing a reality show, not in the sense of a "Housewives" reality show - it's more of  docu-reality show, what a documentary used to really be, about the Company.  So we've been a lot more in touch with him in the last couple of months.  They shot it a long time ago, and they're in the middle of making a deal on that.  I'm not a dancer, I've never been.  In my movement class at LAMDA (the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts) they called me "the Lorry Driver."  This is a Herculean effort, to try to get me to a place where there is any grace - but that's kind of why I wanted to do it.  I think (William) likes bringing in actors too - he's really terrific.

Jasper:  He's played Dracula himself, he's had dancers in the lead, and he's had actors play the role, so he's done it both ways.

Show:  He's a really creative guy, and creativity is really spurred on by disparate input.  His creativity is sparked when something new comes along, and having to deal with my limitations makes him more creative. Myself as well, me coming in here and trying to figure out what I can do and can't do. And then pushing the limits of what I can do.

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Jasper:  Have you surprised yourself?

Show:  I don't know if I'm doing it well yet, but I'm doing way more than I thought I would.   I'm doing lifts!  I didn't think I was going to be dancing at all.  I thought I was just going to come in, (shifting into a Bela Lugosi-style voice) "and be Dracula!" and then kind of sweep out.  But he's got me in full-on numbers, quite a bit - a lot more than I thought.  I'm doing a lot of lifts. When they suggested it to me, I was like "You guys are nuts!  I'm going to take this part and just...walk across the stage?   People study for years before they do that!"  But the girls are so good;  everyone there is so good, that they're making me look better than I am.  And I'm having a lot of fun.  I am, I'm having a great time, just a lot of fun.  The weirdest thing is: I've seen one ballet in my life.  It's not my thing, or it wasn't.  The emotion that comes over me  most often now during rehearsal - not when I'm working, but when I'm waiting to work - is (that) I'm jealous of these people.  I'm very jealous.   I will never have anywhere near the grace that these that guys have.  Even if I decided now that I wanted to, it's too late. I've missed that boat.  And I'm a little bit jealous of these guys, if not a lot jealous of these guys. They're incredibly athletic and graceful and artistic, all at the same time, something I will never have.

Grant Show as Dracula

Jasper:  How challenging is it to do an acting role with lots of movement, but no dialogue?

Show:  It's different.  They're not putting any pressure on me, so there's no fear, I don't have any fear here.  Not yet.  Maybe I will before the curtain goes up tomorrow.  The first three days I was just learning where I was supposed to be standing on the stage.  I got here Monday night.  So Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday... maybe a little bit Thursday afternoon, I started to act, but  there's really been no acting, it's just been "What do I do next, what do I do next? "  and listening to the music.  The cues are very different. There are some visual, but mostly, it's auditory cues, so re-training myself for that, that's difficult, and today was really the first time that I was able to go "What kind of choices am I going to be making?"  And of the choices I've already made for this character, for this creature, this man, this person, this thing, can I incorporate them, will they work?  It is challenging. And I don't have a lot of time  to do it.

Jasper:  That's not bad for three days.

Show:  I feel OK , considering. Unfortunately people in the audience aren't going to know that there's a "considering"  They come to see a show.  They don't come to see a show with a caveat of "Oh, well he's only had this much time."  They just want to see a good show.  One thing that is very challenging is, that if you're in a scene in a play, or a tv show, or a movie, or whatever, you can do that scene, with whoever you're working with;  it generally doesn't have more than two or three people at the most. You can do it again, do it again, do it again.  You can try different things, and keep trying.  But (here) you've got the entire company. If I want to work on one little moment, you've got to get the entire company together, you've got to cue the music up, you've got to move into it, so you really only get two or three shots at it in a day, in a whole day.  So that's really difficult and challenging - it's new.

grant_show

Jasper:  You said "this character, this creature, this man, this person, this thing." So which is it?  How are you approaching the role?

Show:  Well you have to play it as a person, as a man.  The closest thing that I'm kind of, playing with, is that he's really kind of a sexual predator.  But there's also some things that are child-like about him, that maybe a sexual predator has as well, so that's kind of what I'm playing with.  Are you (the audience) going to see any of this?  I have no idea.  These are just thoughts in my head.

 

 

In Part 2, Grant Show discusses his current series Devious Maids, how he broke into acting then took a break to develop his craft, as well as favorite roles, roles he was very nearly cast in, and roles he would love to play.   Columbia City Ballet presents Dracula: Ballet with A Bite at the Koger Center, running from Thursday, Oct. 24 - Saturday, Oct. 26, at 7:30 PM. Tickets can be purchased at Capitol Tickets, online at www.capitoltickets.com, or by calling (803) 251-2222. University students are encouraged to take advantage of special discount student pricing on Thursday, Oct. 24: all tickets are $10 with a valid student ID.

