After exploring evil, ‘Snow White’ dancer changes for good

otaylor@thestate.comJanuary 31, 2013 

  • If you go “Snow White” When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, and 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday Where: Koger Center, 1051 Greene St. Tickets: $16-$39; www.capitoltickets.com or (803) 251-2222 Information: www.columbiacityballet.com or (803) 799-7605 Before and after the show: Thirty minutes before the two evening performances, William Starrett, the ballet’s artistic director, will give a lecture. Following the Saturday matinee, the audience is invited to tour backstage and meet the CCB dancers.

You need power to be evil — at least in regard to balletic expression.

For much of the fall, Claire Kallimanis, a soloist with the Columbia City Ballet, thought she was going to play the Evil Queen in the ballet’s production of “Snow White.”

“I’m not a very powerful dancer. I’m more subtle,” Kallimanis said. “I struggled with the evil part of it. I was excited to explore a different side of dancing in an evil way, but it didn’t feel natural.”

Kallimanis didn’t savor the Evil Queen vibe.

“I feel more like the Snow White,” she said.

But doesn’t every girl want to grow up to be a princess and get a fairy-tale wedding like, say, Princess Diana or Kate Middleton?

“For me, I’m just more of the sweet and helpful type,” Kallimanis said. “Like, I like baking cookies.”

“Snow White” is the first production of the ballet’s spring season. This stage version choreographed by William Starrett, CCB’s artistic director, was inspired by the Brothers Grimm story. There’s a magic mirror, a poisoned apple and a deep slumber that can only be interrupted by a prince. (Both evening performances will carry the dark tint of the fairy tale’s origins, while the matinee will have a softer, Disney-like hue.) One noticeable departure is that there are seven knights instead of seven dwarfs.

Snow White is an ever-present character in popular culture. The ABC show “Once Upon a Time” features the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming attempting to break the spell the Evil Queen casts on a town in present-day Maine. The 2012 film “Snow White and the Huntsman” received as much attention for its cinematic design as it did for the affair between its star, Kristen Stewart, and director, Rupert Sanders. (Sanders’ wife, Liberty Ross, who also acted in the film as Snow White’s mother Queen Eleanor, filed for divorce on Jan. 25, adding a chapter to the saga.)

Ballerina Regina Willoughby swapped roles with Kallimanis, who will be saved by Prince Charming as danced by soloist Journy Wilkes-Davis. Kallimanis, who grew up in Delaware before attending the North Carolina School of the Arts, now known as the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, auditioned for a spot in city ballet in 2003.

She now enjoys roles reserved for principal company members, working her way up from roles such as a rat in “The Nutcracker” and a reindeer in a show for kids.

“I’ve done pretty much every role from the bottom up,” Kallimanis said. “The more you do, the more you end up getting to do. I just would always be the first to go in if somebody was out sick. I was just always willing to do whatever it takes.

“You’ve got to make the stuff you’re given look good, and then you get to do more.”

Kallimanis believes the “Snow White” storyline — love, deceit and the quest for beauty of varying degrees — is one people can relate to.

“The dancing and acting is so intertwined in this ballet. There’s really no separation,” she said. “Through the dancing you have to tell the story and that’s the hardest part of a story ballet.”

Whatever the narrative, it is generally understood that it is better to be good than evil.

Reach Taylor at (803) 771-8362.

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