The place was just as Radenko Pavlovich had always wanted it to be.
He had just completed a state-of-the-art renovation to his 14-year-old Pavlovich Ballet School, home of the Columbia Classical Ballet company, in Forest Acres. He reopened his newly outfitted studio, tucked at the base of Forest Lake just off Forest Drive, on Aug. 4.
Exactly two months later, rushing flood waters tore through the building, smashing windows, destroying the newly installed floors, technology, music books, costumes, photos – everything. Eight feet of water rose inside and, when it receded, left behind snakes, fish and a couple feet of mud.
The dance studio was one of numerous businesses in the Forest Lake area that were destroyed by the October floods. They, like many other residents and business owners in the Midlands, are wading through the recovery process at various paces.
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“It was surreal. I’d never seen anything like this in my life,” Pavlovich said of his flooded studio. “We were trying to salvage anything that was inside, but there was nothing.”
Days after the flood, Pavlovich suffered a heart attack.
“It was like ... if you were not beaten enough, let me get beaten up a little bit more,” he said. “Certain things we have control over, and some things we do not. I like to be in control of things ... (but) everything was completely out of my control.”
I like to be in control of things ... (but) everything was completely out of my control.
Also out of Pavlovich’s control, for the most part, has been the process of reconstructing and reopening his dance studio.
Renovations could begin – again – at the dance studio as soon as this month, with a reopening possible in February.
That would come only after weeks of wrestling with conflicting damage assessments by the city of Forest Acres, which issues the needed permits for reconstruction, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which determines damage levels that insurance companies rely on for coverage decisions.
At issue, Pavlovich said, is whether his insurance will pay for the waterproofing to the building that is necessary for the city to allow reconstruction. Based on the city’s assessment, Pavlovich said, the waterproofing is required; but based on FEMA’s assessment, it is not.
“You get to the point where you’re so impatient and you just want things to happen,” Pavlovich said. “But I think maybe in time everything will work out.”
In the meantime, the show goes on for dancers in the school and ballet company, albeit in less-than-ideal accommodations, in a rented space at Richland Mall.
“We were all shocked and saddened by the whole thing,” said Kimiko Thoma, a student who practiced in a class last week in the temporary studio. A trickle of shoppers passed by the dancers framed by the large open storefront, with a darkened children’s play place just across the hall.
“I think all the dancers are resilient, and we’re here to stay,” Thoma said.
If you can go through the stuff that we went through, you can go through anything.
The company had to cancel its “Night of Passion” contemporary performance in Columbia, which had been scheduled for Oct. 16. It was able to perform the show later that month in Charleston, W.Va.
The company returned to the Koger Center in Columbia to perform “The Nutcracker” in December, followed by two more performances in Charleston. The Columbia shows were the company’s best attended to his recollection, Pavlovich said.
“People were so kind to us,” Pavlovich said. “This only made us stronger as a company. If you can go through the stuff that we went through, you can go through anything.”
Now, Pavlovich and his dancers are preparing for their next performance, “LifeChance 2016,” scheduled for Jan. 23 at the Koger Center. Rehearsals for the show begin Monday.
They’ll get to work in their temporary space at the mall, all the while looking forward to the day they’ll dance again at Pavlovich’s dance studio.
“It’ll feel like coming home,” Thoma said.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.