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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REVIEW: Columbia City Ballet's Body & Movement - by Susan Lenz

To Each Their Own: Body & Movement Explored

Yesterday morning I sat at my laptop and composed a glowing review of Columbia Classical Ballet’s one-night-only production of Don Quixote. I knew that just twenty-four hours later, I would be putting words together in another dance review, one for Columbia City Ballet’s Body & Movement Explored. I attended Saturday’s show, the second in a two-night engagement at Columbia Music Festival Association’s black box theater on Pulaski Street. I went hoping the dancing would be as wonderful as the evening before. After all, it is far easier to write compliments than it is to write critical comments.

For the most part, I was not disappointed. More importantly, I learned a lot. Some of what I learned was about the creative ideas at work in a choreographer’s mind. There was a casual but informative talk-back session after the dancing. I also learned that my opinions might be 180 degrees apart from other knowledgeable dance fans, but that doesn’t mean any of us are more wrong (or right!) than the other.

What do I mean by that? Well, I ran into a friend who had also seen Don Quixote the night before. Unlike me, though, my friend found the entire performance boring and lackluster, not at all of the quality they expected from a professional company. We exchanged our impressions. Both of us acknowledged valid points from one another. Neither mind was changed, but it was certainly an engaging and worthwhile conversation.

Body & Movement Explored was an evening that easily showcased works one might totally love or absolutely hate. The person sitting next to you could easily hate the one you loved and loved the one you hated. As for me, I really disliked Philip Ingrassia’s Together Apart. In the talkback session, Philip announced that not only was this the third reiteration of the piece, but that he was greatly satisfied with where it was at and how intended to expand the piece into a full, fifteen-minute number. I was also not a fan of Stephanie Wilkins’ Ache. The three couples often looked awkward in movements that otherwise suggested the intention should have been flowing ease. To me, more rehearsal time was needed.

I found Martin Skocelas-Hunter’s In Good Company boring enough that my mind wandered. His concept was obvious. A group of four women danced side by side, doing the same steps as if an amateur recital. This was followed by four men doing exactly the same thing. The audience was to consider the difference in interpretation between men and women given the same choreography. As my mind wandered, I could almost see how this concept could be translated into a first-rate contemporary art film. What at first I found unexciting became ripe with possibilities. This is why evenings exploring body and movement are so important; Without a stage on which to experiment, choreographers work in the dark.

Though I’ve mentioned works I didn’t particularly enjoy, more than half the fourteen works presented were quite entertaining. This includes Good Eats, a tap-dancing duet choreographed and performed by Jordan Hawkins and Claire Richards to the live music by composer/trumpeter Mark Rapp and drummer Brendan Bull. The music was the title track to Rapp’s 2011 release paying homage to legendary saxophonist Lou Donaldson and the performance let the room know why Rapp was recently designated the Jazz Ambassador of Columbia and the State of South Carolina by the SC House of Representatives.

Both of Rachel Leonard’s works were wonderful to watch and showed a wide range of expressiveness. If I had known beforehand, I would have been predisposed to this opinion. Why? Well, Rachel Leonard is one of two founders of Surfscape Dance Troupe, a professional contemporary company in Volusia County, Florida. I saw them perform at the Joan James Harris Theater at the Atlantic Center for the Arts before their 2014 tour to Sadler’s Wells in England.  It wasn’t until the talkback session that my memories seemed to coincide with William Starrett’s story of meeting Rachel Leonard, as well as her story of going to Paris after her company’s performance in England. The first half of the program ended with Café de Courtieser L’Ecart, Leonard’s playful recollection of her trip. It was grand!

Yet the most intriguing number of the night for me was Amanda Summey’s Rock, Paper, Scissors, “Gun Emoji” set to Mendelssohn’s Movement in G Minor for Nicole Carrion, Jordan Hawkins, and Colin Jacobs. This was a work that ought to be further explored, expanded, and performed. The piece powerfully illustrated how differences of opinion can lead to intractable, unresolved tensions, not unlike the varying impressions left on audience members after any dance occasion

Miranda Bailey’s duet for Bonnie-Boiter Jolley and Maurice Johnson was ethereal. Unfortunately, Bailey finale, Origin of Love, would have benefited from a larger space. Still, it was so exciting to see dancers smiling, full of energy, and showing off spins and leaps as if cast in a Broadway musical about a high school performing arts school. Perhaps nothing from the evening will go on to fame, but being in the audience was fun and the ensuing conversations were stimulating. I hope my impressions initiate an interest in local dance, whether one agrees with me or not! We are all entitled to our own opinions and the community will grow if we share, explore, and learn from one another.

Full Disclosure: Jasper Magazine's former Dance Editor, Bonnie Boiter-Jolley, is a soloist with the Columbia City Ballet. 

REVIEW: Columbia City Ballet's Off the Wall and Onto the Stage by Susan Lenz

Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green

off the wall.jpg

For me, writing a review of a one-night-only performance is difficult, especially since my viewpoint is as an expert audience member. No matter what I say, there’s no chance for others to attend the show to agree with me or not. So, I’m approaching this review from another angle. I’m comparing last Friday, February 9th performance of Off the Wall and Onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green to earlier productions of the same show. I’m hoping that this article will explain why the public should see any ballet more than once. Ballets, even the classical ones, change over the years, from season to season, from cast to cast, through new costuming and staging and even through new choreography.


Columbia City Ballet’s Off the Wall has undergone plenty of changes since it’s 2005 premier. I attended that lavish February 4th opening at the Koger Center and largely agreed with the New York Times review which stated, “The evening seems short on specifics of Gullah life, let alone the evocation of actual characters” and went on to note a lack of coherence in the choreography and a disconnect between the two acts. That was thirteen years ago. 


Since that time, Artistic Director William Starrett has been polishing the show. In fact, this signature production is occasionally presented in a scale-down version as it was during the summer of 2014 for the 39th annual national assembly of The Links Foundation, an international nonprofit. That forty-two minute performance outside Washington, DC for an audience of 4,000 earned the company $50,000.  The first act vignette, “Love of the Harvest” to Marlena Smalls’ “Carry Me Home,” is frequently performed alone. I saw Amanda Summey and prima ballerina Regina Willoughby dance this remarkably touching piece last month in remembrance of Coralee Harris, a long-time arts supporter and former chairman of the board for the ballet company.  Basically, Off the Wall has been an active part of Columbia City Ballet’s repertoire since it debuted and is constantly being refined. 


The second time I saw the production was in 2011. Changes, especially in the second act, improved the experience. Individual personalities better emerged in the Silver Slipper Dance Hall and an interior church scene was added as a final number. Jonathan Green’s paintings, dance, and choral music brought the audience to a standing ovation then and again last Friday night. 


I generally complain about Columbia’s audience rising to their feet when the curtain falls as if a requirement, but it was impossible to stay seated in the crescendo of energy brought about by dancers popping up and down in their pews to high-spirited vocals by Elliott Hannah and singers from the Claflin University Gospel Choir, the University of South Carolina, ATOF, and Benedict College.  The show ends very, very well, especially in a space as open as the Township Auditorium. Audience and performers melded into a singular celebration.  It was terrific.


Other highlights include billowing fabric from which Regina Willoughby magically appears, Maurice Johnson striking a pose so perfectly that it suggests he modeled for Jonathan Green’s Fishing Break, and Amanda Summey’s feisty character in “He Treats Your Daughter Mean”. It was also a pleasure to see guest principal dancer Paunika Jones return to Columbia.


