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‘Nutcracker’ comes to Koger Center

Columbia City Ballet’s “Nutcracker” takes the stage at Koger Center for the Arts on Dec. 8-9 and Dec. 15-16.
Columbia City Ballet’s “Nutcracker” takes the stage at Koger Center for the Arts on Dec. 8-9 and Dec. 15-16. Courtesy of Koger Center for the Arts

For nearly six decades, the Columbia City Ballet has made “Nutcracker” a beloved holiday tradition for many in the Midlands.

This year, in three shows, there’s an additional surprise.

Television celebrities Katherine LaNasa and Grant Show will be featured in the Dec. 15 and 16 performances. The married couple have starred in several television series, movies and theater productions. They’ve also taken the stage in a couple Columbia City Ballet performances, including “Dracula: Ballet with a Bite,” as well as “Nutcracker.”

Both are renowned and experienced actors, but only LaNasa can claim ballet training. But Show enjoys dancing with his wife, even if playing Blake Carrington on “Dynasty” has done nothing to prepare him for his roles of Mr. Stahlbaum and Mother Ginger in “Nutcracker.”

“They are very different experiences,” Show said.

How does the Hollywood couple end up performing in Columbia ballets? LaNasa came to Columbia about 25 years ago with a boyfriend who was working on a movie.

“I was a professional ballet dancer working in New York at that time and I was just looking for someplace local to take class,” she recalls. “I found the studio and had heard of William (Starrett, Columbia City Ballet executive and artistic director) from the dance world.”

And thus began a lifelong friendship.

“In the next few years I was a guest artist in the “Nutcracker” as the Dew Drop Fairy and also choreographed some other works for the company where I danced with William himself,” LaNasa said. “Frankly we just became great friends, lifelong friends really.”

This year, LaNasa and Show will play Clara’s parents, Dr. and Mrs. Stahlbaum. Show will reprise his Mother Ginger extraordinaire, and their 4-year-old daughter, Eloise, will play an angel for the second year.

Columbia City Ballet will also perform “Nutcracker” on Dec. 8 and 9. It is the largest, continuously running, performing arts event produced in South Carolina. The production will be touring eight cities across the Southeast.

LaNasa is a fan of Starrett’s work.

“He has a lot of personal and professional integrity and has really done something phenomenal for the community in South Carolina,” she said. “He has fought for what he built here and has trained some really beautiful dancers in the meantime. My favorite dancers in the company over the years have always been Williams’s students or longtime company members that he’s been able to coach for many years.”

This is the 58th season Columbia City Ballet has performed “Nutcracker.” Starrett returns the performance to its roots with special choreography in honor of the 100-year anniversary of Marius Petipa’s original “Nutcracker.”

Starrett’s version allows the audience to experience the real, live classic story in person, a different experience than watching Disney’s “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” released this year.

“While the movie is just out, there is nothing like a live experience,” Starrett said. “This is a production complete with astounding sets, scenery and hundreds of costumes — it’s a fully professional, once-in-a-lifetime holiday event. See the real story come to life right here in Columbia at the Koger Center.”

Here, LaNasha talks about how dancing has become a family affair.

Q: Have both of you performed these roles before? Is this something you do regularly?

A: I quit dancing professionally quite some time ago, but the friendship (with Starrett) remained and when William reached out to Grant to play Dracula five years ago, I urged him to take it. Grant, who’d never danced before, was considering trying musical theater at that time and I said “What have you got to lose?” William told him it would be strictly an acting role as it was originally conceived. Of course I showed up and he’s doing lifts with Regina Willoughby, the former Prima Ballerina, and quite a bit of dancing, which I’d be lying if I said I was surprised. That’s William.

Q: Why are you doing these performances?

A: It started to become a family affair. When our daughter turned three and was obsessed with ballet. I asked William if she could take part in the “Nutcracker” in one of the little children’s roles. He obliged and of course corralled us into it as well. We really had a great time and my daughter, now four, pretty much bragged about it for an entire year.

Q: Do you enjoy performing with your husband?

A: It’s a really wonderful thing for us to get to do together as a family. We love being on stage together and watching each other in our roles. It’s just a really lovely tradition, and we hope in some small part, our participation helps the community as well. And it’s really nice to flex a different muscle. For us, dancing puts us back in touch with our physicality in performance, which helps our acting, and on the other side of the coin, being a good actor is critical to being able to connect with the audience as a dancer.

If you go

Columbia City Ballet “Nutcracker”

When: 3 p.m., 7:30 p.m. Dec 8, 15; 3 p.m. Dec. 9, 16

Where: Koger Center for the Arts, 1051 Greene St.

Cost: $20-52. www.kogercenterforthearts.com