The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

December 30, 2009

I get to be Susan Lenz for the night — at the FOM First Thursday opening January 7th

As most of you know, one of the first big arts events of the new year will take place on Thursday night, January 7th at Frame of Mind on Main Street, just across from the Art Museum and in between The White Mule and Gotham Bagel.  Mark Plessinger’s FOM series is presenting Reflections with Columbia’s own world renowned fiber artist Susan Lenz, featuring her Decision Portrait Series, as well as a few of Susan’s smaller pieces for those of you who can’t resist taking home some of Susan’s art and letting it become a part of your lives.  There are big things in store for the Decision Portrait Series, which is to say, it has future engagements scheduled, and the items are therefore not available for purchase at this time.

It seems, in fact, that Susan’s dance card is quite full these days.  Her glorious installation, Blues Chapel, which honors amazing blues divas like Billie Holiday and Ma Rainey and the glorious Bessie Smith, has been showing at The Gough Gallery in Denton, Texas for more than a month now.

Along with one of Susan latest projects, Last Words, an exhibition based on epitaphs and gravestone rubbings the artist has gathered, honored, and embellished throughout her travels, Blues Chapel will open here in Columbia at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios on February 4th and run through the 16th.  (More to come on this in a later post — suffice it to say, however, that Susan’s opening on Friday, February 5th, in combination with the Blue Martini’s tribute to her work on the self same night, which includes Eboniramm’s vocal tribute to the subject matter, has got your first Friday night in February covered.  Really — don’t make plans to do anything else.)

Unfortunately for Columbia though, Susan will be in Texas during the FOM opening night festivities on the 7th, closing down the Blues Chapel’s run in Denton.

But Columbia’s misfortune is my gift because I get to be Susan Lenz for opening night!  No, I will not sign autographs, however I will have on hand a list of FAQs about the artist’s work as well as a cell phone in hand with the artist’s number on speed dial.  (Susan and husband Steve will actually be en route to Texas during the gallery opening — fingers crossed for good cellular reception as they traverse the deep South.)

Some of you have had the pleasure of seeing a few of the pieces in the Decision Portrait series already, as Susan has exhibited some of them in her gallery space as they were completed.  You folks already know how moving the faces and phrases on these pieces are; you know how the xylene transfers on the muslin fabric seem to both personalize and distance the subject and patron; how the sparsity of the words favors the intent of the message.  You are the ones who know not to miss this exhibit.  Those of you who have yet to have the pleasure — take my advice, pay a visit to Frame of Mind during the month of January — better yet, be there on January 7th – opening night, when I get to be the amazing Susan Lenz.

For more on Susan’s work and the Decision Portrait Series visit her website at

December 26, 2009

Poetry from a younger me

Filed under: poetry,writer's life,writing — cynthiaboiter @ 22:18
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As I’ve said time and time again, I am not a poet.  But I’ve always liked to dabble in poetry for fun.  When I was a kid, the occasional poem was a much-needed outlet for quite a bit of my outsider angst.  I won my first poetry contest when I was in the third grade — can’t recall the poem, but it was awarded by a publication called Read Magazine and I won a cheap little charm shaped like a scroll.  Thanks Read Magazine — validation rocks.

Then when I was in high school, freshman year, I started entering a poetry contest that the University of South Carolina – Spartanburg, now called USC Upstate, sponsored.  The first year, one of my poems was published in their literary magazine, quirkily called Maggie’s Drawers, (from the frontispiece of the magazine are the words — For those not acquainted with the term “Maggie’s Drawers,” it signifies a complete miss of the target on the rifle range), but I didn’t win anything.  The next year, I lucked up and won an award of special merit for a poem I’m too embarrassed to re-print — although I do recognize early Pagan interests in the lines and am amused by the fact that my insecurities clearly required me to include a nod to Jesus near the ending, lest my spiritual uppitiness land me burning forever in hell.  (I’ve always recognized the utility Pascale’s wager, which says that if you believe in a supreme being but you turn out to be wrong, you’ve lost nothing — however, if you don’t believe in one and there actually is one, well, you’re just screwed.)  Shift and dodge, dodge and shift — ain’t religion grand?