Most important to the success of this ballet is the way large-scale scrims of Jonathan Green’s painting really do come to life. Even from the 2005 debut, this difficult task worked. Translucent backdrops give way to specific places and characters. Yet, the spacious Township Auditorium seems to dwarf these backdrops when compared to their impact at the Koger Center. Fortunately, a multi-media projection off-set this spatial concern and actually showed even more of Jonathan Green’s low country images. Overall, the change in venue made the performance new and fresh.


The next time I see Off the Wall and Onto the Stage, there will be other changes.  How do I know this?  Well, in 2005 I had the pleasure of watching former prima ballerina Mariclare Miranda.  The New York Times liked her too, describing her as “an elegant classical dancer (who) proves that some exalted titles are not merely honorific.”  Later this season Regina Willoughby will retire, too.  Therefore, the future will bring another dancer to sizzle in Little Esther Phillips 1962 R&B hit “Please Release Me”.  I will look forward to that show.

PREVIEW: Puck Luck - Colin Jacob Has It in Columbia City Ballet's Upcoming A Midsummer Night's Dream by Susan Lenz

"Puck luck" is a hockey term that refers to those factors which influence the outcome of a game that do not involve the strategy and skill of the players.


When Columbia City Ballet and the full South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Morihiko Nakahara perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Koger Center this coming Saturday night, January 27th, Colin Jacob will be the envy of many hopeful dancers. He’ll be wearing green and dancing his first principal role. Plucked from the corp de ballet by Artistic Director William Starrett, Colin will use his acting background from high school musical theater and gymnastics to bring Shakespeare’s “merry wanderer of the night," Puck, a mischievous but shrewdly knavish sprite to life.


The role is demanding. It requires lofty leaps, whirling turns, and even a bit of tree climbing. The speed of the scherzo leaves the dancer breathless but insists on an immediate return to stage as if the activity was all in the course of a normal day. A clever but impish character must be maintained despite the grueling pace. This is Jacob Colin’s challenge. He has videotapes from previous Columbia City Ballet seasons, including one featuring Jose Serrano in the role. I remember that show well. In fact, I know the ballet rather well. William Starrett’s 1987 choreography is inspired by Sir Frederick Ashton’s from 1964. I’ve seen that version too. I know that Puck is the audience favorite. I was happy to hear that Colin Jacob is working hard to do as well or even better than those who have already performed the fun but rigorous role here. This is his “big break”. Some might even call it “Puck Luck”.


Perhaps “Puck Luck” was involved. No one could have predicted the strategy that would find the originally cast dancer no longer with the company, that Colin would unexpectedly be told to learn the part after rehearsals had begun. Perhaps “Puck Luck” was involved because Colin’s skill doesn’t come with more than a decade of dance training, something generally expected for a principal part. Yet, my interview told another story.


At seventeen, Colin was asked to help a local, amateur show in his hometown of Brecksville, Ohio.  They needed a male dancer. Without prior dance experience, Colin stepped up to the plate, continued lessons, and earned a scholarship to Pittsburgh’s Point Park University, one of the country’s top programs. He earned his BA in only three years and accepted a trainee position with Ballet West in Salt Lake City. This was after winning scholarships in 2013 and 2014 from Youth American Grand Prix, an international amateur dance competition. No dancer climbs the ladder of success so quickly without natural ability, a great work ethic, and tremendous daily effort. 


My interview with Colin revealed him to be a most articulate young artist who is looking forward to performing to live music.  He said that as a dancer, live music makes the show “feels like the first time because it isn’t exactly like a tape recording. Music is a cultural plus.”


(Please note, child prodigy, Felix Mendelssohn wrote the overture as a seventeen year old in 1826 and added his incidental music, Opus 61, sixteen years later for the production of Shakespeare’s play. The score includes the now, traditional “Wedding March”, generally heard as brides walk down aisles. This melody was adopted by Princess Victoria in 1858 for her wedding to Prince William of Prussia.)


Of course Columbia City Ballet rehearses to a tape recording. There’s no other way to do it!  For Colin, each rehearsal is getting easier and easier, but he is quick to add that each one reveals another fine point for him to work on. 


I am quite sure that Colin Jacobs will be bringing a memorable performance to the stage.  I wish I could see it, but alas I’ll be teaching a fiber arts workshop in Alabama. More than for myself, I hope Colin’s parents are able to make the arrangements. Like Colin, they weren’t expecting “Puck Luck”, a big break for a very likable and talented dancer. Thankfully, many will be in the audience especially to see Colin. He regularly teaches dance at Southern Strut, Columbia City Jazz, Richland Northeast High School and at Columbia Music Festival Association where he also media coordinator. 


Accepting the corps de ballet position with Columbia City Ballet, along with his other dance related opportunities, has provided Colin a level of financial stability. He bought a car and is paying off student loans. More importantly, our local dance company has provided amazing performance opportunities and the potential for upward mobility.  Whether “Puck Luck” was involved or not, Saturday’s performance is more than a “big break” for a single dancer. It is a big break for people in Columbia is watch the start of a winning young talent.  It is a fabulous opportunity to see our full company perform to live music. I’ve focused this preview on just one dancer but there are many. Go see for yourself! It will be worth it!

Tickets for the 3:00 PM matinee and the 7:30 PM evening performances on Saturday, January 27th are available at:


Jasper Dance Writer Susan Lenz Weighs in on Which Nutcracker Ballet to See but Cautions that the Choice is Yours!

Both have snow, tiaras, and take a young Clara on a fairytale journey into the Land of Sweets with dancing variations and a final pas de deux. So, what are the differences? Which company's production should an informed audience member select?

Is that a Unicorn in Columbia City Ballet's Nutcracker?

Is that a Unicorn in Columbia City Ballet's Nutcracker?


My husband and I own a little frame shop. My sales counter is in front of a non-working fireplace with a mantel holding family pictures, including some of my dancing son. For years these images seemed to remind clients that ballet is part of my life. Every holiday season, clients excitedly tell me, "I'm going to The Nutcracker!" Of course I'm happy for them and ask, "Which production?" The answer is always the same. "The one at the Koger Center."


Further conversation reveals that most people in Columbia are aware that The Nutcracker comes to the Township Auditorium every Thanksgiving weekend. Some even know that this is the civic company.  (I wrote a review of last month's show at Most seem to know that The Nutcracker also comes to the Koger Center for three weekends in December, but they are totally unaware that two different, local professional ballet companies are putting on these shows. They have no idea to which production they've booked tickets. They have no idea that there is a difference. But there is a difference.


The first weekend features Columbia Classical Ballet (Radenko Pavolich, artistic director). The later two weekends feature Columbia City Ballet (William Starrett, artistic director). Yes, the company names are as similar as The Nutcracker's basic storyline.  Both companies use canned Tchaikovsky music, cast students from their independent ballet schools, and include adults from the community in character roles, mainly in the first act's party scene. Both companies sell tickets through the Koger Center's on-line box office. Both have snow, tiaras, and take a young Clara on a fairytale journey into the Land of Sweets with dancing variations and a final pas de deux. So, what are the differences? Which company's production should an informed audience member select?


