South Carolina's Largest Performing Arts Organization Celebrates 60 Years!

Q&A with CCB Alumnus Torri Counts!

What was your story like before joining the Columbia City Ballet?
 
I grew up in Little Rock, AR but I auditioned for CCB in Los Angeles at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy where I was a “student.” I joined Columbia City Ballet in the fall of 2006 and danced here for 3 years. I was 25 when I auditioned and turned 26 after joining.

What were some of your favorite memories with the Columbia City Ballet? 
Hands down Off the Wall and Onto the Stage was one of my favorite productions. This ballet, for me, was a chance to really push myself as a dancer, performer, and athlete. It was very taxing on me, but I loved the challenge of performing that ballet.

Another great memory, I would have to say, would be meeting my roommate for the first time. My very first night staying with John-Michael, who is one of my best friends to this day, we stayed up all night drinking beer and talking. Great first night of many great nights!

 

 

Where did you go when you left the Columbia City Ballet?
I actually went on tour with Mariah Carey. After the ballet season, I left Columbia in April of 2009 and went back to LA. I knew there would be auditions and I would need a job. At the time, I didn’t have an agent and had no idea who was hiring. Luckily, my friend told me Mariah Carey was holding auditions but I only went because my friend told me about the audition. It just so happened that it was held at my old studio.

Needless to say, I crashed the audition and booked the job! Got an agent and a job all in one day. In LA, if you happen to book a job and you don’t have  an agent, you can basically put who you want to represent you and inform them that you booked a gig and would like representation. It usually works.

Where are you now, and what are you up to?
I am currently in Costa Mesa, CA with my beautiful wife of 6 years. I am a personal trainer with my own private training business. It was an easy transition for me; I have always been into fitness, so training was a natural progression. 

Q&A with CCB Alumnus Krystal Henry!

When did you join the Columbia City Ballet, what age were you, and where had you grown up or come from before that?
2004 at age 17. My dad was military and we moved around quite a bit. We moved to South Carolina when I was 13 and started taking classes at Columbia Conservatory. 

How long did you dance with the Columbia City Ballet?
3 seasons. 

What was your favorite role you ever performed with the Columbia City Ballet?
Love of the Harvest from Off The Wall. But I actually loved Nutcracker too! Snow scene was my favorite. 

What is one of your favorite or funniest memories of your time with the company?
Opening night of Off the Wall at the Koger center will always stand out to me. We just finished performing Love of the Harvest and Regina and I were taking bows. The applause was so overwhelming I cried thinking that this was a reason why I danced. To make others feel something through my movement. And to get that feedback was something I will never forget.

Where did you go when you left the Columbia City Ballet? Share an exciting post ballet story if you’d like.
I worked for a while in South Carolina then went to college in Georgia and transferred to Texas. In Texas, I worked as an ultrasound tech for about 4 years. 

Where are you now, and what are you up to?
Now I’m a stay at home mom living in Texas with my family. My husband and I have been married 5 years and we have 2 girls (4 and 2). 

 

 

Brava to CCB’s First African American Principal Dancer Sylvia Dansby-Williams!

Of the dancers who have performed at Columbia City Ballet, few have had as significant an impact on the organization as Sylvia Dansby-Williams. When she first started dancing with the company in 1981, Columbia City Ballet was still deciding when and how it would be a professional organization.

“I grew up in the company pretty much. From the age of 9, I was with the company until my early 20s, Sylvia said. As Sylvia continued developing her career in ballet, she gained an enormous connection to Columbia City Ballet where she learned from talented choreographers as well as the senior dancers who were mentors and role models to her. Because she received so much support from the company when she was growing up, it inspired her to do the same when she got older.

“The good thing about Columbia City was that the older dancers set very good examples for us. I’m not sure how [the company] was able to create such a strong base, but the older dancers had the dedication that the younger dancers would follow,” she reflected. “You had to work extremely hard and show your dedication in order to achieve in Columbia City. We were definitely on that scale of a New York City Ballet at that time.”

Sylvia quickly progressed in the company and became one of Columbia City Ballet’s Principal Dancers. As she continued with her career, Sylvia was at the heart of transforming Columbia City Ballet productions into classics. In Nutcracker, Sylvia appeared in nearly every prominent role, with the Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen among her absolute favorites. Before Dracula: Ballet with a Bite became a Halloween staple, she felt a lot of pressure to make the production special through her role as the original Red Maiden.

