Friday night will be a celebratory one for Radenko Pavlovich and the dancers of Columbia Classical Ballet. The ballet company’s final performance of the Columbia season will be The Sleeping Beauty, which will be at the Koger Center for just one performance, at 7:30 p.m.
Artistic director Pavlovich is more excited than usual about the moment the curtain will rise this week. He and his dancers have had a big year. The 2013-14 season-opening performance of Don Quixote introduced 18 new dancers to Columbia. With a total of 53 dancers in the company, Pavlovich has been eager to take on the bigger, bolder, more beautiful performances that have always been in his mind’s eye.
After a lukewarm reaction to The Nutcracker — every ballet company’s holiday obligation — the company gave impressive performances in January at its annual LifeChance showcase, which featured an original piece by company choreographer Simone Cuttino that showed off the company’s many levels of ability. Audience members with an eye for detail might also have noticed that the costumes in the classical pieces seemed especially fine — a small indication of the direction of Pavlovich’s thinking.
“This year, we did really, really big ballets,” Pavlovich says. “Once you do something big like Le Corsaire, you can’t go back — you have to keep moving forward.”
That benchmark occurred during the 2011-12 season. Productions of this storied ballet — which was first staged by the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg in 1858 — tend to be big, grand and rare, making this a significant feat for a ballet company from a mid-sized Southern city. Once Pavlovich had succeeded in this staging, adding dancers and improving sets and costumes for other productions seemed achievable.
Adding to Pavlovich’s list of goals set and achieved this season, two company dancers gained major accolades in the ballet competition world. Kota Fujishima was awarded a first place medal at the Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest international student dance competition. Nations Wilkes-Davis was awarded a sixth place medal in the same competition and an invitation to dance in New York.
On Friday, Columbia Classical Ballet will float onto the stage to finish off the season with “one of the great masterpieces of the classical repertoire,” Pavlovich says. “It is filled with precise and mannered movements — it’s very noble.”
Nobility will be the word of the evening, as the dancers and stage will be newly — and nobly — adorned. “The beauty of this Sleeping Beauty is that it’s such a humongous production,” Pavlovich says. “The set and costumes are such a masterpiece — they were all made in Russia.”
Earlier this week, Pavlovich says, the crew at the Koger Center was awed by the scope and intricacy of the props and décor. All of the costumes and set pieces were made by hand, and include elaborate fountains and mechanical elements that turn the stage into a fantasy land.
"This is definitely on the level of an institution like the American Ballet Theatre," Pavlovich says.
The role of the princess will be danced by Korea International Ballet Competition medal-winner Sehyun Jin; Fujishima will play the prince. The Lilac Fairy will be played by Hana Oh, who previously danced with the Korea National Ballet. Carabosse, the evil fairy, was traditionally played by a man, then switched to a female role, then finally one that could be played by a man or a woman. Zoltan Boros, a Hungarian dancer in his fifth season with the company, will take the role back to its male roots Friday evening.
Friday’s performance will not be just a celebration, but also a statement of how far Columbia Classical Ballet has come since its founding in 1991 and where Pavlovich intends to take it in the future.
“What is really wonderful is that the company has reached the level of major metropolitan area in using these kinds of sets and costumes,” Pavlovich says. “We’ve reached a major goal.”
Columbia Classical Ballet will perform The Sleeping Beauty at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at the Koger Center (1051 Greene St.). Tickets range from $6 to $33 and are available online at capitoltickets.com and by phone at 251-2222.
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