Let me cut to the chase. If one wants to see a technically superior Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier, book Radenko's production. I saw Nao Omoya and Koyo Yanagishima on Saturday night. At least I think I did. The program listed double-cast roles but didn't indicate which dancers were performing in which show. I still have no idea who I saw as Clara. Despite being in several Act II variations in both that afternoon's matinee and the evening performance, these two dancers surprisingly had plenty of energy and brought excellent technique to the stage. The dancers for Columbia City Ballet had two performances the following Saturday. I saw both. Claire Richards was lovely but her afternoon partner was weak. Bo Busby and Regina Willoughby looked understandably tired that evening.


Yet, who goes to The Nutcracker for just the last pas de deux? In almost every other way, Columbia City Ballet's production was more pleasing.


That last sentence was hard for me to write.


I'm predisposed against the liberties William Starrrett takes with his production. I'm more inclined to like the traditional dancing dolls during Act I's party scene. Radenko Pavlovich’s Harlequin and Columbine were first rate but couldn't save the scene. That party unfolded as if a series of recital pieces. At one point, all the girls covered the stage rocking baby dolls, and there weren't even enough to go around. Stranger yet, the Nutcracker doll wasn't even a traditional solid. Its legs were moveable, possibly even like a stuffed animal. 


William Starrett’s nutcracker doll looks like a nutcracker, but it’s the only doll on stage. Instead of the classic mechanized dancing doll variations, Starrett features a flirtatious Scarlett straight from Gone With the Wind mythology and a courtship dance between Clara’s older sister and a lead cadet. It works though. It works because the Columbia City Ballet dancers are good actors. As the scene continues, the audience has no problem following the plot. The nutcracker doll is broken, repaired, and placed by the Christmas tree. Effortlessly, the audience follows the action. Clara is lurked back to the darkened living room and a dream sequence begins. Mice and rats battle and the nutcracker is magically transformed into a living doll and finally a prince. One doesn’t have to consult the program. The plot is told through the choreography, the dancers, and good lighting.  Virginia Welsh as young Clara, though not technically perfect, was utterly charming and carried the audience into the Land of Snow and beyond.


Unfortunately, Columbia Classical Ballet’s dancers generally don’t express much emotion and pivotal moments often occurred in poorly lit areas of the stage. There was too much fog and the machine producing it made a lot of distracting noise. The transitions from the Stahlbaums’ living room into a battle scene and onto the Land of Snow were simply not as magical as intended. Narrative was lost.


Columbia Classical Ballet’s Act II is traditional, though it starts oddly. Why? Well, there is no overture played before the ballet begins. Thus, it is strange to listen to the first part of the angelic scene played to the curtain. William Starrett’s Act II starts the same way but his production includes the opening overture. Musically, that seems proper. Musically, Starrett’s Act II is anything but proper. It starts to the correct, heavenly melody and altogether too much gold lamé but then progresses into the Waltz of the Flowers. The other variations are also mixed up and include Neapolitan Ice Cream Flavors and Striped Candy Canes using music that isn’t even from Tchiakovsky’s Nutcracker score. Anyone familiar with the music knows it’s all out of order.


Yet, it works. There’s a flow from section to section and a nice mix of humor for sheer entertainment. I didn’t even mind the appearance of a white horse dressed as a unicorn. Admittedly, its a gimmick but it is only a magical inspired entrance. It doesn’t distract from the dancing or the progression of the ballet. 


By the end of both ballets, Clara is back in her living room and the audiences are altogether too eager to give standing ovations, as if a requirement. Both ballets had their strong points and weaknesses. Both were worth seeing. 


Both companies have extremely enticing opportunities for audience members to witness something special in the coming new year.  On Saturday, January 20th, Columbia Classical Ballet will present their annual LifeChance, an International Ballet Gala of Stars (always one of the best ballet performances in Columbia). On Saturday, January 27th, Columbia City Ballet is partnering with the full South Carolina Philharmonic under Morihiko Nakahara’s baton for Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Looking ahead, I hope this article assists future audience members make informed decisions about their Nutcracker options. Best bet: see both and compare! Maybe you’ll agree with my impressions. Maybe next year’s productions will be entirely different. There’s still time to catch the last weekend of Columbia City Ballet’s Nutcracker. It can be seen at the Koger Center:

3:00 PM Saturday, December 16, 2017
7:30 PM Saturday, December 16, 2017
3:00 PM Sunday, December 17, 2017


Postscript: Most informed audience members know something else. Using LED devices is strictly prohibited. The family sitting in front of me during Columbia Classical Ballet’s Nutcracker used a cell phone to record the entire Bon-Bon variation. The gentleman sitting beside my husband at Columbia City Ballet’s Nutcracker checked his email during the Sugar Plum pas de deux.  Please, go to the shows but don’t do this!

Susan Lenz - photo by Forrest Clonts

Susan Lenz - photo by Forrest Clonts

Susan Lenz is a full time, professional studio artist in Columbia, South Carolina. Her studio is located at Mouse House, Inc. at 2123 Park Street where she has both a studio for 3D sculptural and installation work and a separate fiber art studio. Susan's work has been juried into numerous national and international exhibits, featured in solo shows all over the United States, and shown on television and in print. She has been awarded six full scholarship art residencies and several "Best of Show" ribbons. She blogs at

CityBallet presents Beauty and the Beast

Columbia City Ballet invites you to be their guest as they grace the Koger Center stage with its production of Beauty & The Beast, for two spellbinding performances only.

This production features choreography from Executive Director, William Starrett and music composed by Léon Fyodorovich Minkus and will be held on Saturday, March 18 at 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Koger Center for the Arts.

A love story perfect for ages 9-90, Beauty & The Beast is a captivating fairytale as old as time that blends magic with artistry. The dancers of Columbia City Ballet couple beautiful lines and riveting stage presence to tell a classic tale where love conquers all.

Over 80 local children from the midlands area are incorporated throughout the performance. This musical and romantic fantasy creates a love story, where a frightening beast and a beautiful woman fall for each other despite their differences.

First performed in the Spring of 1991 as a Koger Center box office sell out, Columbia City Ballet brings a newly updated and revived Beauty and the Beast to the stage just in time for the classic Disney film to hit theatres.

Costume Designer, Alexis Doktor has crafted a one of a kind Belle gown to debut in the performance. The production will also feature enchanting medieval sets including the mysterious castle nestled in old France. Columbia City Ballet invites you be their guest for an evening of magic and excitement for this captivating performance of Beauty & The Beast at the Koger Center for the Arts. For more information and tickets, visit or call the box offices at 803-251-2222. Military and student discounts available at the box office or Koger Center kiosk.

The Ballet Aladdin Returns to Columbia After 13 Years



Conceptualized and choreographed by Artistic Director William Starrett in 1995, Columbia City Ballet presents the return of Aladdin for one weekend only, January 29th and 30th. Last performed 13 years ago to the musical score of composer Ludwig Minkus, Columbia City Ballet brings back this classic fairy tale based on Arabian Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian folktales. “Aladdin is a huge epic ballet, technically demanding for the dancers, visually thrilling for the audience and perfect for the entire family. It is such fun to see Aladdin and Jasmine flying on their magic carpet as the Genie grants Aladdin’s famous three wishes,” says Starrett.