Finally, by my junior year, one of my poems was awarded first place in the contest.  It’s funny now to look back and see myself as the little drama queen I was — given my distaste for such creatures as an adult.  But it won out of 500 entries, (granted 500 entries that likely originated from upstate South Carolina — not exactly the arts capital of the Southeast), so here it is, in all it’s dripping drama.  (note the lack of capitalization — e. e. cummings was my hero)


doodle my name

on the place mat

set under cold bacon and egg

and warm memories

of other mornings.

I don’t ask for

clean or silent thoughts

just as long as they’re

of me and not

the ones before.

Lean on my wallshadow

and cherish yesterdays


8-year-old new bike Christmases.


hours are minutes

I’m but seconds away.


Personally, I’m much more fond of the following poems, which were published in the same issue, but not recognized.


i wear new shoes

like a dog eats grass

casually at first

taking for granted

the fields of choroglory

and soles of leatherbetter.


now and then i

wonder almost hope

that both would turn

to cindergravel.


(Quite the budding socialist there, huh?)

and this clever little gem …


If you write poems

day after day

eventually you

write one you

believe in.


About truth

or faith

or promises –

wait – that’s not right …


If you write poems

day after day

eventually you

write one you

believe in.


By my senior year in high school, I had already won first place but I entered anyway and, this time, was awarded second place in the contest.  It’s funny now to look back and see how much difference a year makes in the growth of a young person.  It’s not that the poetry is that much better, but it is braver — and that makes me happy.  Here’s the second place winner, and it has a title.


No Imitation


I don’t want to write down

love words or nature phrases

or spell myself with little letters

or substitute silly exclamations

where a simple word belongs.


And I don’t want to write of sex

as an ocean and God as a brother

or his another

or the way Mr. McKuen

makes poems into songs.


I just want to write of me

and my yesterdays and

next years and burst bubbles

and plan the ones I’ve yet

to purse my lips for.


I’m too interested in acquainting

me with me to try to imitate

you, the man who died

fifty years past, or some sea-gull

who learned to soar.


Cute, huh?  This was in 1975 when Rod McKuen was all the rage — he had teamed up in the fifties with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and moved spoken word poetry into popular culture.  Then in the sixties, he was responsible for translating much of the work of French singer/songwriter/poet, Jaqcues Brel into English before his death. I still have a few of his LPs, despite the fact that I soon learned — and may have been learning even in high school — that his work is uniformly considered pretty iffy.  Still, it meant something to me at an important time in my life — so there! to critics and idiots alike (and sometimes one in the same) who think they can determine what is and isn’t art based on their own world views alone.  As for the sea-gull reference, Richard Bach’s beautiful but naive novella, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, had been published in 1970, aiding and abetting in the non-conformity movement of the time,which, as my previous poetry so well illustrates, I was all about even as a child.  This fact could not be better illustrated than by the following self-righteous little ditty of mine that served to close out the 1977 issue of Maggie’s Drawers.


… After my words have pleaded

with you,

if you still believe yesterday

can carry the weight of eternity —


then never shade your eyes

against my sun again …


Well, that was a fun little trip down the pot-holed, briar-ridden, tar and gravel path of Memory Lane.  It’s hard to not find oneself introspective at the juxtaposition of old and new years.  Funny though, I found this last poem printed in the pages of Maggie’s Drawers today, coincidentally entitled December Twenty-Six, which is the self-same date as today.  It’s a sweet little poem and I still like it a lot.  So, here’s a gift to today’s readers from an 18-year-old me.


Happy holidays to the children we were and will always be.


December Twenty-Six


Packing away ornaments

I store a month of memories

of crowded stores

and anxious eyes

beside a dry and brittle tree,

icicles still intact,

in a full and contented attic.

Outside, G. I. Joe spies

pink ruffled undies

mounted on a chrome horse

who toots to me at the window.

And I turn, lost in thought,

to toss away an age-old Madonna

and reach for Santa’s tiny sleigh

to gingerly wrap in tissue.

