The new season of Columbia Classical Ballet arrives with a determined goal. This year’s lineup will focus on women’s productions, reflecting internal changes that artistic director Radenko Pavlovich said were a long time coming.
“Well, to be honest, at the end of our last season, it occurred to me that the world is really changing,” he explains. With the #MeToo movement, women are rightly claiming the respect they deserve. This movement and this controversy even touched the world of ballet, and it really shook me.
“Honestly, women are what first come to mind when people think of ballet, and yet the role of women in leadership positions has been almost exclusively limited to ballet mistresses or coaches,” he continues. . “It’s only recently that there are more female choreographers and artistic directors.
“I started thinking, ‘I want to change that in my business and I want the change to happen from the inside out.’ I wanted a stronger female presence from the board of directors to the artistic team to the ballets that the company will present, and this season is really a celebration of that change.
A big part of that transition was the appointment of “two strong and exceptional women,” Sharon Williams and Anne Fowler, as chair and vice-chair of the company’s board, respectively, Pavlovich says.
Williams, who is currently a consultant for the state bar association, served on the classical ballet board for more than a decade. Williams is also the chairman of the company’s annual gala sponsorship, which raises capital for its community outreach programs.
Fowler, a former ballet dancer and founding member of Classical Ballet, was instrumental in starting a dance program at the Hammond School. Fowler is in his second year as a board member.
“These two ladies are wonderful leaders in our community and they also know and respect the mission of Columbia Classical Ballet,” enthuses Pavolovich.
On the artistic side, he adds a new position, that of assistant to the artistic director.
“I offered the job to Sarah Waters, a company member and newly promoted soloist,” says Pavlovich. “Sarah has been with the company since 2017, and she is young, but she already shows great leadership qualities and I really wanted to give her the opportunity to learn and grow not only as a dancer but also as a as artistic leader within the company.”
In the new position, Waters, a 24-year-old Indiana native, helps shape the presentation and choreography of the Columbia Classical production, as well as contributing to the production/technical side of the program. She learned about lighting and staging with technical directors under the direction of Pavlovitch.
“I am more than honored that Radenko gave me this great opportunity,” she said. “As a dancer, I never considered the other side of setting up a production, and it just opened my eyes to so many new possibilities and a future beyond performance. “
Another strong female presence within the company is resident choreographer Simone Cuttino.
Cuttino has been associated with classical ballet for 20 years, having only taken a few years off when her now adult children needed her attention at home.
“The ballets we’re staging this season really represent the full spectrum of femininity, starting with Coppelia,” Cuttino suggests. “It’s such an easy to watch and enjoy ballet and great for the whole family. The music is wonderful, and Swanhilda is a kickass girl who wears smart pants. Audiences will be captivated by the story and its sassy nature.
Lead dancer Nao Omoya will portray Swanhilda, who does all sorts of mischief when she poses as the life-size doll Coppelia. Pavlovich describes Nao as having flawless technique and a charming and ravishing stage presence.
“Later in the season, Radenko asked me to choreograph an original work to showcase the strength of women,” Cuttino continues. “The piece I’m working on will be on the theme of tango. I chose tango because it really is a wonderful and sensual way to express the passion and strength of women.
The season ends with the romantic ballet Giselle, which, according to Cuttino, is about “a young woman and extreme grief that ultimately drives her mad. In addition to these main productions, Cuttino has choreographed an entire ballet, Little Red Riding Hood, for a community show
“I love Red Riding Hood.” said Cuttino. “She’s actually a very brave girl and she overcomes a lot of different obstacles.”
The choreographer is excited about the direction of this season’s programming.
“I love that Radenko is really shining the spotlight on women behind the scenes and with our upcoming productions,” she offers. “Women know how to collaborate and delegate. Don’t always try to take the lead alone. I think Radenko really appreciates that quality. This collaboration makes our company strong and prosperous.
Or: Koger Center, 1051 Greene Street.
When: Friday, October 18, 7:30 p.m.