Sara Mearns is a Columbia native and a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet.
Stacey Calvert is calling on her dance-star friends from the Big Apple to travel to Columbia to perform for one night this Friday at the Koger Center.
The annual Ballet Stars of New York program brings top-level dancers to Columbia for a once-per-year performance. Among the performers this year is Sara Mearns, a Columbia native and a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet.
Calvert’s background makes it all possible. A former soloist with the New York City Ballet herself, Calvert is distinguished artist-in-residence for the University of South Carolina dance program as well as the director of curriculum for the university’s dance conservatory.
“None of this would be possible without Stacey Calvert, because it was her vision and background that made the connection with the New York City Ballet,” says Susan Anderson, director and founder of the USC dance program.
Calvert says the annual production is a gift for the students.
“It’s a unique experience for college students to be able to dance alongside these stars and perform with a live orchestra,” Calvert says. “It’s a fun, glamorous event.”
Friday night’s stellar cast includes Megan Fairchild, Tyler Angle, Anthony Huxley, Gonzalo Garcia — and, last but not least, superstar Mearns.
Now in her tenth year with the company, Mearns is a favorite with dance critics.
“Ms. Mearns is one of the finest ballerinas in the world, delivering performances that are never carbon copies,” wrote The New York Times in a 2013 review of A Dancer’s Dream. “Much of that has to do with how daringly she plays with the music and how deeply she lives every moment on stage.”
Friday night’s program will feature four ballets choreographed by the late George Balanchine, the world’s most famous contemporary choreographer, and New York City Ballet’s founder.
“He has the most ingenious choreography in the world,” Anderson says.
Allegro Brillante is an elegant piece that Balanchine described as “everything I know about classical ballet in 13 minutes.” Also included are a pas de deux from the “Diamonds” section of Balanchine’s Jewels; a selection from Tarantella; and Stars and Stripes.
The performance will be enhanced by live accompaniment from USC’s Symphony Orchestra led by Donald Portnoy, along with guest pianist Elaine Shelton from the New York City Ballet’s orchestra.
As central as Calvert is to the Ballet Stars of New York event, university’s dance program would not exist without the energy and passion of founder Susan Anderson. Under her leadership, the program has increased in size and now has more than 65 course offerings. And in the latest issue of Dance Magazine, USC’s dance program was named as one of three top programs to consider among colleges nationwide.