The City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs had an ongoing relationship with Robert Ivey since 1978.
In our experience working with him, we found him to be one of the most generous, hard-working members of Charleston's arts and cultural community, making enormous contributions to the quality of life in the Lowcountry.
Robert, who died last week, was one of the chief collaborators who helped the Office of Cultural Affairs design and launch Piccolo Spoleto in 1979. He coordinated Piccolo's Dance Festival and/or the Dance at Noon Series every year since the festival began, generously giving of his time, energy and expertise to the benefit of the festival.
Robert was a wonderful educator in the world of dance, directing the Robert Ivey Ballet School of Dance and teaching at the College of Charleston.
He was a master teacher and inspired countless young dancers to apply themselves to achieving excellence in that discipline.
He worked with local theater companies to produce many fine Broadway shows and musical productions which thoroughly entertained large audiences, bringing joy to all who attended the performances.
Robert Ivey Ballet was a recipient of the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Award for outstanding achievements and contributions to dance and theater in South Carolina.
As far as I know, Robert never declined to help out another arts organization when called upon, in spite of the fact that he was always enormously busy with his own arts projects. He was a man of integrity and generosity of spirit who displayed concern and compassion to others.
One of my all-time favorite productions of the Robert Ivey Ballet was "The Giving Tree" based on the wonderful and moving story by Shel Silverstein.
The story is about a little boy and an apple tree. When the boy was hungry, he was able to eat apples from the tree. When he was hot, he sought the shade of the tree. As he grew up and needed to find money, he was able to sell apples and later, wood from the tree.
Toward the end of the story, all that was left of "The Giving Tree" was the stump which was perfect for the little boy who had grown into an old man, to sit on and rest. "The Giving Tree," like Robert Ivey, never stopped generously giving for the benefit of others.
As part of Robert's ongoing contributions to Piccolo Spoleto, he made this production of "The Giving Tree" an outreach program during the festival, presenting it at Piccolo's Children's Festival, Charleston County Library and children's hospital wards at both MUSC and Roper Hospital.
The children in the hospital (and the doctors, nurses, and family members) had their spirits uplifted by this presentation.
And to top it off, every child in the ward received a copy of the book to take home.
That was yet another example of the magic that came out of our ongoing collaborations with Robert Ivey.
From the first moment I met him in 1978 until his death, Robert Ivey exemplified the message of this wonderful story.
Ellen Dressler Moryl is director of Cultural Affairs for the City of Charleston.
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