'Roar of Love' ballet strengthens family bond

McKinney and son Seamus take a minute during rehearsal to play.



The 27th annual performance of The Roar of Love is a family affair for the McKinneys.

For months, J.J. McKinney and four of his six children have set aside time to rehearse for the Columbia County Ballet’s rendition of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The production will be at 1 and 5 p.m. Saturday, March 24, at Bell Auditorium. Tickets cost $25 for adults and $20 for children, students, seniors and military personnel with ID from www.columbiacountyballet.com.

“I like being on stage,” said McKinney, who is playing Mrs. Beaver. “It looked like a lot of fun watching it from the audience.”

McKinney, of Martinez, joined the cast last year after seeing his daughters, Melanya and Olivia, dance in the ballet, which is based on the Easter story and follows four young siblings as they explore a world full of mystique and enchantment.

Melanya, who will play both a flower fairy and a bat, has danced for six years at the Martinez ballet studio.

“I like it because it’s hard and sort of makes me feel like I can do anything,” she said of dancing.

The 12-year-old isn’t the only one with a love for ballet.

Her 8-year-old sister, Olivia, is playing the part of a fairy sprite in the performance, while brothers Renwick, 6, is a ghoul, and Seamus, 4, is a ghoul understudy.

“We have to look scary … and attack people,” Renwick said.

The Roar of Love features 300 dancers at Ron and Kathleen Jones’ ballet studio.

Each year, the production seems to attract families, both as performers and members of the audience, Ron Jones said.

“It’s become a tradition that is a rich one that families can share together, and it just enhances their Easter experience,” he said.

The ballet experience, Jennifer McKinney said, gives her sons an opportunity to do something different and her daughters a chance to bond with their father.

“I’m just in awe of what they all do” said McKinney, who is not part of this year’s production.

J.J. McKinney, who runs long-distance marathons, said he’s realized that dancing can serve as an intense workout.

“I invite anyone who has sons to get them involved,” he said. “It’s definitely a version of strength training that’s good for young boys.”

Along the way, McKinney said he’s also learned quite a bit from his girls.

“It gives my daughters an opportunity to teach their dad a few things,” he said. “I have to ask their advice a lot.”


WHAT: The Roar of Love, presented by Columbia County Ballet and BeStill Displays

WHEN: 1 and 5 p.m. March 24

WHERE: Bell Auditorium

TICKETS: $25 adults, $20 students, seniors, children, military with ID; www.columbiacountyballet.com