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Lion King of Mali ballet coming to Coastal Carolina

January 18, 2006

Columbia City Ballet will perform a new ballet, The Lion King of Mali, in Coastal Carolina Universitys Wheelwright Auditorium on Thursday, Feb. 9 and Friday, Feb.10.

Performances are at 7 p.m. both days. Tickets are on sale at Wheelwright Box Office for $20 adult general admission, $5 children under 18, and free with Coastal ID.

Based on an 800-year-old West African legend, The Lion King of Mali is a story of courage, determination and good versus evil. Sundiata, a prince of Mali, is imbued with the spirits of the buffalo and the lion. He is to be the greatest king of Mali, despite being the kings youngest son and unable to walk or talk. Sundiatas rightful ascent to the throne is thwarted by his fathers first wife, who wants her own son to assume the throne. Through many years of hardship, Sundiata grows strong and royal, and he saves the kingdom of Mali from the evil invader Sumanguru, restoring peace and justice to the land and ruling benevolently for many years.

The story was the inspiration for Disneys animated feature, The Lion King, according to William Starrett, executive and artistic director of the Columbia City Ballet.

My goal was to give a more realistic depiction of the story, showing that this was a real event that happened to real people, said Starrett.

Starretts choreography infuses classical ballet with traditional West African movements creating an energetic, athletic and stirring atmosphere on stage. To complement the movements, Starrett drew music from both traditional and more current sources. Its a very interesting process because we will be layering traditional African music from the Malian region with current techno-tribal music, which is heavily influenced by the traditional music, said Starrett.

The production will star soloist James Atkinson in the title role. Carl Askew will play Nare-Famakan, King of Mali. Piper Harris, Robert Michalski and principal dancer Jose Serrano will also have prominent roles. Columbia City Ballet member Jordan Samuels, 10, stars as the young Sundiata. Principal dancer Paunika Jones plays the role of Nala in her first performance with the company. Jones comes to the Ballet from New Yorks Dance Theatre of Harlem, where she was a principal dancer.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call 349-2502.