But "the ballet Aladdin isn’t just for children," Starrett says, "because the choreographic foundation of the full length production is based on the 1877 ballet La Bayadere that was first choreographed by Marius Petipa." The ballet La Bayadere is a story of deceit and love, poisonous snakes, ghosts, and murder. The ballet "pre-dates the major romantic era by several years and it includes the famous scene from the ballet The Kingdom of the Shades, one of the most celebrated excerpts in all of classical ballet." The famous late critic Clive Barnes of the New York Times is well known for having said, 'If you don’t like the scene of The Kingdom of the Shades you don’t like classical ballet,'” Starrett says. "So even though the children are so familiar because of the Disney popularity adults will love it because it is rooted in such a strong classical foundation in ballet technique and tradition."

This three-act performance is developed from four of Minkus’ most memorable ballets including Paquita, and La Bayadere; excerpts are incorporated into the score of Aladdin.  The roles of Aladdin and Princess Jasmine, originated by Peter Kozak and City Ballet Prima Ballerina Mariclare Miranda, will be performed in this production by Ballerina Regina Willoughby and Principal Dancer Christopher Miro. Willoughby, who grew up in Texas, came to CCB in 1997 and has risen through the ranks of the company to the position of Ballerina. Reinaldo Soto will be featured as the Genie. Other favorites from Columbia City Ballet include Claire McCaa, Autumn Hill, Bonnie Boiter-Jolley, and Claire Richards.


Regina Willoughby - Ballerina for Columbia City Ballet


Christopher Miro will dance the role of Aladdin

Columbia City Ballet will give three performances of Aladdin at the Koger Center for the Arts Friday, January 29th at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, January 30th at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets, starting at $20, can be purchased at the box office, at or by calling 803-251-2222. An Aladdin tea will be held prior to Saturday’s performance at 1:30 p.m. in the Koger Center ballroom. For tea tickets and information call 803-799-7605. Call today as seating is limited.

More on Misty Copeland Visit as Columbia City Ballet & Columbia Classical Ballet Join Forces for Ballet Fundraiser

Brooklyn Mack and Misty Copeland Columbia City Ballet and the Columbia Classical Ballet have joined forces to bring Misty Copeland and Brooklyn Mack to the City of Columbia for a special fundraising luncheon that will work to benefit both ballet companies.

The two companies have a long history with the region and each other, and before now haven’t been known to work together this formally or prominently.

“This fundraiser is about the impact the Ballet has had on our community over the years.” says William Starrett, Executive and Artistic Director for Columbia City Ballet.  “Both of us have had significant funding losses over the past years and we are struggling to continue the tradition of ballet and the standard our audiences have come to cherish and expect here in Columbia.”

Columbia Classical Ballet has had a particularly difficult season.  The October floods hit them hard with the total loss of their home dance studio.  On top of that, Pavlovich has experienced some health issues, has Jasper reported in the September issue of the magazine.

In an effort to help, Brooklyn Mack reached out to Misty Copeland to see if there was an interest in helping support the company where he began dancing at the age of 12 before leaving two years later to attend the Kirov Academy of Ballet on a full scholarship.  Without hesitation, she wanted to help, but there was one stipulation; she didn’t want to leave Columbia City Ballet out of the mix because of previous discussions about their commitment to diversity and how combined efforts can have a positive impact on the community. Copeland proposed the idea of a joint venture.

“We felt we would have a bigger impact working together, and only together could we bring Misty and Brooklyn here for one event, to benefit us all,” says Starrett.

Both companies are hosting the joint fundraiser and will split the costs and proceeds 50/50.  The luncheon will be held on March 15, 2015 and though still in the planning stage, will feature a Q&A with Misty Copeland and Brooklyn Mack and a VIP reception.

“We are excited to be working together to help promote something we both love so very much,” says Starrett.  “We couldn’t be happier or more excited to be able to bring this event to our region.”

If you are interested in a sponsorship or table at this event, please contact Alana Jordan at or Alexandra Cebry at


Misty Copeland Heading to Columbia to Benefit Columbia City and Classical Ballets - A Jasper Exclusive

When the 75 plus attendees at Columbia City Ballet's Uncorked Ballet Preview on Saturday night first arrived at the CCB Studios at Taylor and Main we knew we were in for a dance treat. Much of the choreography for the company's upcoming performance of Aladdin comes from challenging classical ballets with time-tested variations such as La Bayadere. Seeing the dancers perform the difficult movements on stage comes complete with a required finesse suggesting a certain ease of performance. But witnessing the dancers in the glaring lights of the studio gives no such illusion. The difficulty, and sometimes danger, of the choreography is plain to see as the dancers pant and grunt and sweat and almost fall then regain their footing, before collapsing at the sides of the studio, exhausted and exhilarated.

No make up, no costumes, no nets.

But before the backstage preview even got underway CCB executive director William Starrett shared an exciting announcement. In conjunction with Columbia Classical Ballet, who suffered tremendous studio losses last fall during the October floods, Columbia City Ballet will be bringing American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Misty Copeland,  to Columbia on March 15th for a luncheon to benefit both Columbia City and Classical Ballets.

"We are thrilled to make this announcement and looking forward to sharing more details as they become available," Starrett said.

Misty Copeland is known throughout the dance world for her athletic dance style as well as for being the first African American principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre's 75 year history.  She performed the lead role in Washington Ballet's Swan Lake last spring with Columbia native Brooklyn Mack who is in his fifth year as principal dancer with Washington Ballet.

ABT principal dancer Misty Copeland

Brooklyn Mack & Misty Copeland

Following the announcement, the dancers of Columbia City Ballet continued to take our collective breath away.

principal dancer Claire McCaa

Soloist Autumn Ingrassia

Soloists Bonnie Boiter-Jolley and Maurice Johnson

Soloist Claire Richards



The gentlemen of Aladdin for Columbia City Ballet

REVIEW: CCB's Body & Movement Explored by David Ligon

Philip Ingrassia and Autumn Hill - photo by Ashley Concannon The art scene has progressed immensely in Columbia, SC over the past decade, and while Columbia City Ballet may have previously seemed to lag behind, performing the same pool of two- and three-act story ballets since William Starrett took over, only creating new ones every few years, the company seems to be moving forward of late and progressing along with the city.


On Friday, February 20 at 7:30 PM Columbia City Ballet presented its third annual Body & Movement Explored series. This event is a departure from what the company typically performs. Starrett has said this is an experimental project for the dancers as well as emerging choreographer to see if it can bring in an audience, and one day be presented on a bigger stage.


It is always exciting to see dancers you have become familiar with onstage be able to share another part of themselves with the audience. Most of the choreography was by Columbia City Ballet dancers. This year marks the first time choreographers came from out of state and volunteered their time to create works, including Rachel Leonard, a freelance choreographer from Florida; Jenny Broe, Owner of StudioFX in Charleston; Kevin James of Smuin Ballet; and former CCB principal dancer, Wayland Anderson. The Columbia City Ballet choreographers included soloist Philip Ingrassia, and corps members Ashley Concannon, Amanda Summey, and Denis Vezetiu.


Mr. Vezetiu choreographed two pieces as well as co-choreographed one with Ms. Concannon. His most captivating was his pas de deux, "Walk," which showcased his incredible strength and control as he manipulated dancer Nadine Tetrick around his body. She never touched the floor, as he was always controlling her. Her port de bras reacted to him like movement through water. They were one body moving together creating something beautiful to Ludovico Einaudi's minimalist score.


Ludovico music was used in four different pieces, as well as other minimalist composers including Philip Glass and Zoe Keating. What is interesting is how these composers created an atmosphere and texture with their music, rather than becoming monotonous because of its repetitiveness, lack of dynamic contrast with only slight rhythmic and melodic variations.


