Robert Ivey—beloved dancer, teacher, choreographer, artistic director, and friend—passed away on July 15, 2011. A memorial service will be held this Saturday, August 12 at the Sottile Theatre Credits: (Left) Courtesy of the College of Charleston Charleston School of the Arts; (middle & right) courtesy of Ashley Stock
August 10, 2011
A personal tribute to Mr. Ivey, whose contributions to the arts in Charleston and the Lowcountry are immeasurable
written by Mitchell Crosby
I first met Robert Ivey at a late-night cast party held on Elliott Street the summer of 1984. Having just completed final exams at the College of Charleston, I decided to involve myself in volunteer work, and the box office of Spoleto—where manager Dick Robison still used hard tickets, unlike the computer generated ones of today—was the place to be.
After seeing two shows the first day, I took in a midnight performance of the Fantasticks, which Mr. Ivey directed. At that point, I had not yet been to a Broadway show, but knew of its long run. The performance was magical. Later that evening, Mr. Ivey regaled me with stories about his time spent on Broadway, his love for West Side Story and the part he had played in it in New York, and his passion for dance and theater.
As a result of this conversation, I began thinking about taking a dance class at the college, if only for balance and exercise. How would this large, linebacker-built guy do at learning ballet? I met with Mr. Ivey, and he gave me confidence by showing me videos of Rudolph Nureyev, explaining how the great strength in his legs was ideal for jumping and lifting. We watched the rough Russian dance with Joan Fontaine, the frail and perfect swan.
I signed up for the class that same day and enjoyed two more semesters of it, making friends with such dance icons at Michael Conyers, Krista Westberry, Tony Roe, Anne Bebergal, Nan Jenkins, Doug Smoak, Lori Hull, Scott Schershel, Lori Thompson, and William Town. Many of them became lifelong friends, all as a result of the magic that Mr. Ivey made happen when he put people together.
All of the toughness that he exuded as a teacher, he balanced with his passion for life and beauty. Dining at his home was like being invited to a Broadway director’s house, with posters framed from various productions, signed photos of famous friends, and collections of wonderful objets d’art. I had never seen such an eclectic mix in my life.
In later years, I would run into Mr. Ivey at Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million, where he would read and have his coffee in between teaching classes. I also spotted him a few years ago at the farmers market during Spoleto with a group of students in the middle of the heat, directing away as if it were the most important event ever. At Christmas, friends invited me to see the Footlight Players production of White Christmas, and there was Mr. Ivey in the background, gathering the actors and working just as hard as if he were on Broadway. Just a few months ago, I saw him tootling along through the College of Charleston campus, looking like a celebrity because of all the people stopping to chat, say hello, or just give a hug.
From operating his ballet company and school to his involvement with Piccolo Spoleto from year one, from teaching at the college’s School of the Arts to art directing for the Footlight Players, Mr. Ivey seemed to always be there, making magic and changing lives. He had an exuberance for life, loved his children of the dance and stage, and worked hard at building careers and relationships. Anyone who let him in is a better person for knowing him. I know I certainly am.
In Loving Memory of Robert Ivey, a Memorial Service: Saturday, August 13, 2-5 p.m. Sottile Theatre, 44 George St., Charleston
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