If you’ve ever left a performance thinking, “What did I just watch?” you might appreciate the production the Columbia City Ballet is preparing.
Every year, the company puts on a completely original repertoire of short works, followed by a question-and-answer session with the guest choreographers who created them.
William Starrett, the ballet’s artistic and executive director, choreographs most of the company’s performances. But he says this one helps “foster the talents of young, modern, contemporary and classical choreographers … (from) throughout the Southeast,” giving them “the experience of working with top professional dancers and …simultaneously giving the dancers the opportunity to dance original works created for them.”
Columbia City Ballet will perform “Body and Movement Explored” on Friday, March 9, and Saturday, March 10, at the CMFA ArtSpace.
Starrett spoke with GoColumbia about how the performance furthers the art form and the learning experience it provides for both the audience and the choreographers.
Q. What made you want to create a performance that features guest choreographers?
A. I wanted to offer choreographers an opportunity to work with the professional dancers of Columbia City Ballet. Secondly, I wanted to develop a vehicle for contemporary works and the concept of mixed repertoire.
Columbia audiences have a great appreciation for full-length ballets, but I feel that is equally important to have the experience of how a short ballet or piece can also be very impactful.
Q. What was your goal?
A. My intention has been to increase the awareness and appreciation for mixed repertoire and contemporary or modern approaches to dance. I feel that it is very important to the future of dance to continue to appeal to a wider audience by presenting varied programs of dance.
Q. How does this performance affect the local dance scene?
A. It gives other choreographers an outlet while increasing the accessibility to the ballet.
It’s very important because particularly the Q&A component in “Body and Movement Explored” provides education to the audience on how varied the art of dance can be. Conversely, it also gives the audience a voice and informs us about what resonates with audiences as well as what they may be looking for in future dance experiences.
Q. How do you choose the choreographers featured in “Body and Movement Explored”?
A. Most choreographers are directly invited to participate because I have seen their work and think something in their choreographic vocabulary would fit well into the “Body and Movement” program.
An important part of my job as executive and artistic director of Columbia City Ballet is engagement; the busy performance and touring schedule of Columbia City Ballet notwithstanding, I also attend as many other dance performances across the nation as possible. It is typically after having seen a production or presentation that I establish contact with choreographers and eventually invite them to participate.
Q. Have you ever thought about expanding the “Body and Movement” series – maybe growing it to include dancers outside of the Columbia City Ballet?
A. I certainly think about ways in which to expand this series, but as a fully professional ballet company, we have professional dancers under contract to whom we have obligations as an employer.
Many people are unaware that we employ more professional artists than any other performing arts group in the state. While we do hire other professional dancers as guest artists for appearances in many of our productions, as a professional company, it is very important to protect our high artistic standards.
Q. How do all of the choreographers come together to create this performance? Is each piece individual from one another, or do they weave together to create a larger story line?
A. Each piece is intended to be a singular performance. Choreographers work independently to create and rehearse their pieces.
This is part of the excellence of mixed repertoire, it provides us with the opportunity to experience an array of dance styles and types of music as well as many differing emotions all in the course of one evening.
If you go
Columbia City Ballet presents “Body and Movement Explored”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 9, and Saturday, March 10.
WHERE: CMFA ArtSpace, 914 Pulaski St.
TICKETS: $25 at www.brownpapertickets.com; $30 at the door; $20, students; $300, table of eight and a bottle of wine.