Jenny Broe, one of the visiting choreographers, created an enthralling contemporary piece of work to an up-tempo, club remix version of Bryan Adams’ “Wicked Games.” The choreography was seamless throughout, creating a battle between the dancers as to who could out dance whom. There was no pause for the dancers who moved from one structure to the next in groups or in pairs. The dancers would enter or leave the arena by walking fiercely like runway models. The other stand out choreographer was Rachel Leonard, who choreographed the opening piece “Speak” as well as the finale “Garcons et das Filles et des Bancs”. The last piece was set to operatic music with four sets of couples divided by gender and sitting on benches. There were phallic movements and a titillating flirtation from the four girls and four boys making it humorous and engaging fun. The boys unfortunately, missed some of the musical cues that would've made her vision really come to life.


Starrett recently commented that this is an experimental show trying to find an audience and support. He choreographed a pas de deux, “All for You,” for real life married couple Ingrassia and Autumn Hill. It was a tongue and cheek country western, on the bayou piece with choreography familiar to anyone who has seen Starrett’s previous work. For the music he collaborated with Josh McCaa who is married to CCB principal, Claire McCaa. McCaa’s country western music and voice were great, but didn’t quite sync up to the choreography. Starrett’s work with CCB is typically classical story-line fairytale ballets, like CCB’s upcoming “Cinderella.” “All For You” gave Starrett a chance to try something on a smaller scale and in a less-serious mood. It might have seemed that Starrett was going for laughs at times rather than substance, but maybe the programming of a light piece provided a good contrast with the passionate and personal work of the other choreographers.


Amanda Summey's piece “Identity Crisis” was fresh and thought provoking. Hip-hop, with elements of contemporary ballet, the eight women were wearing red masks that covered the lower half of the face and wearing street clothes. With their faces covered, they had to rely completely on body movement for expression. The music used was just a rapper with no instruments, but the rap voices layered on top of each other, creating a vocalized rhythm. Summey is a poly-artist: a visual artist and sketcher, ballet dancer, choreographer, and theater graduate from Northwestern University, she brings graffiti street art and intellectualism to her work.


The dancers who stood out were the constant duo, Bonnie Boiter-Jolley and Claire Richards. They were in the most pieces but were always paired together. Although these two compliment each other physically – they are tall, slender and blond – it would have been nice to see them dance separately, for each brings her own versatility to the stage.


In the future, CCB should model this show after other workshops around the country by auditioning choreographers to present full-length works (20-30 minutes) so the dancers can get fully invested in the work. There are theaters that can host such an event, other than the informal black box, that won’t run up the cost as much as putting it on at the Koger Center would. Having a professional event at such an informal space has its downsides: there isn’t enough lighting to explore the space, and the sound was a little low, which in turn meant we could hear every step and breath taken on stage. I believe the Columbia arts community will support a mixed-repertory series. Body & Movement Explored should be expanded and promoted bringing one-act ballets of various lengths with plot-less rather than story line structures. I think the series could be artistically and fiscally viable.

Drac is Back! At the Koger for the next three nights -- by Abby Davis



The dark and delightful Dracula is back! Columbia City Ballet presents Dracula: Ballet With A Bite at the Koger Center Thursday, October 30th through Saturday, November 1st at 7:30 pm each night.


Columbia City Ballet’s Artistic and Executive Director William Starrett transformed Bram Stoker’s classic horror novel into a classic and captivating performance. Premiering in 1991, Dracula has since become both a Columbia favorite and a widespread phenomenon. As stated by Dance Magazine, “This entertaining extravaganza guarantees a good time.” The performance is sexy, spellbinding, and an incredibly fun experience for all, appealing to both ballet aficionados and newcomers simply seeking some Halloween fun and entertainment.


Dracula’s 19th year is sure to deliver just as much of a brilliant bite as in years past. The show features many returning cast members as well as some fresh new faces. Autumn Ingrassia, Bonnie Boiter-Jolley, and Claire Richards are this year’s beautiful maidens. Regina Willoughby, a company favorite, returns as Lucy Westenra, and Claire McCaa is back as Mina Hanker. While your eyes might be focused on the gorgeous and scantily clad dancers, the visuals and lighting are equally spectacular. The spooky visuals have been designed by Columbia City Ballet’s own Technical Director, Ryan Stender, and Lighting Designer Aaron Pelzek has also contributed his touch to Transylvania.

Regina Willougby as Lucy Westeren

























T his haunting extravaganza is the perfect way to get into the Halloween spirit and kick off the holiday season. If you want to dive into the spirit of the season even more, be sure to participate in the annual costume contest during Saturday’s performance.


Tickets can be purchased at Capitol Tickets, online at, or by calling (803)-251-2222 and range from $15-$42. University students are encouraged to take advantage of special discount student pricing on Thursday, October 30th: all tickets are $10 with a valid student i.d.


- By Abby Davis

Jasper Announces Finalists for 2014 Artists of the Year - Time to VOTE!

Jay graphic

Jasper and Muddy Ford Press and delighted to announce the finalists for

Jasper 2014 Artists of the Year

in Dance, Theatre, Music, Visual, and Literary Arts




Catherine Hunsinger, actress

  • Eponine, Les Miserables (Town Theater)
  • Seven roles and cello, A Christmas Carol adapted by Patrick Barlow (Trustus Theater)
  • Willowedane Poole, Constance [by the Restoration] (Trustus Theater)
  • Fest 24 actor, Group 5 – Prom Night (Trustus Theater)
  • Actress/Soloist in “The Orchestra Moves”, a South Carolina Philharmonic childrens’ concert series
  • Actress/Soloist in the Americana concert of South Carolina Philharmonic’s pops series (St. Andrews Sisters)
  • “Nasty” in Larry Hembree Bring Your Own Dinner Theater Fundraiser (Trustus Theater)
  • Actress in First Citizens Commerical with Mad Monkey
  • Actress in Pillar Awards short film with Larry Hembree
  • Ensemble in Young Frankenstein (Workshop Theater)
  • Veronica, Carnage (Living Room Theatre)
  • Katherine, Blue Moon (Short film by Jeff Driggers)


Robert Richmond, director

  • TEMPEST at the Warehouse in Greenville, SC
  • FINDING RICHARD – USC  – Undergraduate female production of Richard III that exposed 26 students  and gender bended a Shakespearean history play, while exploring acting in a close up and personal arena.
  • DREADFUL SORRY  – The winner of the South Carolina 2010 Film Commission grant was screened in the Orlando Film Festival. This movie gave on screen and behind the camera experience to over 45 students at USC.
  • RICHARD III at the Folger Theatre, Washington, DC
  • HAMLET USC – Set in an asylum the production focused on Hamlet’s madness and was inspired by America Horror Stories.
  • Audio Book of RICHARD III – Folger Shakespeare Library – Continuing my passion to bring Shakespeare into the 21st Century this recording is the 6th fully dramatized production published by Simon & Schuster.
  • WINTERS TALE at the Academy for Classical Acting, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington, DC
  • A TALE TOLD BY AN IDIOT at Clark Studio, Lincoln Center, New York
  • Audio Book JULUIS CAESAR Folger Shakespeare Library


Frank Thompson, actor and director

  • September 2013: Thenardier in Les Miserables at Town.
  • November/December 2013: Charlie Baker in The Foreigner at Town.
  • November/December 2013: Directed Ho! Ho! Ho! at Columbia Children’s Theatre.
  • March 2014: Directed Stand By Your Man at Town.
  • May 2014: Igor in Young Frankenstein at Workshop.
  • July 2014: Dialect Coach/Captain Hook in Peter Pan at Town.
  • August 2014: Wrote/Directed A Night At The Previews fundraiser for Town.