~ August Krickel

 

 

Columbia City Ballet presents The Sleeping Beauty: A Story Where Good Triumphs Over Evil with a Single Kiss

The Columbia City Ballet culminates its 2011-2012 season with the most famous kiss in fairytale history… a sparkling rendition of the full-length classic The Sleeping Beauty. Under the direction of Executive & Artistic Director William Starrett, this elaborate spectacle of magic and glamour takes the Koger Center stage on March 9 and 10 for three performances.

The Sleeping Beauty is one of the purest classical ballets in existence. It has a long and important history with the Columbia City Ballet. It has been produced ten times in our 50 year history: first in 1966, and last eight years ago in 2004. I first danced the role of the Prince in Sleeping Beauty for the Minnesota Ballet when I was 17-years-old. It is thrilling that I can be instrumental in bringing this masterpiece to our community,” said Starrett.

Created in 1890 by choreographer Marius Petipa and legendary composer Tchaikovsky, The Sleeping Beauty is recognized as one of the supreme achievements of classical ballet. The ballet takes audiences on a journey through an enchanted forest based on the classic French fairytale by Charles Perrault: the beautiful princess Aurora, performed by Ballerina Regina Willoughby, is cursed by the evil fairy Carabosse, brought to life by Alexis Doktor and Cooper Rust who will be alternating the role, and doomed to sleep for one-hundred years -- only to be awakened by the kiss of her true love, the handsome Prince Charming, danced by Soloist Journy Wilkes-Davis. Also performing are Principal dancers Mark Krieger and Kathryn Smoak dancing the Blue Bird Pas De Deux and the Lilac Fairy will be portrayed by Soloist Claire Kallimanis, alternating with Claire Richards.

Tchaikovsky is also well-known for two other popular full length classical ballets, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. With a score that has stood the test of time, The Sleeping Beauty remains one of the most revered ballets in the world today. The sheer artistry of the technically demanding dancing, and the Columbia City Ballet’s fresh approach to this clearly-portrayed story make The Sleeping Beauty production the perfect family outing and a great ballet for first-timers.

Performances of The Sleeping Beauty are:

March 9 at 7:30 p.m.

March 10 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Before each evening performance, Director Starrett holds a pre-show lecture 30 minutes prior to the curtain where he gives you a unique introduction behind the scenes into the magical world of ballet. Following the March 10 matinee, audience members are invited to tour backstage and meet the Columbia City Ballet dancers.

The Sleeping Beauty is sponsored by Lexington Medical Center. Tickets are on sale at the Coliseum Box Office and all Capitol Ticket Outlets. Charge by phone by calling 251-2222 or on online at www.capitoltickets.com. For more information about the Columbia City Ballet, call (803)799-7605 or visit www.columbiacityballet.com.

 

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Columbia City Ballet's Off the Wall -- Go for the end of the show

OK, everyone who really knows me knows how I feel about the state of dance in Columbia, SC. Not to beat a dead horse but, as you've all heard me whine too much, sometimes I feel like we're stuck in the nineteen-eighties or whenever the last time was that Columbia's big two dance company ADs went to see a show that they weren't staging themselves. It's frustrating that the only new and innovative dance and choreography opportunities tend to come out of the university setting.  

So, with all these caveats out there I want to express how pleased I was with what City Ballet did with Off the Wall tonight at the Koger Center. Yes, Act I was the longest single ballet act I have ever sat through, and yes, the numbers themselves went on for way the hell too long. But when Act II came around, it was like we were sitting in a different theatre, with a different audience, watching a different company perform a different ballet.

 

While some of Act II was a retread of previous Off the Wall performances, artistic director William Starrett has added a new scene this season, set in the congregation of a church and, this time, he has scored and scored big. The new church scene starts off with a heart-and-gut twisting rendition of Amazing Grace, sung by a soloist with the Benedict College Gospel Choir whose name I do not know. If anyone knows this young woman's name, then please, pass it along to the rest of us because I don't ever want to miss an opportunity to hear her perform again. As outstanding as she was, her performance was just a precursor of the wild and crazy gospel choral ride the audience was in for as the remainder of the act unfolded. It was, to be completely candid, one of the best performances I have seen in Columbia. (And yes, Bonnie danced in this piece but only for a handful of minutes and in a decidedly standard corps role.)

 

The choir was over-the-top and athletic in their performance and the dance choreography was innovative and surprising. Dancers seemed to pop out of the pews of the church like hot kernels of corn. But by far, the most exciting thing to me was the fact that there on the Koger Center stage were three different arts disciplines -- ballet, choral music, and the visual art of Jonathan Green -- coming together to present an all around sensory overload that left the audience all but on fire. In a word, it was a success.

 

So, to those of you who were not planning to attend Columbia City Ballet's performance of Off the Wall and Onto the Stage, my advice is that you reconsider your decision. To be honest, act I may not be for everyone -- in our party, two people loved it and two people thought it drug on fairly mercilessly. But whatever your complaints or lack thereof with Act I, Act II will, by far, make up for any unhappiness with the early part of the show. There are three more chances to see this version of Off the Wall -- Saturday afternoon and evening and Sunday afternoon. For more information go to www.columbiacityballet.com.

-- cb