December 25, 2009

Happiness, busy-ness, stillness, and peace — from Muddy Ford

Filed under: Christmas,New Brookland Tavern — cynthiaboiter @ 15:34
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All the members of the Boiter-Jolley clan enjoy the luxury of a happily busy life.  We’ve always been that way, even when Annie & Bonnie were little girls and their days were spent in ballet and orchestra and book club and t-ball, etc.  Now, as adults, they are busier than ever, just like me and Bob.   For us, sleep has always been something that we surrendered to — our beds seldom seeing us before 2 am.  There is just so much to do in the world — so much to see and enjoy — life doesn’t give us enough hours — we are forced to cheat time whenever we can.

But there are two days out of the year that we deemed sacred many years ago — days when we wear our pajamas all day and when the term busy just doesn’t apply.  Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.  On these days, the world doesn’t matter — there is an invisible force field between the Ford and the rest of civilization.  We eat when we’re ready — we wear what feels comfy — we do whatever we want.  It is nothing less than joyous and we have observed this special ritual of removing ourselves from the world on these two days for many, many years now.

But I don’t take it for granted.  My little girls have grown to women now.  One of them is in love and sharing a home with a beautiful boy.  The other will soon be out in the world, who knows where, sharing her gifts with a larger and unknown audience.  I am keenly aware of how lucky we have been to have kids who loved the home they grew up in as much as we loved watching them grow there.  But I am equally aware that someday soon, maybe even this year, the four of us will rise on Christmas morning for the last time as a family unit.  I don’t let myself think too much about the years gone by of footie pajamas and cookies left out for Santa, the letters left by the fireplace, the magic we had the pleasure of making once our girls were sleeping soundly in their beds.  Time is a mean and beautiful and hateful thing.  Sometimes it is best to just ignore it.

Because we have this year, this day — and it is glorious — I wish all of you a happy day of realizing the many beauties of your life — wherever you may find them.  Shut the world out if you can — immerse yourself in only the things that are meaningful to you.  Enjoy yourself.  Play.  If old traditions don’t work for you anymore — abandon them and make new ones.  Cultivate your own sense of happiness and peace.  It’s what we’re here for.

Merry Christmas from the gang at Muddy Ford.

December 22, 2009

Reflections brought to you by Susan Lenz and FOM, with Cassie Premo Steele, Melissa Buckner, Kristine Hartvigsen, & Chris McCormick plus Treadmill Trackstar’s Heidi Carey

If you’re like me, it’s hard to think about anything but Christmas these days — wrapping, eating, unwrapping, eating some more.  But the calendar does go on after Christmas Eve, and just two weeks beyond today, there’s an arts event you want to go ahead and mark on your calendars.  I’m particularly partial to this event because I got to help put it together and, consequently, I get to show off some of my favorite people whose works help make your city such a great place to live.

I’m talking about the January edition of Mark Plessinger’s FOM series — titled for this month only, Reflections.

(I know it’s a little trite and constructed to always make January the month for contemplation, assessment, and resolutions.  But given that our culture is, in so many ways, devoid of these very necessary components to a healthy and happy life, I say, take it where and when you can find it.)

Frame of Mind’s  featured artist for the month of January is Columbia’s own internationally renowned fiber artist, Susan Lenz.  Susan, who references herself as a contemporary embroiderer (a term which seems too limiting for the magic this woman comes up with to me), brings us creations like art quilts, amazingly symmetrical bowls made from acorn caps and moss, embellished images of graves she has hand rubbed onto silken cloths, beautiful found objects captured onto unique canvasses — the kind of thing that puts the art into artifact.

In the days to come, I’ll be writing more about this upcoming event — telling you more about what to expect from Susan’s show, and offering a bit of information about the performance art scheduled for that evening.  But here’s a preview — Cassie Premo Steele reading her poetry and signing and selling books, with additional poetry readings by Melissa Buckner, Kristine Hartvigsen, and Christopher McCormick.  And when these guys aren’t enlightening you, Treadmill Trackstar’s own Heidi Carey will be serenading us with her sweet cello sounds, persuading us all to look inward a little — to reflect.

