Columbia Classical Ballet's Star-Studded LifeChance

January 22, 2014
Free Times
Amy Overstreet


Saturday’s LifeChance performance at the Koger Center will feature guest artists from some of the nation’s most distinguished ballet companies, including the Joffrey Ballet, Washington Ballet, Boston Ballet and the Kirov Academy.

The performance — the 18th annual gala for Radenko Pavlovich’s Columbia Classical Ballet — grants dance devotees the unique opportunity to witness world-class ballet at the Koger Center. Furthermore, Pavlovich’s exceedingly talented male company members will premiere the new work Ursa Major by resident choreographer Simone Cuttino. Pavlovich also vows to delight the audience with a short, humorous number he and Cuttino created together. 

Though LifeChance has always attracted talented guest dancers, this is the first time it’s had dancers from Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet. Among them is 24-year-old Dylan Gutierrez, recently named among “25 to Watch” by Dance Magazine. Also from Joffrey, Jeraldine Mendoza is an award-winning California native, and was the first woman to graduate in the Russian course at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Company in Moscow. Gutierrez and Mendoza will perform an excerpt from LaBayadere.

Boston Ballet standouts (and brother-sister duo) Jeffrey and Lia Cirio return this year; for Jeffrey, this is the sixth appearance in the show. When asked what keeps him coming back, he explains, “It’s simple: I love Radenko, I love Columbia Classical Ballet, and the people involved with the company. I also love the audience in Columbia.” 

He will partner Boston Ballet’s Misa Kuranaga in the wedding pas de deux from Coppelia. Sister Lia and Boston’s Lasha Khozashvili will present a duet from the romantic ballet Giselle.

Returning from the Washington Ballet are Tamas Krizsa, Maki Onuki, and — last but certainly not least — Elgin native Brooklyn Mack. Krizsa is a former Classical Ballet member who joined the Washington Ballet in 2007. He will dance a pas de deux with Onuki and will appear in the self-choreographed Together Apart. A 20-year veteran of the ballet world, he says, “I love to express my emotions through dance, and it allows you to be whoever you want, and you can change that from role to role.” 

Many of those assembling at the Koger Center on Saturday night will attend simply to see homegrown star Mack. He will perform the Grand Pas from Paquita with 15-year old up-and-coming super-star Riho Sakamoto of the Kirov Academy. 

Pavlovich raves about Sakamoto’s exceptional talent and artistry. 

“She’s an old soul in a young body,” he says. She is absolutely unbelievable and she is going to be a superstar in the dance world.” 

The show concludes with the fiery Flames of Paris, featuring Columbia Classical Ballet dancers Kota Fujishima and Sakura Oka. 

LifeChance is Saturday at the Koger Center at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $6 to $33 and are available online at or by calling 251-2222. Each year, LifeChance donates a portion of its proceeds to a local charity; this year’s recipient is the Ray Tanner Foundation. - See more at: