LifeChance Preview by Susan Lenz

Anyone in Columbia who has even a slight interest in the local dance scene knows that twice a year there's exceptionally good evenings to witness world-class ballet performers. One of those nights is coming up on April 15th when USC presents the 13th Annual Ballet Stars of New York. The other night is just around the corner:


Columbia Classical Ballet presents

LifeChance 2018 this coming Saturday, January 20th.


Don't miss it!


Principal dancers from Boston Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Washington Ballet, and Chicago's Hubbard Street Dance are coming to the Koger Center. One night only! Every year LifeChance puts on this benefit gala. Proceeds will benefit Heroes In Blue (, a local charity that was founded in honor of Forest Acres Police Department Officer Gregory Alia who was killed in the line of duty on September 30, 2015.


Now, I'm sure there will be other news articles featuring the internationally known artists and the very high caliber dancing that this gala brings to the stage, but I promised to write articles from a different point of view. I want to bring more awareness of the local dance community from the audience's perspective. After all, Columbia Classical Ballet's roster of talented performers will also be dancing during LifeChance 2018. These are the dancers who regularly grace our stage. It must be an amazing opportunity for them to perform alongside some of their own idols. It must be exciting for the staff, choreographers, and those behind the scenes too. In this vein, I sought out the opportunity to get a few quotes!


Juliet Brown is really excited about Saturday night. She’s in her second season with Columbia Classical Ballet and fondly remembers last year’s LifeChance as her favorite time on stage. She said, “There are even more guest dancers this year. It’ll be a longer show.” Clement Guillaume echoed my opening statements, “LifeChance is a one time thing. It’s a gala. There aren’t two chances to look good. As a company, we are really close to one another and really looking forward to dancing Rick McCullough’s contemporary piece, Rhapsody.”


Yet, I had the most fun interviewing Koyo Yanagishima. Like his fellow company members, he’s in Rhapsody but he’s also dancing Flames of Paris. In past LifeChance galas, Artistic Director Radenko Pavlovich has showcased several of his exceptionally talented dancers in order for them to share the stage on an equal footing with the world renown guest dancers. Koyo was almost blushing to admit being selected for this rare opportunity. He was assuredly embarrassed by my next few questions.


I asked Koyo if the LifeChance 2018 poster was the first time a solo image of him was used to promote a performance. It was. I asked if he called his mother back in Japan. He did. He shared it on social media too.



Yet, Koyo was quickly serious when discussing Shadows, a male duet he choreographed. Radenko Pavlovich is proud to include Koyo’s choreograpny in Saturday’s line up. It will be seen alongside Topless, a contemporary piece from Hubbard Street Dance. Pavlovich is as eager to see the audience’s reaction to his young dancer’s choreography as he is to see the reaction to the Chicago-based company’s work even though he had to nix the original costuming (or lack thereof).


Time talking with Radenko Pavlovich was enlightening. He mentioned many past events and the amazing guest dancers who have come to Columbia. He added, “When my company dancers come here for a season, they are cheering for one another to excel beyond their own earlier expectations. I believe, without a doubt, that LifeChance is the very best evening of dance in Columbia. It raises the bar for quality, locally and for my company. It makes my dancers push themselves, collectively and individually.”


Hopefully, the excitement at Columbia Classical Ballet for the upcoming star-studded evening will add to the number of people in attendance. I know I'm excited and promise a review of the evening shortly after the curtain comes down!


For tickets to Saturday’s LifeChance 2018 gala:


Koyo Yanagishima holding a LifeChance 2018 poster in which he is featured.)

Koyo Yanagishima holding a LifeChance 2018 poster in which he is featured.)

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
Susan Lenz   photo Forrest Clonts

Susan Lenz

photo Forrest Clonts

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.

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:

About Columbia Dance & this JUNK show on Friday night

JUNK Jasper loves dance -- and really, why wouldn't he? Dance is a physical interpretation of ideas, expressions, and emotions that run the gamut from joy to sorrow, piety to provocation, intrigue to explanation, and more. Whether executed by highly trained artists who emphasize technique and the curriculum and pedagogy under which they formed their world view about what dance should be, or the hapless and random movements of a toddler trying to find her first groove in the middle of a street concert, witnessing dance can be a transformative experience. The experience of dancing for oneself can border on the religious.

As we've said before, Columbia is in no short supply of dance.  Ballet companies, both professional and civic, abound. Local universities offer impressive dance departments with internationally known instructors. Smaller companies directed by unusually talented and experienced professionals -- like Caroline Lewis-Jones, Terrance Henderson, and Miriam Barbosa -- pop up throughout the season with fascinating shows, although these tend to be sparsely attended due to lack of funding for promotion. Erin Bolshakov down at Vista Studios has created an entire sub-culture around her art form.

Clearly, Columbia is a dancing city. We've had world class dancers come from our midst to grace the great dance stages throughout the world. Many of the dancers who have made Columbia their home have done so after dancing on some of those stages.

And yet, ...

For some reason we seem to lack the concomitant energy and verve that one might expect from the kind of dance city that we live in.

Why is that?

This is a question Jasper will be asking of you, our dancers, our artistic directors, our dance audiences, our sympathetic artists from other disciplines over the next few months.

Where are we going as a dance center? Are we going anywhere? If we aren't as dynamic as we should be, from where does our stasis come?

In the meantime, we invite you to engage with a dance company touring through our midst that is anything BUT static. JUNK.

Check it out at Harbison Theatre on Friday night.

Here's a little something about Junk.



After selling out multiple shows in its first signature season including contemporary dance masters Pilobolus, Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College is bringing the Philadelphia-based dance troupe, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, to Columbia. The company will perform the show Patio Plastico Plus on October 18 at 7:30 p.m. Note: this engagement is one night only.

Far from traditional, the troupe uses found objects from pogo sticks to plastic jugs to create an onstage world that straddles contemporary dance and theater.

Sanders, formerly of the MOMIX company of dancer-illusionists, is known for creating athletic dance pieces that are in turn intense and moving, then light and comical.

“Last year, audiences LOVED Pilobolus. I did, too!,” says Director of Theatre Operations, Katie Fox. “The athleticism and storytelling held us all transfixed.” She continues, “For some, it was their first experience with live contemporary dance.”

JUNK has been jumping over boundaries, setting a new path in modern dance performance since it was founded in Philadelphia, Pa. in1997. The clever and creative repurposing of found objects presents an array of choreographic obstacles to be used and manipulated. Dancers perform with props as if they were animated partners, presenting technique that is both physically beautiful and witty.

Says Fox, “This show is so clever! Waiting for the preview show to begin in New York, we heard what sounded like ducks quacking backstage. When the dancers emerged, they danced an entire piece with ‘quacking’ two-liter bottles strapped to their feet!”

Patio Plastico Plus is a show of seven pieces performed in two, 40-minute segments with a 15-minute intermission. The segments, illuminated by dazzling light and rhythmic, mood-shifting music, are performed in quick, powerful bursts with little to no pauses.

This performance will leave a smile on the faces of both the new and the experienced dance fan. Tickets for Patio Plastico Plus are $30 and can be purchased at