Sounds like a lovely night — and a wonderful way to start the new year in Columbia arts.

December 21, 2009

This just in — go to The Cellar tonight from 6 – 8

Filed under: writing — cynthiaboiter @ 16:38

Ever since I heard that Ricky & Kaitlin down at the Cellar on Greene would be doing a Monday evening tasting, I knew I would be down for it.  When I heard that they’d be charging a mere 10 bucks for the privilege of tasting 30 some odd wines I thought, ’bout damn time.  Then, when I heard that 50% of the proceeds would be going to help the less fortunate, I thought — seriously?  Is it Christmas morning already?  Let me get this straight — vino, happy hour, shopping for vino, not feeling guilty — in fact, feeling awesome about it, AND we get the joy of hanging with the lovely Kaitlin and her almost Grinch-ish boss?  So there.  So, so there.

The Cellar on Greene is hidden by the railroad tracks in 5 Points — two doors down from Mr. Friendly’s.  See you there.

Lee Monts and the joy of local artists in local print

Filed under: Lake Murray Magazine,Lee Monts — cynthiaboiter @ 14:21
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I got an email from my friend, the local artist Lee Monts, this morning, telling me he had heard that the article I wrote about him for Lake Murray Magazine was out.

You have to know the back story on how I’m still waiting on some of my articles on local artists to show up in local print to realize how satisfying it is for me to actually hold the product of my local labors in my local hands.   To be honest, I haven’t really physically touched this printed article yet — the Muddy Ford mailbox and paper tube are at the end of our quarter-mile-long driveway (and I use that term loosely) and I haven’t made it down the road yet today — but I believe Lee.

Since many of you may have  either given up on The State these days and let your subscription lapse — and really, I can’t blame you — The State fired almost everyone I ever wanted to read last summer; or, like me, you’re on CBT (Christmas Break Time) and that mailbox is just a little too far down the path for venturing out to; and, since I do want everyone to know the spectacular story of artist-come-lately Lee Monts, I’m providing you with the copy to the article below — but you’ll have to find the photos for yourself.  I hear they’re pretty.

Thanks to Lee for working with me on this.  He’s a talented artist and quite a sweet boy.


Artist Come Lately – Chapin’s Lee Monts

By Cynthia Boiter

Chapin native Lee Monts is anything but your typical artist.  A clean-shaven, short-haired, bespectacled man of a certain age, Lee looks more like a librarian or a math teacher than a new-to-the-scene artist whose acrylics and assemblage works have been popping up all over town of late, especially since his successful premiere solo show at the DuPre Gallery in the Vista last summer.  If Lee looks less like an artist than one may think that may be because he has spent most of his adult life as a geologist, working as a program manager for the Department of Health and Environmental Control, only recently allowing his artist within the attention most of his patrons agree it deserves.

But Monts is not entirely new to the creative process.  As a child growing up, he recognized his own potential with the sketch pencil, but abandoned art as a hobby during his college days, focusing instead on his studies in geology.  A fascination with watercolors that began in college and lasted for years never proved fruitful for Monts, and it wasn’t until a friend gave him a set of acrylic paints as a Christmas present that he finally found the medium which seems to work best as a mechanism for his creative energy.

It was at about this same time that Monts reconnected with an old friend and educator, local artist Judy Bolton Jarrett.  “At the time I was creating wire mobiles and I mentioned that to her,” Monts recalls.  Jarrett invited Monts to offer his mobiles for sale at her gallery in downtown Chapin and, to his surprise, both the demand for his work and his friendship with Jarrett grew strong.

“While our styles are very different, she has given me a lot of great advice over the years,” he says.  “I rarely make mobiles anymore, but that early taste of validation for my creativity fueled my passion of wanting to produce art.  And so the painting began in November 2002.”

Within the next year, Monts’ work was picked up by several downtown galleries and shown as part of the Vista Lights exhibit at Cameo Gallery in 2003.

“I will never forget the excitement about approaching the gallery curator with my work prior to that show,” he remembers.  But, “once it was displayed, I quickly sold several pieces.”

