Founder of the Charleston Ballet Theatre
Don continues to create many of the sets and costumes for the professional company and school. “Big D” teaches Kinderdance, Preballet and the Elementary Levels . Don trained at American Ballet Theatre and was a former dancer with Atlanta Ballet. Mr. Cantwell returned to his native Charleston in 1966 after pursuing his dance career with the Atlanta Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, ]offrey Ballet, and The Ballet Russe School. His number one goal has been to give South Carolinians a chance to enjoy quality dance. In the ensuing 45 years, he has realized and surpassed that goal.
Throughout his career, Don has served in a variety of capacities from dancer, to partner, to director, to scenic designer, to costumer. During his first years back in Charleston, Mr. Cantwell worked at the Civic Ballet with former soloist with the New York City Ballet, Stanley Zompakos. He expanded his talents from the stage to behind the curtain preparing sets and costumes for such favorites as The Nutcracker, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Snow White. During his tenure wth the CBT, he created a reputation for performing the classics as well as encouraging established and emerging choreographers in the creation of new works. He brought some of the nation’s most exciting dancers to Charleston Ballet Theatre and established the Charleston Ballet Theatre Centre for Dance Education which currently reaches out to hundreds of students each year.
The Ford Foundation once asked Balanchine what he most needed to do his work. Balanchine replied, “Karinska.” “Karinska”, a costume designer, was originally trained in embroidery. She came to New York with Balanchine, from Europe, to start the New York City Ballet. Balanchine and Karinska were paired for 43 years. Charleston Ballet Theatre equally has lived with the creativity of Don Cantwell’s breath of costume and design since the inception of the professional ballet company. He has left his imprint on every production, from his individualdesigns to his guidance on any current or new work each season. Charleston Ballet Theatre heralds his dedication and commitment to the production values the company upholds.