On Stage with George Gershwin
ROBERT IVEY first came to Charleston in 1976 when Gian Carlo Menotti asked him to choreograph an opera for the first Spoleto Festival in 1976. “I was in Italy performing with the Ballet of Sweden and was one of the only Americans at the Festival,” says Ivey, who today is the charismatic director of the Robert Ivey Ballet Theatre and artistic director of the Footlight Players Theatre.
“I agreed and came to Charleston to choreograph The Queen of Spades, an opera by Tchaikovsky. It was a wild time, that first festival, and Charleston was one big party!” He returned the next year to choreograph La Traviatta which was filmed by Exxon’s Great Performances. During that time the College of Charleston’s Fine Arts Head, David Maves, asked Robert to lead the dance classes at the College where he still teaches ballet today in the Cato Center for the Arts. Twelve operas later he was well ensconced in the cultural scene of Charleston and Spoleto.
He adds that, “Menotti was quite difficult and always wanted to change things and have the final word. When Piccolo Spoleto first cropped up to showcase local talent, Menotti turned to the more international events.” It was then that Robert began the Dance at Noon Series whose first performances were held on the second floor of the Gibbes Museum. Today seven companies are included in the series which is presented at the Footlight Players Theatre. The shows run about an hour and the companies come from around the southeast to present modern, jazz, and ballet performances.
He has also written and directed a musical revue for the upcoming festival called Oh George! On Stage with George Gershwin. A cast of 16 sing 30 Gershwin favorites under the musical direction of Marcia Goldsmith who is a new talent to the city. Says Robert, “It’s really about Gershwin’s love affair with music. The grand piano is on stage and the singers are dressed in evening gowns and tuxes to show the sophisticated elegance which was Gershwin’s style.” The show will run six times during Spoleto.
Another interesting insight he mentioned was that, “When George Gershwin and his brother Ira were young, it was Ira who was given piano lessons and George would terrorize the neighborhood on his roller skates. But when everyone went to bed, George practiced the piano and became a much better player than Ira, which is why Ira was the song writer and Gershwin wrote all the music.”
The other connection to Charleston, of course, is that George was friends with DuBose Hayward who had written a play called Porgy, and which, with Gershwin’s help, became the first American Opera: Porgy and Bess.
Most would agree that Robert Ivey’s talent is as endless as his energy, and that he is a gem to this city’s healthy cultural scene.
Tel (843) 724-7295
Fax (843) 720-3967
Charleston Visitors Center • 375 Meeting St.
Office of Cultural Affairs • 180 Meeting St.
Footlight Players Theatre • 20 Queen Street
SAT 5/28 @ 8:00 PM
SUN 5/29 @ 6:00 PM
THU 6/3 @ 8:00 PM
SAT 6/5 @ 8:00 PM
THU 6/10 @ 6:00 PM
SAT 6/12 @ 5:00 PM
(and don’t forget to check out the Dance at Noon events at www.piccolospoleto.com)