Can’t Kids


  • This year we released Ennui Go which was a lot of hard work for us and many people who aren’t in Can’t Kids.
  • We were the house band for the Indie Grits puppet slam where we collaborated with Bele et Bete.
  • We put out ‘The Twist’ music video that was directed by Katherine McCullough.
  • We released a song on the Tidings from the Light Purple Gam comp.
  • We just finished our side of a split “7 record with Schooner out on Sit and Spin Records next year.
  • We had a pet baby squirrel for about 3 weeks.
  • We’ve obtained an early model Prius.


Greg Stuart

  • 11/18/13 –organizes world premier of Los Angeles-based composer Michael Pisaro’s asleep, forest, melody, path (2013) for large, mixed ensemble and field recordings at the Columbia Museum of Art. Ensemble includes students from the USC Honors College, USC School of Music, and members of the greater Columbia music community. The field recordings used in the concert (i.e., environmental sound recordings) were made by Stuart and Pisaro in late 2012/early 2013 in Congaree National Park.
  • 2/24/14 –Organizes a performance of the legendary Japanese percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani’s acclaimed Nakatani Gong Orchestra with 12 local musicians at the Columbia Museum of Art. The piece is an innovative, community-based ensemble consisting of large gongs suspended on custom hardware and played with handcrafted bows designed by Nakatani.
  • 12/06/13 – Stuart plays a set at the Conundrum Music Hall concert of Mind Over Matter Music Over Mind’s (the brainchild of ethnomusicologist and eminent Sun Ra scholar Thomas Stanley). The piece is a collaboration with Columbia-based visual artist Nathan Halverson, Asleep in the watchtower (2013).
  • 2/20/14 –Stuart’s USC-based experimental music performance group, the New Music Workshop, performs John Cage’s One7 (1992) at Conundrum Music Hall.
  • 7/20/14 – Composes a new work for bowed bell and electronic sound, slab (2014) as a solo set opening for electronic powerhouse Jason Lescalleet’s July 2014 Columbia appearance at Conundrum Music Hall.
  • Between 9/15/13 and 9/15/14 Stuart released the following recordings: Closed Categories in Cartesian Worlds Michael Pisaro/Matthew Sullivan, “Add Red” With Joe Panzner: Live at the Issue Project Room Joe Panzner/Greg Stuart + Jason Brogan/Sam Sfirri: Harness (Tape)


The Mobros

  • handpicked to open for B.B. King on a few of his summer dates. July 23rd & 24th 2013
  • on the road since January 17th traveling the east coast up to New York, through the Midwest to Chicago, and down through Texas going as far south as New Orleans. Having played 50 cities, The Mobros will finish their tour December 22nd in Charleston, SC.    January 17th- December 22nd 2014
  • released their first full record February 25th  2014

Visual Arts


Eileen Blyth


  • Juried in Vista Studios – Sept 2013
  • Vista Lights – Group Show – Vista Studios – November 2013
  • Big Paint Project – Jan-Feb 2014
  • Volumes II – Women Bound by Art – group exhibition at The Curtis R. Harley Art Gallery- Spartanburg, SC, Jan – Feb 2014
  • Artista Vista – Group Show – Vista Studios – April 2014
  • Art Fields – Lake city – April 2014
  • Big Paint Exhibition – Columbia College- August/October 2014
  • One Columbia Public Art Installation – Sept 2014


James Busby

  • James Busby, Figure 8, 701 Center for Contemporary Art, Columbia SC
  • James Busby, New Paintings, Randall Scott Projects, Washington DC
  • Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast, Kravets|Wehby Gallery, New York, NY
  • Smoke & Mirrors, Randall Scott Projects, Washington D.C.


Kathleen Robbins, photographer

  • Into the Flatland / Gandy Cultural Arts Center / University of Southern Mississippi / Long Beach MS (November 2013 – February 2014), University of Nebraska / Lincoln NE  (March – April 2014), Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art / Charleston SC (August – October 2014), University of Central Arkansas / Conway AR (September – October 2014),  Rebekah Jacob Gallery / Charleston SC (September – October 2014)
  • The Kids are Alright: an exhibition about family and photography / Addison Gallery of American Art / Andover MA / (traveling exhibition) (September 2013 – January 2014)
  • Photographers from the Permanent Collection, Ogden Museum of Southern Art / New Orleans LA /
  • Somewhere in the South, Rebekah Jacob Gallery / Charleston SC  /
  • CRITICAL MASS TOP 50: Color and Light, Southeast Museum of Photography / Daytona Beach FL /
  • Sense of Place: Picturing West Greenville / Clemson University Center for Visual Arts – Greenville
  •, Borne, Eliza. “Interview: Kathleen Robbins on the landscape of the Delta,”, September 19, 2014; Oxford American Magazine, Mar, Alex. “Issue 86: Sky Burial” Oxford American, Fall 2014; Oxford American Magazine, Brenner, Wendy. “Issue 82: Telegram” Oxford American, Fall 2013; Oxford American Magazine, Giraldi, William. Issue 84 / Oxford American, Spring 2014
  •, Smithson, Aline. “Your Favorite Photographs of 2013 Exhibition”;, January 1, 2014 The Southern Photographer: Blog about Fine Art Photography in the American South
  • Wall, John. “Kathleen Robbins at Rebekah Jacob Gallery”, August 12, 2014
  • Artist Salon Series: Kathleen Robbins (October 2013) / Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC
  • Visiting Artist Lecture / Workshops (April 2014) , University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • Artist Lecture (August 2014) / Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC
  • Gallery Talk (August 2014) / Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC
  • Patron Party Artist’s Talk (May 2014) / Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC
  • Panel Discussion: “Southern Photography” (March 2014) / Rebekah Jacob Gallery, Charleston, SC

Literary Arts


Alexis Stratton, writer

  • Published prize-winning fiction chapbook “Fratricide” (Dec. 2013) (published by BLOOM)
  • Awarded 2nd Prize in Blue Mesa Review Fiction Contest (and publication) for short story, “The Ambassador’s Wife” (Dec. 2013)
  • Wrote and directed short film, “Crosswalk,” which received the Audience Award at the Second Act Film Festival (Oct. 2013)
  • Short fiction published in A Sense of the Midlands, ellipsis… literature & art, Fall Lines: A Literary Convergence
  • Proposed and led the Imagine If project at Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, which was a collaborative, community-driven arts and anti-violence initiative asking community members to imagine a world without violence and show us what that world might look like through various arts media and genres. The project (which consisted of free monthly arts workshops at Tapp’s Arts Center and in community groups, an art exhibition in Tapp’s Arts Center in April 2014, and a kickoff event in April 2014 featuring musicians, spoken-word artists, dancers, and others) brought together local artists, musicians, activists, and others, connecting arts and community groups in the idea of envisioning a better world.


