Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cool day of culture -- in Hickory

The Bolshoi Ballet is as likely to come to Charlotte as I am to swim Lake Norman with a bowling ball tied to each foot. So I had to drive to Carmike Cinemas in Hickory to see Olga Smirnova, the hottest new ballerina in Russia, in George Balanchine's masterpiece "Jewels." Patricia McBride fans will recall that Balanchine created a solo for her in the middle section of that ballet, the part titled "Rubies," at the 1967 premiere. She looked like this:

Smirnova was, as advertised, breathtaking: A woman in her early 20s who was both tall and solid yet ethereal and otherworldly. She seemed almost to be listening to music I couldn't hear, as she floated and whirled through the final "Diamonds" section. Now my wife is talking about going to New York this summer to see the Bolshoi at Lincoln Center, and Smirnova would be worth a trip.

Here's a sample of her work in another piece with Semyon Chudin, who partnered her wonderfully in "Diamonds:"

After a quick lunch, I went to Hickory Community Theatre's world premiere production of "The Seamstress," which runs through Jan. 26. (You have four more chances to go.) Christy Rhianna Branch gave an accomplished performance in the title role, playing a woman with ulterior motives who moves into a rich family's household in 1916 to create a new wardrobe for the wife.

Cece Dwyer's play has a double-twist ending, half of which took me by surprise. (I read a lot of mystery novels.) The company is one of six this year -- the only one in the South -- to mount one of these premieres through a contest held by the American Association of Community Theatre. I enjoyed not only the show but my seat, which was part of the $1.25 million renovation that has upgraded the facility.

Like many Charlotteans, I don't think much about culture beyond the county line, unless I'm flying out of town on vacation. But a beautiful Sunday in Hickory reminded me to keep my eyes open.