It’s a holiday tradition many people in the community look forward to each year: getting dressed up and heading down to the Savannah Civic Center to see a ballet production of “Nutcracker.”
And this year’s no different, as the South Carolina Ballet will return to Savannah for one special performance at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 24.
William Starrett, executive and artistic director of the South Carolina Ballet, spoke with Do Savannah about what guests can expect to see at their unique performance and why after more than 25 years, he still looks forward to bringing his professional dancers to Savannah.
How long have you been with the South Carolina Ballet and what are some highlights of your time with the company?
Starrett: This is my 32nd year as director. There have been many highlights in my tenure as director. We have grown from a civic company presenting two ballets a year into a fully professional ballet company presenting four to five full-length ballets each performance season, along with two educational ballets in our educational outreach series, which reaches more than 16,000 students each year.
In addition to all that, we maintain an extensive touring schedule, touring to an average of 16 cities each season. The success of some of my original ballets, including “Dracula: Ballet with a Bite" and “Off the Wall & Onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green,” has also been very rewarding.
Please tell our readers about what they can expect to see during your “Nutcracker” performance in Savannah.
Starrett: In our 2018 production of “Nutcracker,” the audience will be treated to our usual lavish production of this holiday favorite. In addition to the very high artistic standards evidenced by our highly accomplished professional dancers, audience members will also see an array of new costumes this year, which add to the continuity of the story.
There are many surprises each year in our production, and I don’t want to spoil any of the fun, but I will say that we work very hard to keep the production new and fresh, so even if you’ve seen “Nutcracker” before, don’t miss South Carolina Ballet’s staging this year.
What is your favorite scene in the “Nutcracker” and what feedback have you received from people who have seen this ballet?
Starrett: Truthfully, I have many favorite scenes in “Nutcracker,” even after having directed more than 400 performances for the company and having appeared in countless other productions personally in my own dancing career.
Among the scenes that always appeals to me is the opening of Land of the Sweets. I just love the fluidity of movement and how well it complements the beautiful music of Tchaikovsky. Another favorite scene is, of course, the Grand Pas de Deux; again, I feel the movement is so perfectly suited to the beautiful musical accompaniment. Interestingly, this particular part of the score was written shortly after the death of Tchaikovsky’s sister and perhaps that’s why it feels so different than other music in the "Nutcracker" score. Its tones are so deeply emotional and expressive. I think the Grand Pas is one of the most beautiful dances in all of ballet.
Finally, I’d like to take a moment to personally thank the citizens of Savannah for always being such a wonderful and loyal audience. We have a 25-plus-year history of performing in Savannah, first as Columbia City Ballet and for the last few years under our touring name, South Carolina Ballet.
We are so gratified that our performances often sell out in Savannah, and we look forward to continuing to present our art in your magnificent city. We would also like to hear from you and your feelings on our touring more productions to Savannah in the future.
IF YOU GO
What: South Carolina Ballet presents “Nutcracker”
When: 5:30 p.m. Nov. 24
Where: Savannah Civic Center, 301 W. Oglethorpe Ave.
Info: savannahcivic.com, columbiacityballet.com