The unprecedented times of 2020 have shifted the way people live on a daily basis, due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants, retail shops, schools and many other establishments were left to find creative ways to operate in a safe and effective manner.
Though many businesses have been able to salvage some of the economic cycle to stay afloat, the arts industry has faced some of the most challenging of obstacles during COVID-19.
Columbia City Ballet (CCB), located on Columbia’s Main Street, is one of many facilities in the arts industry that faced a sudden shock when learning that the studio would have to remain closed an indefinite amount of time. Ballet dancers rely heavily on studio time for their instruction and rehearsals, however, social distancing is not always the most conducive option for some areas of ballet training.
Executive & artistic director of Columbia City Ballet, William Starrett explained how CCB has adjusted instruction to keep the dancers in somewhat of a “normal” routine. “Our professional dancers have continued to train from home, networking via the Zoom application,” said Starrett. “Many of our dancers are also teachers and they have been able to continue training their own students via various digital platforms.”
Starrett expressed his eagerness to be back in the studio with his dancers as he values the in-person experience greatly. “I really miss the daily interactions with the dancers. Studio time is very important to the creative process. While I’m super grateful for the technology that exists, it is still very different from studio interactions,” he said. “I think those of us on the artistic staff as well as the dancers themselves, have become increasingly comfortable with the digital format, but I know we are all eagerly awaiting the time when we can return to the studio.”
Eight CCB performances for 2020 were cancelled in Columbia, Lancaster, Florence and Sumter. Cancelled performances include, the beloved Cinderella and Beauty & the Beast shows.
All hope is not lost for ballet lovers though. Starrett confirmed that there will be performances in the latter half of 2020. Halloween thriller, Dracula: Ballet with a Bite, and Christmastime classic, The Nutcracker are among the shows scheduled for the year.
“Currently, we are working with theater venues to establish appropriate social distancing and other protocols to assure the safety of our patrons, artists, and staff. There will be more news about the upcoming season over the course of the next few weeks,” he said.
Starrett has served as executive & artistic director of CCB for 35 performance seasons. This year is a special one for Starrett and the Columbia City Ballet as the company celebrates its 60th anniversary.
A special performance is scheduled to celebrate six decades of ballet in Columbia. “Beatles, the Ballet, will be presented in a gala performance to celebrate our 60th anniversary, followed by an anniversary party,” Starrett said. “We’re looking forward to marking the milestone with many of our former artists and other members of the extensive Columbia City Ballet family.”
Starrett shared that he feels fortunate to have a “long and happy association” with Columbia City Ballet. “I have so very many precious memories from over the years,” he said. “I think the things that really come to mind for me are more in the area of what we have been able to achieve—transforming a civic ballet company into a professional company with an extensive repertoire and a demanding touring schedule.”
Updates and additional information for Columbia City Ballet’s upcoming performances are available online.