Her dazzling performance in Dracula: Ballet with a Bite instantly connected with audiences and the production became a hit. “I know it seems huge now, but when it first came out, we were treated like movie stars,” she remembered. “The reception we got was incredible because this type of rock-and-roll ballet or whatever you want to call it was at the absolute top… all of a sudden, it felt like we all became famous because we had never done anything like that before”

In 1992, Sylvia briefly left the company and moved to Germany where she started taking dance classes and dramatically outshined her other classmates. She was invited to perform in one of her class’s performances and was hired as a professional almost instantly. “Once I was dancing, I started meeting other performers and I could tell they started gravitating towards me and other American performers,” she said.

Even though her performing career in Germany rose quickly, Sylvia was missing home and took an opportunity to come back to the States and return to Columbia City Ballet in 1993. Upon her return, she didn’t miss a beat and performed brilliantly in productions such as Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Pocahontas, and Giselle.

Sylvia’s contribution of her talents are an indelible part of Columbia City Ballet history. Through her ability to amaze audiences with her beauty and grace, as well as her undeniable passion for ballet, she helped set the high artistic standards for which Columbia City Ballet is known.

While she became Columbia City Ballet’s first Black Principal Dancer, Sylvia says she was primarily focused on her dancing and perfecting her talent. “We all worked so tremendously hard in rehearsal. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about it in that way. I was just honored to get the role… and growing up, it was just the direction my career was going in,” she said. “Looking back on it, honestly, I feel honored that I did step into that role as the first African American. The honor has a special place in my heart right now because of everything we’re seeing and going through and the fact that African Americans are still so far and few between in leading roles in ballet. There is still progress to be made, but it feels like an honor looking back on the experience.”

Though Sylvia’s performing career has slowed down since retiring from the company, she continues to be involved in the arts in Atlanta along with her three children, Timothy, Anthony, Jr., and Sasha. Her two youngest children are also multi-talented performers: singing, dancing and acting in various capacities. Having to adapt to changing circumstances due to the coronavirus, Sylvia currently works as a homeschool teacher and an e-commerce entrepreneur.

Columbia City Ballet extends a heartfelt “Brava!” to our first African American Principal Dancer, Sylvia Dansby-Williams!

Amazon Prime Day!

Did you know that Columbia City Ballet is partnered with the world’s largest retailer, Amazon, and that you can shop while also giving to a great cause?

Amazon’s Prime Day is almost here. Deals start July 16, 3pm ET and run through July 17. Prime Day is one of the biggest shopping events of the year!

Amazon Smile donates 0.5% of the price of your eligible purchase towards a charity of your choice. It’s the same Amazon you love, with the same products, but allows you shop and give back! The purchase price is the amount paid for the item minus any rebates and excluding shipping & handling, gift-wrapping fees, taxes, or service charges. Just look for products marked “eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on the product detail page.

Take advantage of Prime Day and get all your favorite items while giving back to the Columbia City Ballet! Click the link, https://smile.amazon.com , and put “Columbia City Ballet” in the option for you to search for your own charitable organization.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Get shopping!

 

William returns to the International Ballet Competition

This week William Starrett will return to the international ballet competition in Jackson, Mississippi.

In 1979, William won the bronze medal in this competition, and now he will return as a special guest for their third round and will be attending their Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Awards Gala.

While at their competition, he will also be recruiting dancers to join the Columbia City Ballet, and will also be participating in their job forum where he will give career advice to the young dancers. 

To keep up will all of William’s adventures, follow him on Instagram @balletwilliam

 

Giving you something to smile about

Did you know that Columbia City Ballet is partnered with the world’s largest retailer, Amazon, so you can shop while also giving to a great cause?

Amazon Smile donates 0.5% of the price of your eligible purchase towards a charity of your choice. It’s the same Amazon you love, with the same products, but allows you to shop and give back! The purchase price is the amount paid for the item minus any rebates and excluding shipping & handling, gift-wrapping fees, taxes, or service charges. Just look for products marked “eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on the product detail page.

