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.




Announcing the Jasper 2013 Artists of the Year Finalists in Dance, Music, Literary Arts, Theatre, and Visual Arts

Jasper leaf logo

With a total of 55 nominations, 20 adjudicators, and over 10 hours of deliberation behind us, Jasper Magazine is pleased to announce our top three finalists for the honor of

Jasper 2013 Artists of the Year


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



Wayland Anderson

Erin Bolshakov

Terrance Henderson


Phillip Bush

FatRat da Czar

The Restoration

~Literary Arts~

James Barilla

Janna McMahan

Aida Rogers


Bobby Bloom

Terrance Henderson

Vicky Saye Henderson

~Visual Arts~

Michaela Pilar Brown

Thomas Crouch

Philip Mullen


The above 15 artists were among 55 artists nominated by their peers and fans. Based on the information submitted with the nominations, a panel of judges selected the top three artists in each category to compete for the title

Jasper 2013 Artist of the Year.

Now the fun begins!

You’re invited to vote for your choice for Jasper 2013 Artist of the Year in each of the five categories by visiting Jasper's website

starting on Wednesday, September 25th.

There, you’ll find summaries of each artist’s accomplishments for the period of

September 15, 2012 – September 14, 2013.

The winners of Jasper 2013 Artist of the Year in Dance, Literary Arts, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts will be announced on November 21, 2013 at the release of Jasper Magazine V. 003, N. 003 during Vista Lights. All 15 artists will be featured in the same issue of Jasper Magazine.

Go to

and vote for your choice of Jasper 2013 Artist of the Year starting on Wednesday, September 25th

Voting ends on midnight, October 20th, 2013.

Review -- Songs for a New World at Workshop Theatre

Songs for a new world Workshop Theatre’s latest production, Songs for a new World is a dialog-free series of songs by Jason Robert Brown.  Each song transports you to a single moment in a character’s life where they have to make a decision, make a first step, or move forward in a way that will change their life forever.  There’s no singular story being told, but each of the songs are meant to form a sort of story arc nonetheless. Brown says, "It's about one moment. It's about hitting the wall and having to make a choice, or take a stand, or turn around and go back.”

Songs for a New World was originally intended for a four person cast.  In this production, the cast has been inflated to 9, plus 4 dancers.  This leads to several issues.  First off, there are differing levels of vocal talent and range among the actors in this show.  The actors who are capable of making their brief vignette powerful and moving stand in sharp contrast to those who are working outside of their vocal range, some of whom seem to struggle to hit the right notes. Another addition that detracted from this production [for me] was the dancers.  Wayland Anderson’s choreography was beautiful, thoughtful, and well-executed, but didn’t belong in the world of this show.  There is a beauty in simplicity and that is what this production needs.  The blocking was visually interesting, but less would have truly been more. It’s difficult to concentrate on the character bearing their soul in front of you when you’re surrounded by visual clutter.

Don’t think I’m saying this production is without merit.  There is too much talent involved in this production for that.  While I don’t agree with all of the decisions he’s made here, Chad Henderson (director) has choreographed some of the most striking scene transitions I’ve seen, all in keeping with a theme of traveling across the ocean to some unknowable land.  There are some amazing performances as well.  Vicky Saye Henderson makes a hilarious Park Avenue matron who threatens her husband from the ledge of their penthouse apartment—deciding whether or not to jump into the crowd below (Song:  “Just One Step”).  With a strong voice and a powerful presence, she steps into the shoes of her many characters and takes you with her.  Kendrick Marion’s determination and vigor inspires and moves from his first number ("On the Deck of a Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492.") until the very end.  I would have liked to have seen and heard more from Kanika Kay Moore, whose strong soprano would have been an asset in several pieces.  Andy Bell was another surprisingly underused talent.

Vicky Saye Henderson; photo courtesy of Jeni McCaughan and Workshop Theatre

Songs for a New World is a bold choice for Workshop, and I applaud them for choosing something this unique and difficult.  Theatre shouldn’t just be about making safe bets.   I eagerly look forward to the rest of their season.