2014aoty_julia_elliottJulia Elliott, writer

  • Book: The Wilds (short story collection) out with Tin House Book, Fall, 2014
  • Book: The New and Improved Romie Futch (novel), Tin House Books, forthcoming
  • The Wilds     receiving positive advance buzz,     including a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, "The     International News Magazine of Book Publishing and Bookselling"
  • Published short story “The Love Machine” on,     September, 2014
  • Featured in “18 Short Story Writers on Why They Decided     to Write a Novel,” BuzzFeed Books, August 15, 2014
  • Interviewed by New York Times Bestseller Jeff     Vandermeer in “Julia Elliott and Jeff Vandermeer in Conversation,” Tin House     Blog, September, 2014
  • Published short story “Caveman Diet” in Tin House     61: Tribes, Fall 2014
  • Published short story “Bride” in Conjunctions: 62:     Speaking Volumes, Fall 2014


2014aoty_darien_cavanaughDarien Cavanaugh, writer and editor

  • Founding director of The Columbia Broadside Project which pairs artists and poets from Columbia and throughout SC to work together to create an original “broadside” painting/image comprised of an original work of art and an original poem. The 2014 Columbia Broadside Project exhibit featured work from 28 poets and artists and was held at the Tapp’s Arts Center in downtown Columbia from February 6th to February 28th.
  • Named as the recipient of the 2014 Arts and Humanities Award for Inspiration from the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties for work on work on The Columbia Broadside Project.
  • Founding co-editor of The Frank Martin Review, a print and online literary journal.
  • Poems published or accepted for publication in A Sense of the Midlands (Muddy Ford Press), Blue Earth Review, Burningword, Drunk Monkeys, Found Anew (USC Press), Coe Review, The Gap-Toothed Madness, Grievances, I-70 Review, Juked, Kakalak, Main Street Rag, San Pedro River Review, See Spot Run, and Sou’wester in the past year.



Caroline Lewis-Jones


  • Oct. 2013 Vista Unbound Zombie Bar Crawl
  • Nov and Dec 2013 Unbound performed at 3 different Christmas Events downtown
  • Unbound performed at the Charleston Dance Festival
  • Traveled every weekend to a different part of the country to teach on the dance Convention, Adrenaline and to choreograph at various dance studios. Cities visited were Dallas, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Detroit, Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Charlotte, Columbia, St. Louis, New York City, Kansas City, Houston, Phoenix, San Francisco, and more
  • Caroline was off from May till the end of August having her first baby

2014aoty_katie_smoakKatie Smoak

  • Over the 2013-2014 season Katie retired from the Columbia City Ballet after 16 Professional seasons, and 26 consecutive years of performing with the company-from childhood through professional career.
  • Katie started off as a Junior apprentice as an 11 year old, climbed the ranks through the Corps de ballet, then Soloist, and spent the last 4 years of her career as a Principal Dancer.  Never missed a Nutcracker in 26 years — Alice in Wonderland was her final performance.
  • the longest standing company member (never out with an injury, never missed part of a season) of any dancer

2014aoty_thaddeus_davisThaddeus Davis – Wideman/Davis Dance Co.

Information to come

After you view our finalists profiles, head over to the Jasper 2014 Artists of the Year Ballot and cast your vote.

The winners of Jasper 2014 Artists of the Year in Dance, Literary Arts, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts will be announced on November 21, 2014 at the release of the November/December issue of Jasper at the Jasper Artists of the Year Celebration and Fundraiser at The Big Apple in Columbia, SC with a limited supply of tickets. Ticket info coming soon.


In Jasper Vol. 3, No. 4: Ashley Concannon - Through The Dancer's Eyes

"Any given day finds 25-year-old Ashley Concannon crouching in the corner of the Columbia City Ballet studios between rehearsals. Usually she is sewing ribbons onto a pair of pointe shoes, taping her toes, stretching, exercising, or completing one of the many tasks demanded of her by her profession, but when she can find the time she sneaks behind the lens of her Canon Rebel T3i to capture a glimpse of life in the dance studio from another artistic perspective--that of a photographer. ..." - Bonnie Boiter-Jolley For the full article and photos, check out page 46 of the magazine below:

Body & Movement Explored – This Weekend's New Choreography Ballet Performance with William Starrett -- By Deborah Swearingen

  William Starrett -- artistic director Columbia City Ballet



Whether you’re from South Carolina or not, you can probably relate to the vitality that flows from the warm rays of the sun. Columbia City Ballet’s Artistic Director William Starrett understands this better than most. His ballet for Body and Movement Explored was inspired by his love for the sunshine. He hopes his choreography to Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Hymn to the Sun” will warm the audience enough to satisfy them until summer finally makes its return.

After having great success in its first year, Body and Movement Explored is back for year two – bringing a mixed repertoire that combines all of the talent, technique, and experience of this accomplished company. The program is Columbia City Ballet’s outreach for developing young choreographers and stretching the talents of local artists. Professional dancers have the opportunity to work with a variety of choreographers to truly bring their visions to life.

One of the most unique aspects of the show is its fast pace. Varying from a more traditional full evening ballet, Body and Movement Explored consists of a mix-up of smaller ballets. This setup ensures that there is something for everyone in attendance. Even if you don’t particularly care for one of the shows, you’re sure to thoroughly enjoy another.

“It’s like an appetizer sampler plate,” Starrett says, laughing. “You can sample everything – all the fun foods we love in one evening.” Since a lot of subjects and issues are best addressed through smaller ballets, Starrett feels the show will spark audience debate.

New choreography helps to keep the art form vibrant and alive, Starrett says. Artists constantly reinvent themselves, and as artists evolve, so should the art form. Keeping up with the evolution of the human race is also important, and choreographers must learn to deal with issues from new perspectives.

But original choreography also comes with challenges. Time and space are issues that every choreographer faces, particularly in a show like a Body and Movement where several dancers are in multiple ballets. It can also be tough to ensure that dancers fully understand the vision of the choreographer. Getting the dancers to retain and produce a high percentage of the vision is difficult, but ultimately what makes being a choreographer so rewarding for Starrett.

Body and Movement Explored will be held at the CMFA Art Space at 914 Pulaski Street in the Vista on Thursday, Feb. 27 through Saturday, March 1 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Student tickets are $10 with a valid student ID. Tables that seat 10 people are available at $300 or $500 for prime location. To purchase tickets in advance, visit Columbia City Ballet offices on the corner of Main and Taylor Street, call 803-799-7605, or go online to

The event will be choreographed by William Starrett and Pat Miller Baker; Wayland Anderson, Jordan Arthur Nelson, Ricky Davis, and David Ligon.




