The Daily Gamecock

'Peter Pan' mesmerizes with choreographic creativity, bids adieu to principal dancer

The world premiere of Columbia City Ballet's "Peter Pan" flew audiences at the Koger Center for the Arts to Neverland this weekend. This was the final professional performance from principal dancer Claire McCaa, who danced Wendy, after a long career with the Columbia City Ballet.

"I really couldn't have asked for a more perfect ballet to go out with. It was made especially for me," McCaa said. "It's always going to be bittersweet but I'm really enjoying dancing with my Peter and Tink and everybody. It's been really wonderful."

The ballet was the creation of Artistic Director William Starrett, and it involved original costumes by designer Alexis Doktor.  The ballet took about a year for Starrett to bring to fruition. The incorporation of modern dance elements into a classical ballet allowed for witty stage play between the dancers and childlike movements of the characters. 

While certain characters, such as Tiger Lily, used modern techniques in their dances, like dancing in a parallel position as opposed to turned out, the ballet was still deeply rooted in the classical ballet style. With music that incorporated bubbly melodic themes to pair perfectly with the moves on the stage, the ballet was an entertaining piece of modern and classical dancing for audiences to enjoy.

Tiger Lily was brought to life by company ballerina Regina Willoughby, who presented the choreography wonderfully with a balance of power and traditional femininity, showcasing a strong tribal princess. Willoughby brought true presence and presented excellent skill in the choreography.

The costumes consisted of vibrant colors that kept true to the magic and time period of "Peter Pan." Notable wardrobe pieces included Wendy's dress, an elegant white dress Mrs. Darling wore and Tinker Bell's shimmering costume, which all added to the liveliness of the story.

The choreography throughout the ballet was mesmerizing and attention-grabbing. A powerful tribal scene with Tiger Lily was breathtaking, and when Tinker Bell needed the magic of belief to be brought back to life, the audience was prompted to clap along with Peter Pan to provide such magic.

Dreher High School freshman Alexis Cole, a Columbia Conservatory of Dance member, came to the ballet to see some of her fellow dancers perform and found the rappels, rope-propelled flights, interesting.

"I haven't really seen many shows where people fly around in the air. I thought that was really different," Cole said. "I really like how all the dances weren't always perfectly balletic."

Paralleled to the ways in which Wendy must grow up in the ballet, McCaa is beginning a new phase in her life as well — "Peter Pan" was the final professional performance of her dance career. She has danced with the company for 13 years and was promoted to principal in 2014. Dancing with grace, McCaa gave a stunning performance for her farewell to the Columbia City Ballet.


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