-- Jillian Owens

The Beauty of Mixed Rep Ballet -- Body & Movement Explored next week at CMFA

Next week, from Tuesday through Friday nights, artists from Columbia City Ballet are stepping out of the studio and off of the Koger Center Stage to bring us a dance event the likes of which Columbia has not seen in a very long time.  Pure, clean, innovative dance that, rather than tell you a story as full-length narrative ballets typically do – shows you a story that you create with your own interpretations, reactions, and emotions as engaged and enlightened audience members.


We don’t get a lot of mixed repertory dance here in Columbia—Columbia City Ballet hasn’t done anything with mixed rep in years. We typically get it from USC and the amazing opportunities Stacey Calvert gives to her young dancers there; as well as the through-the-roof work that Thaddeus and Tonya Wideman-Davis do which few people ever hear about. (Seriously, how about advertising, folks? Let us work with you!) Columbia Classical Ballet has been more likely to offer mixed rep, but usually only via Life Chance which typically brings an excellent caliber of dancer in, but gives us the same old classical variations over and over. (My stomach turns every time I hear the opening notes to the male variation from both La Bayadere and Le Corsaire these days.)


But as Columbia dance audiences have grown to be more astute, more critical, more engaged in the dance they see, the demand for mixed rep has grown. We are ready to trust ourselves more as dance audiences; to go to the next level of engagement with dance. We don’t necessarily want to always read the storyline from ballets in our dance bills and we’re not that concerned about sets or costumes. We want the full experience of dance. We want to feel (if you’ll excuse my sentimentality) like we are on the stage ourselves, soaring through the air, moving through the music. The confines of story lines make it much more difficult to participate in the dance experience. Narrative ballets tell us stories, which is nice; but they talk to us – not with us.


I had the chance to talk to Columbia City Ballet company member Wayland Anderson about his choreography which is being featured, along with five others’, in next week’s performances, and this is what he said about mixed rep ballet, the shows next week, and the opportunity, as a dancer and choreographer to take part in this exceptional Columbia dance opportunity.


“A mix rep performance gives the audience several different perspectives or approaches to dance. It puts the audience in charge of forming their own ideas on what they experience. Full length ballets tend to utilize the boy meets girl and falls in love formula. In a mix rep show anything can happen.”

The ballets that are considered classics today were comments on their time when they were created. Mix rep shows give today’s choreographers an opportunity to speak on the world as they experience it. This process will keep the art form alive and relevant to today's generations. We must pass the torch to the next generation. It is similar to the cycle of life.”

“This opportunity has allowed me to embark on a journey with 12 amazing dancers. During the choreography process it was important that I allowed the dancers to shine through their interpretation of my movement. Together we will share our love for dance and present a ballet that honors our journey and honors the love ones that we have lost.


Wayland Anderson is a professional ballet dancer, teacher and choreographer with a Master of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Maryland. Mr. Anderson is presently a dancer with Columbia City Ballet. He has performed soloist roles in William Starrett’s Nutcracker, Off the Wall and Onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green, and he danced the principal role of Darius Rucker in the world of premiere of The Hootie and The Blowfish Ballet. His choreographic piece for next week is called The Survivors with music from Avro Part's Fratres.


Body and Movement Explored is a unique performance where the visual and physical collide created by Columbia City Ballet Dancers, local choreographers, and local artists in partnership with Jasper Magazine.  Body and Movement Explored will be held at the CMFA Art Space off of Pulaski Street. The $20 tickets can be purchased by calling the ballet offices at 803.799.7605.  Or via Brown Paper Tickets at  Buy Tickets Tuesday February 26 until Friday March 1 at 7:30 pm.

The Centerfold -- The Men Behind the Artistic Director

In the most recent issue of Jasper we were graced with a centerfold that included not one but seven attractive young men. While the accompanying story told you all you'll ever need to know about Columbia City Ballet artistic director William Starrett, we thought you might like to know a bit about the other gentlemen in the portrait. To that end, Jasper is proud to present, The Men Behind the Artistic Director of Columbia City Ballet!

