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How Ensemble Eclectica Hopes to Bridge Music, Dance and Visual Arts

Columbia United

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Susanna Pavlovsky

Susanna Pavlovsky

Ensemble Eclectica doesn’t dig boundaries. Take the 15-piece ensemble’s upcoming concert, We Could Have Danced All Night. During the display, 15 ballroom dancers will swirl around the floor, accompanied by both new and old classical compositions, arranged and in some cases composed, by local musicians. 

As the dancers dance and the ensemble plays (accompanied by vocalists Janet Hopkins and Walter Hemingway), two painters will create art on the spot, and media by Jeremy Culler will be projected on the wall.

It’s the lasted culmination of Ensemble Eclectica conductor Suzanna Pavlovsky’s goals — bridging multiple artistic disciplines and spotlighting local performers. 

“The concept is to unite different arts in one production,” says Pavlovsky, the Russian-born conductor and musician who founded Ensemble Eclectica in 2015. “I don’t call it a concert. I call it a showcase or a production.”

Pavlovsky says that Ensemble Eclectica is the outcome of a lot of soul-searching and looking at what is happening in the world of classical music, and music in general. 

“I decided to try to combine something else with music,” she explains. “There are more than 30 people involved in this [upcoming] production, and four living composers.”

And almost all of the people involved, from composers and arrangers Dick Goodwin, Manny Alvarez, Bert Ligon and Richard Maltz to the dancers, artists and musicians, are from Columbia or the surrounding area. Pavlovsky got to know a lot of the musicians and artists in the area when she came to University of South Carolina in 2015 to take part in the SAVVY Musician in Action program, an intensive five-day workshop meant to help artists design projects that have both a creative and economic impact.

“The motto of my life is basically to promote the local talent that Columbia is so fortunate to have and somehow put their arrangements before an audience both in this country and abroad,” she says. “The whole concept is to promote local talent and living composers.”

We Could Have Danced All Night took Pavlovsky more than a year to conceive and plan out, and she worked closely with Goodwin and Alvarez on the program, which will include everything from a traditional Mexican hat dance to a tango piece to well-known pop hits by artists like Billy Joel, alongside the contemporary original compositions.

“It took a lot of patience, a lot of talking to and meeting with people and hoping there are enough funds to put the event together,” she says. “And composers like Dick Goodwin have been instrumental in and supportive of this project from the very beginning. In fact, when Dick writes for Ensemble Eclectica, he writes for specific people. The solos are written for people that he knows.

“It’s very rewarding for a composer while he or she is alive to be featured and actually hear their music being performed and not being stuck somewhere in a desk, and it’s also rewarding for local musicians to be performing the work of leading composers.”

The idea of living composers being featured is an important one for Pavlovsky. 

“The thought is that one should be dead for 50 years or more before one’s music is performed, and I’m trying to break through that old-fashioned approach,” she says. “We forget about people who live today and create their art today. I want to showcase those people, and I’m hoping that our community, which has plenty of people who are interested in and have been extremely supportive of the arts, will come on board and see the value in this project and start to support it.”

For Ensemble Eclectica building support means more than finding an audience — it means finding sponsors to fund its elaborate productions.

“When people come, they will see value in such a new approach,” Pavlovsky offers hopefully. “Different branches of the arts need to be united. We need to help each other. We need to feature everyone and let people enjoy different disciplines.”

What: Ensemble Eclectica presents We Could Have Danced All Night

Where: The Hall, 320 Senate St. Columbia

When: Thursday, Aug. 30, 7 p.m.

Price: $30 ($50 reserved seating)


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