Imagine a dozen of the all-time greatest ladies of song gathered together in one place. And it's not happening in New York or Los Angeles or Branson, Mo. Instead, that gathering of divas is happening right here in the Holy City. Sound like a dream come true?
That brainstorm led Charleston Ballet resident choreographer Jill Eathorne Bahr to create Decadent Divas, the opulent dance production that kicks off Charleston Ballet's 2009-2010 Alive & Kicking season. It's an all-star homage to luminaries such as Nina Simone, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Cher, Madonna, and Tina Turner, just to list a few examples.
"Really, you could do a complete show about each one of these divas," says Bahr. "These are the vocalists I get excited about. The mood is different for each one. Some bring tears to my eyes when I hear them sing, and others just make me want to jump up and celebrate."
Like any good magic act, the trick is to make it come together so beautifully and seamlessly in front of the audience that it almost looks like it was easy. But sneak a peek behind the curtain of this show and you might catch a glimpse of a small army made up of the top talent in town, all working together to make it happen.
Bahr's creative juice, coupled with the knockout talent of her dancers, long ago made Charleston Ballet one of the hottest entertainment tickets in town.
"We want to provide entertainment that people can relate to on a regular basis," she says. "This is not just a place to learn about classical forms, but also to explore dance. We love to do that. My company likes to work at a fast pace. We're always ready to start working on the next idea."
Charleston Ballet is stepping into the new season with a few new faces to join the regular favorites.
"We have one new principal female dancer, Melian Izotova, who is quite extraordinary," Bahr says. "She is tall, absolutely gorgeous, and you will be seeing her all over the place this season.
"We have three new men as well: Steven Boston, Britton Spitler, and Peter Swan. These are gorgeous hunks with lovely technique. Some of the dance work we've seen from them is just through the roof. We've also added some new apprentices and are really looking forward to seeing the performances."
To launch Decadent Divas, Charleston Ballet is working hand in hand with Mary Porter, one of Charleston's premier couture designers, who will provide the costumes for the show; after all, keeping a diva in fine fashion is every bit as important as nurturing her voice and dance style. Prior to opening and closing night productions, the CBT will host a mini-runway show of Porter's designs.
Porter will be joined in the assist by videographers Steve Lepre and Mark McKinney of Sun Head Projects, who created custom-made videos for Decadent Divas. These videos will be shown on flat screen TVs during the performance, lending a very cool multimedia dimension to the show.
Previous Charleston Ballet cohort, Fish Restaurant, will throw a couple of post-show parties as well.
Collaboration is the real genius behind large-scale events like this. The days of neighboring businesses competing for the crowds of passersby seem to have given way to a fresher, better game on King Street: now some have chosen to work together to offer a bigger prize collectively than could be offered individually. It's a kind of "we rise together" philosophy that is paying off for the forward-thinkers.
"During Spoleto, when we were doing the Magical Mystery Tour, Randall [Goldman] of Fish called to mention how many of the people eating at the restaurant were talking about having seen the show," Bahr says. "So when Fish had the idea for a Bastille Day event, they approached us about bringing some of our dancers over to participate. That was such a fantastic, unique way for us to work together. So we are really excited about continuing these kinds of crossover events."
There will be an opening night champagne toast and a "Diva Rendezvous" event Friday and Saturday nights after performances at Fish, where there will be drink and food specials as well as a live DJ and plenty of elbow-rubbing with the divas.
Sponsored by Charleston magazine, Decadent Divas promises to be a no-holds-barred extravaganza; after all, isn't that what you expect when a diva takes to the stage?
"It's really turned into the coolest thing," says Bahr. "Every time I turn around, someone else on Upper King has another idea to add to it. And this is exactly what we hope to make Upper King known for — being an exciting, creative place for all of us."