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

May 25, 2011

Steven, Terrence, Caroline, Dale and Columbia’s amazing dancers

Filed under: writing — cynthiaboiter @ 12:24

This is the first blog post I’ve written since late last winter when I started working on undefined Magazine with Mark and Jeffrey. I thought I would leave blogging behind, but I’ve had the urge to do those things that bloggers do – pontificate and such – so much lately that I’m revisiting the idea of becoming a regular blogger again. This is a test.
An event I attended last night has me feeling rather full of thoughts and theories and observations about Columbia’s dance scene – a subject I hold dear to my heart, as many of you know. I am frequently befuddled by the fact that Columbia produces so many amazing young dancers – many of elite quality – who never stay in town, but rather move on to what is perceived to be greener pastures across state lines. Sometimes these pastures are significantly greener – sometimes they’re just a different shade of the same colors we find at home.
I find it frustrating that we can’t seem to keep these talented young dancers here, performing for us at home. Yes, I’m talking about my child, but I’m also talking about a lot of other people’s kids, as well. The things that are lacking in Columbia’s two professional ballet companies aren’t a mystery – they are money, repertoire, and to some degree, working conditions. Money is a problem everywhere, but especially in South Carolina where our state government considers the arts to be the work of the devil, or worse, the Democrats. Repertoire can be fixed – stop doing the same damn ballets year after year and challenge our dance audiences to learn about the classics – old and new – rather than children’s fairytales; and take a chance on the kind of new choreography that companies are doing pretty much everywhere else in the world. As for working conditions, most of these problems have to do with the eccentricities of artistic directors. We may like to pretend that some other AD at some other company in some other city is more sane than the ones we have here, but that’s a pipe dream and nothing more. Ballet people are crazy everywhere.
But last night, I attended an event put on by Columbia’s dance artists (minus the two big companies) to help raise funds for one of their own, Steven Ferguson. Steven is a local dancer and musician and all around fantastic human who was involved in a terrible accident in March in which both his legs were severely injured. He has had more surgeries than you would believe and is still recuperating in the hospital. The companies and artists who came together to put on the performance did it out of the goodness of their hearts and nothing more. It was an amazing evening filled with joy and emotion. But, more than that, it was an evening filled with some of the best dancing I have seen anywhere – New York, Boston, London, and Paris included.
We have some excellent companies of dancers in Columbia and it is time they get the attention and appreciation they are due. I could care less about the old saw that they’re all competing for the same funding. Dancers dance for money, yes – they have to eat. But for the most part, dancers dance because they can’t help themselves. Most would dance on a dumpster if you asked them to.
What really made the event last night so entertaining was the choreography – I’m talking about choreographers Terrence Henderson of Vibrations Dance Company, Dale Lam of Columbia City Jazz, and Caroline Lewis Jones of Unbound Dance, here. Flipping outstanding and innovative choreography that touched the core of the audience, and was executed with pristine technique and professionalism. The dancers were clearly thrilled to be performing their parts – they were challenged and invigorated.
It’s time to face the facts – Columbia, South Carolina actually is a fabulous dance town without even including the two big companies. The questions now are: Can those two keep up with the smaller companies who have moved on to the 21st century? Sure, the two big companies are mostly ballet-centric where the performances last night were not (although every form of dance starts from a ballet core). And, if not, is it time for yet even another ballet company in Columbia? One that can keep our excellent dancers home dancing for their families, friends, and neighbors where they belong?

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