Monts has gone on to show his work at Verve Fine Art and Interiors and the Idylwild Gallery, as well as being included in a number of group shows such as About Face, ArtCan, and Dining With Friends, and displaying pieces in several commercial locations, including Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Café and Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia.

Clearly, Monts’ art has an appeal that is attractive to a variety of patrons in diverse showing situations.  “People tell me that my artwork is contemporary without being overly abstract, but that it is abstract enough that it is often ambiguous,” Monts explains.

In fact, Monts’ style results from what he terms “controlled randomness,” a technique in which he prepares the canvas before painting by applying the common primer gesso, floating a smaller canvas on the surface of the working canvas, and manipulating the smaller canvas to create organic and subtle patterns that take on a life of their own.  According to Monts, the ensuing “tree-like textures” serve to both surprise and inspire him as he works with the image, “moving the creative process in a certain direction.”

Monts is also interested in exploring other creative media, including encaustic work – using melted refined beeswax, and assemblage art – bringing together a variety of usually found objects into a purposeful collective design.  “Assemblages often take time while I wait for the pieces to fall into place,” he says.  “Sometimes they are almost there but an element is missing, then often unexpectedly, the right addition comes along.”

As an artist, and an individual, Monts may be considered something of an assemblage himself, coming into the profession later in life and experimenting along the way.  “I just never envisioned myself as becoming an artist,” he admits, “especially after I received two degrees in geology.  But I have always had that innate need to create.”

He further shares that, “Becoming an artist later in life has increased the quality of my life in many ways.  I take extreme pleasure in the pure act of creating, and that was missing in my earlier years.”

His advice to others who harbor an inner yearning to realize the product of their creative impulses?

“Do it!  Start!  Don’t let the fact that you don’t have a fine art degree hold you back,” he says.  “We never truly know what the future holds,” however, having begun his work as an artist in earnest now, “I feel certain I will be creating as long as I am physically able.”

December 11, 2009

Grey Egg, Hunter Gatherer, Christopher Walken and SNL

Filed under: Grey Egg,Hunter Gatherer,SNL,writing — cynthiaboiter @ 13:00
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I was just writing yesterday about Columbia’s hidden arts treasures, and here I am again, writing about another group of amazing local artists that many people in town may not have heard of.

Would it be bad to say that I’m glad?  It’s not that I don’t want everyone in town, hell – go for the world — everyone in the world, to know about the band Grey Egg.  It’s just that I realize that the more people who know about them, the more people are going to crowd the already crowded venues when they play their rare gigs, and the harder it will be to get to the bar, much less find a place to sit my weary old butt down.  Eventually, word will get out.  And by out, I mean out of Dodge, out-of-town, out of the South, and before we know what happened, Grey Egg will be crawling up on the stage at the NBC studios in NYC, with Liz warbling her little heart out and waving goodbye to the television audience when SNL signs off — I’m hoping Christopher Walken is the host that night.  I can see him up there, hands clasped before his chest, acting all Walkeny and thanking Grey Egg for being the musical guest on the show.  Seth Myers will have had to absolutely force Sarah and Steve out there and Liz will be standing in the back looking at her feet as the camera pans to her, little wisps of hair sticking out of her braids.   Chris will have missed them by now and shoved Jason Sudeikis aside to reach them and bring John and Amy and Liz up in front of the crowd of comics and writers.  He’ll likely try to ruffle Liz’s hair or something, which is going to really piss her off, and she’ll show him the back of her hand, sure as the world.  Though for the most part a peaceable man, Chris don’t take shit off no little white girl but the cameras are rolling and the last thing he wants to do is disappoint Lorne.  So he just stares off into the audience and pretends that Liz and everyone else in the band is dead. By now though, the applause is getting good to Liz, and she and Amy start doing that little dance they usually do in the bathroom just before the show and Chris just can’t ignore it anymore, so next thing you know, Christopher Walken goes all Deer Hunter Nick on her ass.  It ain’t pretty. Plus South Carolina gets in the news for something stupid again.  So it’s probably in everybody’s best interest for none of you reading this to come out and see Grey Egg perform at 11 pm on Friday night at the Hunter Gatherer on Main Street.  Really, just stay home.