Ricky Davis was born and raised in Atlanta, GA. He started training in classical ballet at the age of 16 at the Tolbert-Yilmaz School of Dance in Alpharetta, Ga. Ricky continued his passion for dance in New York City and attended Marymount Manhattan College. While on break from school, Ricky auditioned for Columbia City Ballet and accepted their offer to join the company. This is his 2nd season with the Ballet. In his spare time Ricky enjoys traveling the world and shopping. 

Maurice Johnson is a member of the Columbia City Ballet entering his 7th season. He was born in Greenville, SC and began dancing at the age of 11 at the Fine Arts Center and Greenville Ballet. He studied at the Boston Ballet, The Rock School, and Dance Theater of Harlem. He graduated from University of North Carolina School of the Arts in 2005. He's danced with the Nashville Ballet, Richmond Ballet, and also the South Carolina Contemporary Dance Company. His notable roles have included Sand Dance Gymnopedies I/II, Sleeping Beauty, and Cleopatra. He also plays the flute!

Soloist Journy Wilkes-Davis, originally from Fort Hood, TX, began his ballet training at age 14 with the Savannah Arts Academy in GA. Now in his 3rd season with Columbia City Ballet, Journy has enjoyed dancing the roles of Arthur in Dracula, Snow King and Arabian Conjurer in the Nutcracker, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, and the Prince in Sleeping Beauty. Journy has also performed as a guest artist in SC, in productions of Don Quixote, Giselle, Paquita, Balanchine's Allegro Brillante and Scotch Symphony, Lila York's Celts. Journy is married to fellow company dancer Anna Porter.

Principal Dancer Robert Michalski is dancing his 14th season with the Columbia City Ballet. Born in Detroit, his previous dancing experience includes three years with the Ballet Theatre of Maryland, the Michigan Opera Theatre and the Eglevsky Ballet in New York. His training began with the Dayton Ballet School. Robert was discovered by Artistic Director William Starrett when he participated in the company's summer dance experience in Myrtle Beach in 1988. Robert has danced the lead role of Dracula: Ballet With A Bite for five seasons, with The State praising his performance as "masterful" and citing his "remarkable talent for making movement seem effortless." Robert has also danced as John Smith in Pocahontas and one of his favorite roles as Chinese Tea in The Nutcracker. He is currently teaching at the Columbia Conservatory and married to Lauren Michalski, Columbia City Ballet's Development and Membership Director.

Wayland Anderson is in his 4th season with the Columbia City Ballet. He has performed soloist roles and the principal role of Darius Rucker in The Hootie and the Blowfish Ballet before he decided to leave and create his own company with H. G. Robert. In 2008 he co-founded DANCEWORDZ the place were poetry meets ballet. In 2011, Mr. Anderson returned to Columbia City Ballet for the 2011-2012 Season. Upon his return he had the pleasure of dancing the Dew Drop Cavalier in Nutcracker. When he is not dancing he enjoys working as a Real Estate Agent with Russell & Jeffcoat.

Philip Ingrassia, raised in San Jose, CA, received his professional training at the School of San Jose Cleveland Ballet under the direction of Dennis Nahat, Donna Delseni, and Lise La Cour.  Mr. Ingrassia then attended the Boston Conservatory where he received the Jan Veen Dance Scholarship, graduating Magna Cum Laude.  He has performed with Ballet San Jose, Ballet Rox, Boston Dance Company, Charleston Ballet Theatre, and is currently a soloist with William Starrett at Columbia City Ballet.  During his career, he has performed such roles as Cavalier and Snow King in The Nutcracker, the Jester in Cinderella, Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and was able to perform one of his dream roles as Mercutio in William Starrett’s Romeo and Juliet.  This will be Mr. Ingrassia’s third season with Columbia City Ballet.