With a nutcracker doll that comes to life and a dancing sugarplum fairy, Columbia City Ballet will be performing "Nutcracker” at the Koger Center for the Arts on select days from Dec. 8-16.
Directed by William Starrett, the ballet follows a young girl, Clara, and her journeys with the nutcracker prince through a winter wonderland to the Land of Sweets. Through his directing and passion for the ballet, Starrett hopes to be able to connect audiences to the dance and bring the music to life.
“I think that especially people at university, young people that haven’t maybe seen a ballet, they’ll be really surprised about how evolved it is,” Starrett said. “It’s this amazing art form through the human spirit bringing a music to life and telling a story at the same time.”
The ballet will feature more than 200 dancers, 160 of whom are children who audition from within the community. The rest of the cast is composed of 32 professional dancers, 25 junior dancers and 14 community actors and celebrities. The role of Clara’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Stahlbaum, will be portrayed by "Dynasty" actor Grant Show and "Imposters" actress Katherine LaNasa, who are married friends of Starrett.
“There’s a unicorn — a real life unicorn — and a real dog in the cast as well. And there’s a rat, but it’s a mechanical rat,” Starrett said. “I just want the audience to see a high percentage of what I get to see. The artists are so incredible and they work so hard and they’re so talented and they’re at the pinnacle of their careers, I want the audience to get to see that. So that’s important to me.”
The cast has been rehearsing since early November and has already performed the ballet five times throughout South Carolina and Georgia. The cast only had eight days to learn the ballet since the first performance of the season at Fort Jackson on Nov. 10.
“That was such an honor to be chosen to represent Columbia and represent the state of South Carolina to all the soldiers at Fort Jackson who were graduating,” Starrett said. “So we worked really hard to get a great production together in a really short amount of time.”
Columbia City Ballet puts on "Nutcracker” annually. While it’s the same ballet, Starrett plans to create a more profound impact on the audience each year.
“A lot of people come because their neighbor’s daughter is in it, or it’s the holiday thing to do,” Starrett said. “I want them to see even deeper how the music comes to life through the human spirit.”
Starrett, who has been in the ballet world since he was 13 and has been directing for 32 years, aims for the production to help develop the dancers and help them on a path to self-discovery.
“I think in the early days I was, to be really honest, I think I was more of a tyrant ... as I’ve matured, it’s really more about being kind and I’m okay with not having all the answers,” Starrett said. “What’s really, really important to me is being kind and positive with one another and that there’s a real positive atmosphere in the room and that the dancers are really happy and kind to each other.”
Tickets for "Nutcracker" range from $20-$52 and can be purchased on Koger Center's website.
“It’s the perfect art form for you to kind of escape and celebrate what the human spirit has achieved through dance,” Starrett said.