Here’s the piece on Grey Egg that I wrote for Stir earlier this year.  It never got published in hard copy, so you might have missed it.  Take a look if you did.

Grey Egg

If you get the feeling, when listening to local Columbia alt band Grey Egg, that you might not be in Kansas anymore, it’s okay.  That was the plan.  For starters, chances are pretty good that the lyrics you’re hearing aren’t being sung in English.  Chances are even greater that you aren’t going to be able to translate those lyrics either – not unless you can get inside the head of band leaders Steve Dennis and Julia Elliott.  And I’m not sure you want to do that.

Listening to Grey Egg perform is reminiscent of traveling abroad or watching the recording of a foreign film, but doing so in the comfort of your own culture.  But rather than hearing French or Farsi or Portuguese, what you hear is a fake language constructed in its entirety by Dennis and Elliott.   Not all of the lyrics are created in the heads of the couple, who literally are a couple having been married, “forever, and ever, and ever,” as Elliot says.  The English language does occasionally crop up in the vocals, sometimes jarring the listener out of that meditative place where ones head seems to hang while listening to Grey Egg’s music and forcing her or him to actually hear the familiar English words.  Luckily, the drug kicks back in pretty quickly though and you soon feel like you’re in some smoky eastern European coffee house, or huddling around the samovar in a Turkish hammam.

The band members themselves are almost as eclectic as their music.  Co-founded in the late nineties by Elliott and Dennis, who began playing as a duo back when the two were small town South Carolina teenagers, the sounds of the band may not reflect the members’ upbringings, but seem oddly at home with the lives the musicians now lead.  And odd ain’t bad.

For day jobs, composer and multi-instrumentalist Dennis, who is also a permaculturalist, works with bass player John Hammond as an heirloom grain processor.  Drummer David Kelly, originally from Rock Hill, works as an historic preservationist when he is not driving the group’s experimental inclinations toward both progressive and psychedelic music a la` late sixties and early seventies.  Both Elliott, who once went by the name Liz, and violinist Sarah Quick, are part-time college professors and when Quick isn’t studying anthropology and ethnomusicology, (she is an expert on the Métis of Canada), she can sometimes be found performing with the South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra.  Then there is saxophonist Amy Overbaugh who hails from Charleston and, rumor has it, sports a dandy dead toe she only shows to band-mates and friends.

But much of the attention in a Grey Egg concert rests on keyboardist and vocalist Julia Liz Elliott.  She doesn’t just play the keyboards; she plays her voice as well.

“I do use my voice like an instrument, and for some reason have always approached singing this way without really thinking about it.  Recent influences have helped me conceptualize this process more clearly – Magma, Catherine Ribeiro, Yma Sumac,” she explains.  “Steve (Dennis) also does this quite naturally.  I think that’s partially how we drifted into the fake language thing because it is much easier to compose vocals, in terms of sounds and syllables, this way – and then these sounds inevitably evoke specific language groups.”

According to local music aficionado and WUSC Music Director, Kyle Petersen, “Grey Egg is one of those bands that exists outside the normal margins of rock and roll.  Most bands incorporate Eastern elements and dense instrumental passages as diversions from the actual song,” he explains.  “But for Grey Egg, these elements and passages are the primary focus.  It is hard to argue that there is any other band like them on the local scene – they are like nothing else you will experience in Columbia.”

The past few years have revealed some surprising new directions for Grey Egg, a name chosen for the band because it “somehow captures the notion of a green world in decline,” Elliott glibly shares.  Kelly and Hammond didn’t actually join the group until 2006, and the quartet recorded their more electric CD titled Indoor Ski together in 2007.  Violinist Quick and saxophonist Overbaugh came on board a year or so later, and all six musicians will be featured on their new CD, entitled Albumen, which will be out this summer.

“We’re also starting to be more bilingual,” Elliott says.  “For us, this is a process that usually involves composing the vocals the old way via sounds, but then translating as much of that as possible into English.  More than half of the vocals in the upcoming CD Albumen are in English.”

