A memorial service for Robert Ivey, one of Charleston's influential arts figures who died Friday, has been set for August at the College of Charleston. And one of the arts groups that he worked with for the past six years will be holding a toast for him today.
Ivey's legacy as artistic director of the Robert Ivey Ballet, a professor of dance at the college's School of the Arts, and as a director and then as artistic director for the past three years with The Footlight Players, and as an inspiration to actors, students, dancers and fans, will be celebrated at both events, which are open to the public.
Footlight Players Executive Director Jocelyn Edwards said that she had heard from so many people who were sad about Ivey's passing that she and her staff put together a chance to toast him with champagne at 5 p.m. today at The Footlight Players theater, 20 Queen St. Actors and others in the arts community will share some memories about Ivey, although it is not a formal service.
"People just want to get together and laugh and cry and share stories about Bob," she said Monday. Edwards said that she had known Ivey for six years, and praised him for his generous spirit and ability to teach all levels of performers and to choose the right actors and programs for the company.
"He just had this belief in you that you could do what he asked, even when you might not believe it yourself. He was always just this tornado of air that entered the room, but then he always had time for you."
The Footlight Players is dedicating the first play of the upcoming season, "South Pacific," to Ivey. It was the last play he cast for them.
The memorial service for Ivey will begin at 2 p.m. Aug. 13 at the College of Charleston's Sottile Theatre, 44 George St. His work at the college created a dance minor, and his company, the Robert Ivey Ballet, was the company-in-residence for much of that time.
Valerie Morris, dean of the School of the Arts, praised Ivey and said, "I asked him to do some outlandish things. Bob was in many ways a miracle worker who always accomplished exactly what was asked of him, even if it was something extremely difficult and involved assembling a dozen dancers and singers to perform for an unplanned, special event."
Ivey directed two dozen plays for the theater department during his tenure at the college. Theater Chairman Todd McNerney said, " 'The show must go on' was the way Bob Ivey lived his life. Always driving forward, Bob never quit. He was very much 'old school' in that with authority he guided actors into the desired result. He could take non-actors and make them amazing."
Born in Sweden, Ivey came to the U.S. and attended Columbia University as a pre-med student, receiving a degree in radiology and studying dance at the American Ballet Theatre. His professional credits included major roles on Broadway and as a performer with the Swedish State Theatre and the Royal Norwegian Ballet. In 1976, Ivey came to Charleston for the first Spoleto Festival to choreograph a Gian Carlo Menotti opera. He decided to stay.
He soon implemented the Dance at Noon Series with the Office of Cultural Affairs, which has been a cornerstone for the Piccolo Spoleto Festival since its inception.
He founded and was the artistic director for the Robert Ivey Ballet and school, which was one of the early arts companies to have outreach programs into the community.
The company has toured internationally to Spain, South America and China. His performances of "Peter and The Wolf" and "The Velveteen Rabbit" have charmed audiences annually and are mainstays of the winter and spring arts seasons. The company received the prestigious Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Award, or Governor's Award, from the South Carolina Arts Commission for artistic excellence for 1987-88.
His colleagues agree that Ivey's stamina and generosity of spirit drew out the best in his students and performers. Ashley Stock, a performer and teacher who worked as the associate director of the Robert Ivey Ballet said, "One of the many things that made Bob so successful is that he worked so well with everybody, and he made those who worked with him feel special. Many times he provided his students with connections to find dance work in places like New York."
Donations can be made to the Robert Ivey Scholarship in Dance at the College of Charleston Theatre Department, 66 George St. Charleston, SC 29424.
Eliza Ingle contributed to this report. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Editor's Note: Previous versions of this contained an error.