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Columbia Business Monthly

Columbia City Ballet Performance to Portray Art of Jonathan Green

Jan 29, 2018 09:20AM ● By Kathleen Maris
The Columbia City Ballet is bringing back their ballet Off the Wall and Onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green. The ballet brings Green’s Gullah-inspired paintings to life through creative choreography and innovative sets. Artistic and Executive Director William Starrett has created this performance, which will run on Feb. 9, 2018 at the Township Auditorium.

Off the Wall and Onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green was first performed in 2005 after Starrett and Green met at the SC Art’s Commission’s Verner Awards ceremony. The two collaborated to make still paintings come to life with dance.

Green received his professional art training at the Art Institute of Chicago and has created more than 1,700 works that capture South Carolina’s Gullah culture. Green has said, “I wanted to go back to my roots...the older people were dying, and I began to see [the Gullahs] differently. I saw them as a people with a strong link, probably the strongest link, with Africa of any of the black American people.”

Because slaves had been torn forcibly away from Africa and were often denied access to their own history, the cultural traditions that they succeeded in passing on to future generations acquired special significance. The importance of nature, family, community, and especially spirituality, are the threads which the Gullah culture contribute to the tapestry of our modern-day lives. It is this harmonious union of cultural traditions and deep spirituality which William Starrett translates into the art of ballet in Off the Wall and Onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green.

Starrett has created vignettes from 22 of Green’s paintings and explores the themes of family, faith, hope, and love. He incorporates Green’s rich, vibrant colors onto the stage through backdrops and scrims, multi-media components, more than 150 costumes, and an array of music that combines traditional work songs, gospel music, Motown, classical, jazz, and live singers.

The production will also feature the return of South Carolina actress and gospel singer Marlena Smalls, who will reprise the role of Bessie Mae, personifying the character from the Jonathan Green painting of the same name, and will sing live when the painting of “Silver Slipper Dance Hall” comes to life.

Tickets for the ballet range from $25-$45 each and are available online at or by calling the Township Auditorium at 803-576-2356. For discounts available for churches or congregations, call the Ballet Office at 803-799-7605 for more information.
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