Ballet fusion powers 'La Bayadere'
It's a frigid Tuesday afternoon, but the air in Charleston Ballet's studio on Capitol Street is heavy and warm.
Visitors arrive bundled against the cold but quickly shed their coats and scarves. It might be the work of an overzealous radiator, but that would ignore the heat-generating properties of 43 human bodies working very, very hard.
The Charleston Ballet, along with the Columbia Classical Ballet of South Carolina, will perform "La Bayadere" (or, "The Temple Dancer") this Friday and Saturday at the Charleston Civic Center Theater.
The ballet is set in southern India, and tells the story of the temple dancer Nikia and her betrothed lover, a soldier named Solor. The odds are stacked against the couple, however, as a local governor and high priest try to separate the couple: the governor wants Solor to be his daughter's husband, and the priest is madly in love with Nikia.
Nikia is killed after the ruler and his daughter conceal a deadly snake in a bouquet of flowers. Solor is distraught but finds comfort in a hookah of opium, leading to a delirious sleep. Darkness begins to creep into his dreams and Solor is soon overcome, but in death he is reunited with Nikia.
It's a full-length, three-act ballet that requires lots of costumes, sets and high-level dancers, and is usually only attempted by very large dance companies in major cities.
Charleston doesn't have enough dancers to stage the ballet, so it borrowed 20 dancers from the Columbia company. The groups have worked on the choreography for months but, being three states apart, had not been able to rehearse together until Monday. They have less than a week to put on the show.
The South Carolina dancers arrived in Charleston on Monday evening after hours of white-knuckle driving through an ice storm that shut down most of southern West Virginia. But they set right to work.
"They all know the choreography but there are little gestures of the head and the arm that we need to clean up," said Kim Pauley, director of the Charleston Ballet.
The dancers practiced sections of the ballet over and over, with Pauley rewinding the score every few seconds as Radenko Pavlovich, director of the Columbia Classical Ballet, critiqued their movements.
It is important, he said, for the dancers to understand one another's movement. That's what makes the dancing precise.
"This is the first time her girls and my boys have really touched each other," Pavlovich said.
Eventually, Pauley handed the stereo remote to Pavlovich while she worked with the dancers.
The directors met years ago through a mutual friend.
"We clicked immediately. It was like we knew each other for many years," Pavlovich said. "With me and her, there's no ego problems."
Columbia's dancers have worked with the Charleston Ballet several times now, including a 2012 production of "La Bayadere." They most recently visited for a production of "The Nutcracker" late last year, but this is the first time Pavlovich has accompanied his dancers to West Virginia.
He said it's no easy task melding two companies a week before a performance, especially when his dancers have already performed three big ballets this season, "Don Quixote," "Sleeping Beauty" and "Paquita." Even while rehearsing for those shows, Pavlovich said he still had to help the dancers work on "La Bayadere."
He had no doubt this weekend's show would come together, however.
"The dancers pull it together. They're such perfectionists," he said.
Next season, he and Pauley plan to do even more shows together including "Romeo and Juliet" and "Swan Lake."
"It's magical how it works. Don't ask me how," he said.
The Charleston Ballet and the Colubmia Classical Ballet will perform "La Bayadere" this Friday and Saturday at the Charleston Civic Center Theater. The show beings at 7:30 p.m. each night.
Tickets are $20 in advance for adults, $25 at the door, and $15 for senior citizens and students in advance, $20 at the door. You can purchase tickets at the Civic Center Box Office, Backstage Bodywear, The Charleston Ballet Office or online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call 304-342-6541 for more information.