Show your Dad how much you care this Father’s day by getting your last minute gifts through Columbia City Ballet and Amazon Smile. Click the link, https://smile.amazon.com , and put “Columbia City Ballet” in the option for you to search for your own charitable organization.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving, Happy Father’s Day!

 

Q&A with William about his upcoming trip to NYC

Why are you making the trip to NYC?

William will be traveling to NYC June 6th-9th to catch up with many Columbia City Ballet Alumni, as well as scout for future Columbia City Ballet dancers.

I’m starting my trip to see Gillian Murphy, a former student, now a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre.

I’ll then attend the premiere American Ballet Theatre perform Harlequinade, inspired by Marius Petipa in honor of the 200 anniversary of Peptia. Petipa is famously known as the creator of Swan Lake, Nutcracker, and the creator Harlequinade the ballet.

While I’m there, I’m also going to Gillian about performing with the Columbia City Ballet for the 60th anniversary.  

I will also be visiting Dance Theatre of Harlem, Alvin Ailey and Steps on Broadway to recruit dancers since Columbia City Ballet actively searches for diverse dancers.

Are there any spots in NYC that you’d recommend for dance lovers?

While William is in NYC he will be seeing Kinky Boots and Anastasia on Broadway. He’ll also explore the Met Exhibition about Versailles and King Louis XIV- the inventor of ballet. He recommended all of these for ballet lovers, as well as lovers of the arts.

Is there any part of the NYC dance scene that you would like to see incorporated into Columbia?

“I would like to see more enthusiasm for the arts in Columbia, but I see that increasing.”

What do you think makes the Columbia City Ballet different from those in NYC and unique?

Columbia City Ballet strives to have artistic value, while also showcasing local talent- which sets us apart.

 

*If you want to follow more of William’s adventures, follow him on Instagram: @balletwilliam*

 

Meet the Columbia City Ballet Dancers

At Columbia City Ballet, we love to see our dancers grow and develop as they continue their careers with us, while encouraging new dancers to join the Columbia City Ballet family. As the 2018-2019 season approaches, we are so excited to highlight some of our dancers.

We are thrilled to have Bo Busby, Bonnie Boiter-Jolley, Camilo Herrera, Philip Ingrassia, and Claire Richards as our Principal dancers.

Happy to have Autumn Hill, Maurice Johnson, Abby McDowell, and Brandon Michaels as Soloists.

We’re also delighted to have Jordan Hawkins as a Coryphee- a premiere member of the company who usually dances as a part of a small group.

Finishing with our Company members we have Erik Anderson, Evan Ambrose, Dylan Bacon, Nicole Carrion, Jessica Cobb, Ashley Concannon, Katie Heaton, Colin Jacob, Carmie Schiano Nelson, Sakura Oka, Brandon Penn, Caleb Roberts, Nadine Tetrick, and Leonardo Victorino.

We’re delighted to have these dancer’s for the upcoming season, as well as any later additions.

Don’t forget! If you want to show your support for our dancers, Adopt them! The Adopt-A-Dancer program will allow us to retain our highly accomplished professional dancers. Principal dancers can be adopted for $2000, Soloists for $1500, Coryphee for $1200, and Company members for $1000. Your money will directly benefit a dancer of your choice, while allowing you to develop a personal relationship with one of South Carolina’s finest dancers.

 

Coming to Columbia City Ballet 2018-2019

We’re excited to come back for the 2018-2019 season with the classics you love, as well as a new addition! Under the Artistic and Executive Direction of William Starrett, our season will kick off with Dracula with a Bite. Tickets will go on sale later in the summer and this ballet is sure to be a Halloween favorite.

Nutcracker will return for the holiday season, with shows from December 8-9th and 15-16th. The perfect way to get in the Holiday spirit and see a production that The State called, “As close to perfect as you can get.”

A new addition for the 2018-2019 season is the world premiere of Beatles the Ballet. Honoring a legendary band in a new way. The show will take place February 2nd, and will be an event you don’t want to miss.

Finally, we’ll close out our spring season with Sleeping Beauty. A family-friendly event to help ring in spring! This show will take place on March 30th, and will be the final performance of the season.

From everyone at the Columbia City Ballet, we look forward to another great season! Interested in becoming a Season Subscriber? Save up to $22 per ticket over box office taxes and fees when you become a season member and purchase a flex-pass subscription.