By Scott Keepfer
Tajh Boyd has had his share of experiences on the big stage.
The 2013 Orange Bowl, a 2012 bowl victory against LSU, and the 2011 Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game, to name a few.
But rest assured that the former Clemson University quarterback will be considerably more nervous Thursday night when he makes his dancing debut at Greenville’s Peace Center in the production “The Nutcracker: Once Upon a Time in Greenville.”
“I’m absolutely more nervous here,” Boyd said. “At least in football I’ve got a helmet on and wear a visor sometimes, and a jersey and shoulder pads. Out here though, if I roll my ankle it’s a different level. I don’t want to fall down the stairs or anything.”
So is he intimidated by the prospect of three performances in a two-day period in front of a packed house at the Peace Center?
“No, honestly, seeing the preparation that goes into it, I don’t think that you can be anything but confident when you step out there,” Boyd said. “That’s what rehearsal is for. You want to put the best product on the dance floor.”
Boyd assures he will be wearing his artistic face rather than his “game face” during the Christmas-themed ballet, which opens Thursday at 7 p.m. and will continue with two presentations on Friday, at 1 and 7 p.m.
Boyd and his dance partner, Leslie Haas of Greenville, will perform a traditional waltz during Act I, or “The Party Scene.”
Herman Justo, artistic director for Carolina Ballet Theatre, said his goal was to maintain the traditional integrity of the tale while modernizing the narrative a bit – hence, Boyd’s appearance.
“It’s great for us to have a local hero,” Justo said. “My Nutcracker is about Greenville. The actual novel is set in Nuremberg (Germany), but I moved it to Greenville.
“It is still traditional, but in some parts I take the freedom. It will appeal to everyone, and there are parts of the narrative where you can say, ‘Ah yes, I’ve been in that situation before.’ ”
Marie Blough, president of Carolina Ballet Theatre, said the production will include more than 150 dancers and 12 professional dancers from Carolina Ballet Theatre or other companies.