Rare bird that the band is, it’s not easy to catch it about town.  You’ll most often find the group performing at Hunter Gatherer, or sometimes at the Art Bar or the Whig.  According to Elliott they only make forays out-of-town to Asheville, Athens or Charleston on occasion.  But the sure sighted will be able to spot them this summer when they settle in for a performance at the Art Bar on June 27th.  Until then, check Grey Egg out online at or

December 10, 2009

Dale Lam, Andie MacDowell, Andie’s daughter, my daughter, and The Two Claras

We have quite a few hidden artistic treasures in Columbia.  Some are folks who not a lot of people know about so these treasures labor along in the glow of the fortunate few who are aware of their magic.  Some of our treasures are underused — they are the people who could shake things up, put us on the map, as it were, if the right spotlight found them at the right time.  And then there are those of our treasures who are actually quite well-known and much in demand away from town but, having plied their wares on us before without due recognition, they have surrendered to working quietly for a larger audience and given up on being known for their greatness on a local basis.

Choreographer Dale Lam fits into all of the categories above.

Dale is the owner and artistic director of the Columbia City Jazz School and Company, a non-profit performing arts organization which will be presenting a modern version of the Nutcracker called The Two Claras, this Thursday and Friday nights at Drayton Hall.  You may have heard about the fact that South Carolina native film star, Andie MacDowell, who names herself as one of Dale’s biggest fans, will be performing along with the young dancers.  You may also have heard that The Two Claras is a nice break from the traditional Nutcracker in that everything from the choreography to the costuming is contemporary and upbeat — less predictable, more exciting.  But you probably haven’t heard about how much raw talent will be on the stage this weekend, or how much of herself Dale Lam has put into getting them there.

I’m not a money person.  When people start talking about cash my mind goes to that Charlie Brown place and all I hear is, “wah, wah-wah, wah wah wah.”  I don’t want anyone to hear those sounds when I talk myself, so I usually just avoid the subject altogether.  But I can’t really convey to you an accurate picture of the gift that Dale Lam gives to her students without mentioning money — or the absence of it.  Because that’s mostly what there is — an absence.  But do not think for a minute that the lack of cash in any way determines whether this woman will work with talented students or not.  Like Andie MacDowell said in an interview I conducted with her which will one day be published in Stir Magazine, Dale isn’t interested in making money — she’s interested in making dancers.

Kindness and Andie MacDowell aside, the show Dale and her kids put on is a fine one.  A couple of her male dancers are extraordinary and the young female dancer she brought in from the university at the last minute to dance the part of the older Clara has quite a dance history herself.  Yes, it’s my kid – – although at 21 it could be argued that she’s old enough that her momma ought not be bragging on her when she writes her blog.  Whatever.

Although tempting, I won’t print the entirety of my article on Ms. MacDowell which will one day appear in Stir Magazine, however, I will include below an excerpt from the piece which deals specifically with Andie’s relationship with Dale Lam — which is why I wrote the article.


MacDowell and Lam first began their association when MacDowell’s older daughter, Rainey, had the opportunity to take a master class from the highly sought after Lam in a nearby Asheville, North Carolina studio.  As younger daughter Sarah Margaret’s interest and talent in contemporary dance grew, MacDowell recognized the unique gifts that Lam brings to her students and made a commitment to insure that Sarah Margaret continue to work with Lam, despite the distance between Lam’s studio in Columbia and the MacDowell’s North Carolina home.

Over the years, a friendship developed, turning the tables on MacDowell to the point that she sometimes refers to herself as Dale Lam’s biggest fan.

“The gift that Dale has – the gift she gives to her students,” MacDowell says with intention, “is nothing short of genius.”

She goes on.

“Dale’s musicality is literally the best I’ve ever seen.  I’ve yet to find anyone who can teach a child how to hear the music, and to feel the music, the way that Dale can.  She is a genius, plain and simple.”

That recognizable genius is what has inspired MacDowell to not only entrust her daughter’s training to Lam, but to devote herself to helping her friend, in any way she can, achieve portions of her life’s goal – sharing her gifts with as many talented children as possible, no matter what the circumstances of their lives may be.

