Lisa Carter, joint director of CSU’s Dance Conservatory and the Columbus Ballet, is already looking to the future

acarlson@ledger-enquirer.comJune 12, 2014 

Lisa Carter, right, the new director for the Columbus Ballet, works with Paige Park, 18, in a Rankin Arts Center studio. 06.06.14

ROBIN TRIMARCHI — rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com Buy Photo

Eleven days.

That’s how long Lisa Carter has been working as the joint director of Columbus State University’s Dance Conservatory and the Columbus Ballet. And she already is thinking about the future.

Her first few months will be spent preparing the ballet’s annual production of “The Nutcracker.” By next year — once the conservatory’s new acrobatics and jazz classes are established — Carter hopes to see boys among her students.

In five years, she hopes the ballet could have its own full-time vocational school. It could be a feeder for a professional company.

It will — hopefully — mount more shows than just “The Nutcracker.” Something for spring, perhaps.

“I’ve never been to Columbus, but I was really blown away when I arrived, just the facilities and what there is on offer. ... And I kind of view Columbus as on the brink of going places,” Carter said. “So that’s exciting, to be part of that growth.”

Carter succeeds Maria Hirsch, who resigned at the beginning of the year.

Enthusiasm and getting the secret out

Carter has never lived in the South. She was born in South Africa and holds degrees from the University of Cape Town, the Royal Academy of Dance and Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.

For eight years, she was head of dance at Creighton and for five years, an examiner at the Royal Academy before a brief stint at a New Zealand conservatory that was derailed by what she called a bad business plan.

Then it was back to Omaha, where Carter had taught at Broadway at The Rose.

She said Columbus is a lot of things that Omaha is not — including warm.

Plus, unlike at The Rose, everything here is “ballet, ballet, ballet,” Carter said.

“I think (the conservatory’s) vision was very aligned with my vision,” she said of the application process, which began in earnest in the spring.

Jennifer Wellborn, president of the ballet’s board of directors, put it another way.

“Although we had applicants who, when they were asked pointed questions, had great answers, Lisa was the one with her own enthusiasm,” Wellborn said.

Wellborn said the ballet knows where it would like to go.

“Our motto was, ‘This is one of the best kept secrets in Columbus and we’re ready for the secret to get out.’”

Carter has expanded class offerings and will have a third studio at the conservatory’s home in the downtown Rankin Arts Center by August.

“So it’d be nice to have a good spring show as well, whatever form that takes,” she said.

Balancing the conservatory and the company isn’t really a balancing act all.

Carter said she expects the workload to shift between getting the courses finalized for the conservatory and checking out the sets from past ballet productions and becoming familiar with her new city.

“The Nutcracker” is still the cornerstone of the Columbus Ballet. That, too, requires Carter’s attention.

“Things get a little tired, and after five years you say, ‘Let’s retire these skirts and let’s have some new ones,’” she said.

Future springtime performances are still in the pre-planning stages, more possibility than plan.

Carter mentions “Coppélia,” or maybe two halves of different shows put together. Something modern, perhaps. Something short.

Wellborn said the ballet would like to collaborate more with local artists and groups. She said that Carter — South African; Nebraskan; a dancer, educator and administrator — will be like a “shot in the arm” for the community.

But boys in ballet?

As Wellborn will remind you, Herschel Walker did ballet.

”There’s definitely a lot of opportunity, I suppose. It’s just the time,” Carter said. “Finding time in the schedule.”

Eighteen-hundred-and-twenty-five: That’s how many days she has to work with in the next five years.

“I don’t think it’s too daunting,” she said. “Speak to me in a few months.”

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