Ten Reasons to See the Columbia City Ballet's Giselle This Weekend

  Columbia City Ballet Principal Dancer Regina Willoughby as Giselle



  1. Giselle is not for children. This doesn’t mean that children won’t be mesmerized by the costumes, movement, and quasi-fairytale quality of the ballet, and there’s nothing adults-only about the ballet or the story. Giselle, however, is a more mature, sophisticated ballet. No little cutie-pies running across the stage. No magic tricks. No hoopla. Pure art.
  2. Dance programming in Columbia tends to respond to ticket sales. We will continue to see mostly narrative, family-friendly (read: little cutie pies running across the stage, magic tricks, and hoopla) if those are the performances that sell the most tickets. And, of course, the converse is true, as well; we will continue to see fewer serious ballets if we, as a dance audience, don’t support a more challenging type of programming—such as Giselle—with butts in seats.
  3. It is time for Columbia dance audiences to grow up. It is time to learn more about the art we support; to mature as audiences so that we expect more than fluff from our dance artists, and to be able to recognize and appreciate it when our dance artists give us something meaty, like Giselle, to chew on.
  4. Columbia’s dance artists are desperate to give you this kind of programming.  Most of the dancers you’ll see on Friday and Saturday nights have been training most of their lives to perform this kind of ballet. The parts are difficult. They are challenging both mentally and physically. What these dancers want more than anything is to offer this level of performance, do it well, and receive some small bit of validation (read: butts in seats and applause at the end of the night) demonstrating that we know they are capable of dancing at this level. This is what they live for.
  5. Giselle is a ballet that appeals to many different types of audiences. There is romance, of course—ballet is a romantic art—but Giselle is not your typical boy-meets-girl type of narrative. There’s not a whole helluva lot of living-happily-ever-after, and the characters of those that do so are profoundly changed by the events that happen in the story line.
  6. Giselle is one of the most sophisticated ghost stories you’ll ever see enacted. Who gives a rot about vampires and mummies—these ghosts are beautiful and massively athletic dead women with broken hearts and an unquenchable desire for VENGEANCE, baby.
  7. Classical art like this is an important part of an art lover’s cultural literacy (and trivia repertoire. The next time you’re at trivia night at the Whig you’ll be able to answer the question: What is a wili? Answer:  A wili is a supernatural being from Slavic folklore – in the case of the ballet Giselle, a wili is a broken-hearted dead woman who dances men to their deaths!)
  8. Craziness. Serious craziness.  Here’s a preview – at the end of the first act of the ballet, Giselle basically goes nuts. I mean, tearing her hair out, wild woman, Uzo Aduba – eyed, post-postal, Mama-say-if-I’ll-be-alright, crazy. Black Swan crazy. Principal ballerina Regina Willoughby will be performing that part. If Regina can pull off crazy as well as she does composed—and I have no doubt that she can—then we are all in for a momentous treat.
  9. Jasper dance editor (and this blog writer’s daughter) Bonnie Boiter-Jolley will be performing the role of Myrtha—Queen Bitch of the Wilis—on Saturday night. The beautiful and, I feel certain, equally ireful Claire Richards will be dancing the role on Friday night.  You have not seen mean until you see how mean this Myrtha character can be. Seriously cold. Myrtha has no problem sentencing boys to their rhythmic deaths with a single swoop of her lily white hand. Just don’t look her in the eyes.
  10. SAVE On TICKETS by subscribing to What Jasper Said (above right) then  entering the promotional code "jasper" to save $10 off price of $29 & $39 tickets at   Giselle will be performed by the Columbia City Ballet Friday and Saturday, January 31st and February 1st at the Koger Center for the Arts.

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



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 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.


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 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?


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


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, 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.


Win tickets to see Chris Mann + other goodies by joining the Jasper Guild TODAY!

chris mann

Jasper is having a Guild Drive and everybody wins!

Join the Jasper Guild by noon on Saturday, October 19th -- at any level -- and be entered to win the following:


  • TWO TICKETS to see The Voice star Chris Mann in concert at the Newberry Opera House on Sunday, Oct. 20th at 3 PM

chris mann 2


  • TWO TICKETS to Columbia City Ballet's presentation of Dracula  (with new music & choreography starring TV's Grant Show as Dracula)


Grant Show


  • A 2013 2nd Act Film Festival DVD film collection & new MFP publication Jasper presents The 2nd Act Film Festival Screenplays, edited by Wade Sellers and Cindi Boiter

2nd act single cam


  • A copy of The Limelight:  A Compendium of Contemporary Columbia Artists, volume 1 (MFP, 2013)


And since


all new guild members will receive one of Jasper's limited edition backpacks and two Jasper coozies, all sporting Jasper's brand new banner & logo, designed by Jasper art director, W. Heyward Sims.

Here's all you do:

Copy and paste the form below, complete it,* and send it to Jasper's friendly operations manager Annie at

Drawing will be held on Saturday, October 19th at noon and winners will be notified no later than 3 pm on Saturday.

And remember -- EVERYBODY WINS!


Jasper Guild Membership Form    

One of the best bits about working on Jasper Magazine is the support we get from our community. You’ve been gracious and generous with your words of encouragement — and it means the world to us. We’d like to offer you the opportunity to become even more involved — the chance to open up the next issue of Jasper and be able to say out loud, 

“I helped make this happen and here’s my name to prove it!”

You’re invited to become a member of


Apprentice – 1 year delivery of Jasper Magazine to your home & your name listed in Jasper Magazine for 1 year $50


Journeyman –the above + your name in print in LARGE LETTERS $100


Master – all the above + a non-transferable laminated Econobar PASS good for 1 year



 “But I’m just a starving artist myself,” you say?

Artist Peer - Practicing artists in dance, theatre, music, visual arts, film, & literary arts are invited to join The Jasper Guild at a reduced rate & see your name in Jasper Magazine for 1 year $25


Jasper Guild Application

Please complete all of the info requested below.

Name ________________________________

Address ______________________________

City & zip _____________________________

Email ________________________________

Phone _______________________________

Level of commitment ____________________

How would you like your name to appear in Jasper? (Please Print)


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yes, please           or           no, thank you 



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Please print and send the above form to:

*don't forget your cc #

On behalf of all of us at Jasper --Thank You!


2nd Annual Artists for Africa benefit performance this weekend at Columbia Music Festival Association Artspace

artists for africa also  

This Saturday and Sunday, August 10th and 11th, Artists for Africa, a newly formed non-profit organization with goals to provide arts education to impoverished children in Africa, presents the 2nd annual benefit performance at the CMFA Artspace on Pulaski Street in the Vista.

Artists for Africa Founder, dancer and teacher Cooper Rust, has recently returned from her second stint in Nairobi, Kenya, teaching ballet to young children in the area. In 2012, Rust was able to coordinate an effort that raised nearly seven thousand dollars for the cause in one weekend of performances. Thanks to the work of Artists for Africa, an additional 300 underprivileged children in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya were able to enjoy after school arts classes, giving most of them their first opportunity of this kind.

Rust initially traveled to Kenya in 2012 to work with Anno’s Africa, an organization based out of the United Kingdom promoting education resources in Africa. Artists for Africa joins Anno’s Africa and One Fine Day, based out of Germany, in the global fight for arts exposure and education for these children. A year later, Rust has again just returned home from Kenya and says, “I have all the confidence in the world that Columbia will once again come together to support me and this beautiful cause.”

The concerts include performances by members of the Columbia City Ballet, Columbia Summer Repertory Company, Trustus Theatre’s upcoming production of “Ragtime,” and Milwaukee Ballet among others. Saturday evening’s show includes a silent auction and food and beverages donated by Villa Tronco, Rosso, Gervais and Vine, Tin Roof, Blue Marlin, and Cellar on Greene. Framing of the artwork donated by The Frame Shop, City Art, Haven's, Frames and Things, Framing Plus, House of Frames, Picture Perfect, and Just Susan's Framing.

The events, sponsored by Top Hat Sweepers and the Columbia Music Festival Association, begin at 7pm on the 10th and 3pm on the 11th. Tickets for the 10th are $25 in advance and $30 at the door, and for the 11th are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

For more information, please visit or to purchase tickets, call (803) 467-9004.

-- Bonnie Boiter-Jolley