“I can afford to pay for my daughter’s instruction, but not everyone can,” MacDowell says.  “And Dale will never turn a talented student away.”

MacDowell also points out that the Columbia City Jazz School, whose students feed into the Columbia City Jazz pre-professional company, is a not-for-profit organization; a fairly unusual enterprise among instructional institutions in this day and age.

“Clearly, Dale isn’t in this to make money. She’s in it to make dancers,” MacDowell explains. “She continually gives to these young people in her charge – she treats them like they’re her own children, not just her students, often opening her home to the children” MacDowell says.

“And if I can help her – if I can be a part of her mission – then I am delighted.”

That’s why for the second year in a row MacDowell has agreed to participate in the Columbia City Jazz Company’s presentation of The Two Claras, on December 11th and 12th at USC’s Drayton Hall.  In the show, MacDowell narrates the story of Lam’s take on a modern Nutcracker – based very loosely on the traditional Tchaikovsky classic – while jazz company members, including MacDowell’s daughter, Sarah Margaret Qualley, perform Lam’s contemporary choreography to a modern score.  Performances are at 7:30 on Friday and Saturday, with a Saturday matinee at 1 PM.


Go see The Columbia City Jazz Dance Company Presents The Two Claras:  A Tale of “The Nutcracker” for Modern Times, featuring special guests Andie McDowell and Dana from Kidz Bop, (not to mention my kid), at Drayton Hall, Friday and Saturday, December 11th & 12th at 7:30 PM and Saturday at 1 pm.  Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by calling 803.252.0252 or visiting

December 8, 2009

A Muddy Ford Christmas Celebration

Filed under: Christmas,Muddy Ford — cynthiaboiter @ 02:58
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I’m writing today still high on the raging Christmas Spirit so many good people were kind enough to share with me, my family, and one another last Saturday night at the annual Muddy Ford  Christmas throw down.  If you missed it this year … well, you just really missed out.

We started staging this event many years ago when the girls were still small, and it has grown in size and diversity ever since.  But one thing hasn’t changed — we do it all ourselves, with the help of a few brave friends, (thanks as always to Chuck and Kyle, and a new thanks this year to Carolyn and Mindy — cookie cookers extraordinaire), and that’s what makes it so special to us.  It is a joy.  A celebration of good fortune.  Our little prayer of thanks to the universe for giving us each other, good friends, a warm home, much love, and the knowledge that happiness is a state of being that should never be taken for granted.  We are lucky to be happy, and we know it.

I also think that the degree and intensity of happiness churning in our little home-place last Saturday might just have swelled the square footage of Muddy Ford ever so slightly — the ceilings certainly seemed a bit higher Sunday morning.  I’m not sure if it was Kristine’s cranberry walnut pie or Billy G’s chocolate-bacon-pecan cookie creations (still want the recipes to both of these, please), or if it was the gorgeous new ornaments Susan and Lee brought for our trees.  Bob’s brew was quite tasty, as was the beer that Anastasia and Roe brought and the wine too many folks showed up with, combined with what Ricky and Kaitlin had put together for us as well. There was quite a bit of age and beauty in the place (thanks to assorted dancers, college students, and beloved curmudgeons — you can decide for yourself if you fit in either or both of these categories), not to mention intellect, (if we could have gotten the academicians and intellectuals in the house to put down their glasses, we probably could have at least solved the climate crisis), and talent, (I think we had representatives from almost every arts medium — the aforementioned dance, sculpture, music, ceramics, painting, acting, textiles, poetry and prose).  There were happy old married couples, several new lovers, potential new lovers, a number of happily divorced singles, intentional singles, singles on the prowl, and quite a few matches I would have loved to have had the time to make — (the day is young, however).

Whatever the magical mystical combination of precious human contributions that came together to make the night such fun, I am just so appreciative.  Thanks to all who came out this year.  And to those of you who didn’t take that journey into the woods, there’s always next year — I hope we get to see you then.  (If we know you, you’re invited — you should all know that by now.)

So as Darion says, Joy to Your World — from the folks at Muddy Ford — those who come to visit, and those who come to stay.

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