WHAT: LifeChance Ballet, International Ballet Gala of the Stars
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23
WHERE: Koger Center for the Arts, 1051 Greene St.
Columbia Classical Ballet kicks off 2016 with an exciting and eclectic night of classical and contemporary dance known as the annual LifeChance performance, featuring world-renowned ballet star Brooklyn Mack.
“We are proud to be able to bring such professional ballet talent to Columbia,” said Radenko Pavlovich, Columbia Classical Ballet artistic director. “We have been able to book professional dancers from the Boston Ballet, Charlotte Ballet and the Washington Ballet.”
Featured ballet star Mack is an American professional ballet dancer originally from Elgin. He began training with Pavlovich when he was 12 to improve his football skills. At age 15, he received a full scholarship from the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C. He still lives there, dancing his sixth season with the Washington Ballet.
“I always love coming home, seeing everyone there who has been supportive over the years and dancing with the Classical Ballet again,” said Mack.
Also set to perform at this year’s gala for the first time are artists Dylan Gutierrez and Jeraldine Mendoz of the Joffrey Ballet. Boston Ballet’s brother and sister Jeffrey and Lia Cirio, along with additional Washington Ballet dancers, help round out the robust line-up of talent.
“You won’t be able to see this type of talent at any other performance in Columbia for the rest of the year,” said Lee Lumpkin, board chair for the Columbia Classical Ballet. “You’d have to travel out of town to see what we are offering.”
One of the premiere performances Lumpkin may be hinting at is Classical Ballet and company choreographer Simone Cuttino’s creation, “Ursa Major.” Set to a driving, percussive score, the dance features 14 of the company’s male dancers. On the other side of the spectrum, Pavlovich is preparing a piece with a humorous surprise.
“We have a very special performance planned with some absolutely stunning dances that include both classical and contemporary ballet,” said Pavlovich. “Every year we have something fresh and exciting, but this year we wanted to do even more. This is something really unique for Columbia, and we want to make sure that every year it’s new and special.”
It promises to be a great night for the Classical Ballet, which has been displaced since its home, the Pavlovich Ballet School, was damaged in the Oct. 4 floods. Pavlovich hopes to reopen the space off Forest Drive perhaps as soon as February.
THE VIBE: Columbia Classical Ballet knows how to put on a great show and excite its audiences, so it should come as no surprise that LifeChance is going to blow you away. Heralded as one of the highlights of the dance season, prepare to clap. A lot. And loudly.
THE VERDICT: Along with providing an incredible dance experience, LifeChance also raises money for local charities. Since inception, it has raised money for the Ronald McDonald House, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia, Harvest Hope Food Bank, the Free Medical Clinic of Columbia and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, just to name a few. This year, a donation will be made to the Ray Tanner Foundation, which raises money for a variety of charitable groups. In essence, it’s a good time for a good cause, which, in the beautiful world of ballet, is “en pointe.”