THE END OF A LONG RUN

The Island Packet - - Front Page - BY DAVID LAUD­ERDALE dlaud­erdale@is­land­packet.com

Me­chanic Bob Min­nicks’ 30th year in the Hil­ton Head Dance The­atre pro­duc­tion of “The Nutcracker” will be his last.

By day, Bob Min­nicks is a me­chanic.

By night, at this mag­i­cal time of year, he’s Dr. Stahlbaum.

He swirls across a stage, in a world so dif­fer­ent from work that it must seem like a dream, and in fact is a dream filled with pink tu­tus, snow queens, lit­tle girls as pe­tite snowflakes and rowdy boys danc­ing with golden swords.

This is his 30th year in the Hil­ton Head Dance The­atre pro­duc­tion of “The Nutcracker.”

Fri­day night, the show will open for the 34th time since artis­tic di­rec­tors John and Karena Brock Car­lyle founded the Hil­ton Head Dance School. Karena had been prin­ci­pal dancer of the Amer­i­can Bal­let The­atre, and John had stud­ied and per­formed in New York City.

No­body could have dreamed that it would play out this way.

Min­nicks will leave his com­put­er­ized bay at the Hil­ton Head BMW ser­vice cen­ter to join a cast that at one time, many years ago, in­cluded his own lit­tle girl, Au­tumn.

He will be joined on the Sea­hawk Cul­tural Cen­ter stage by the chil­dren of chil­dren he danced with years ago.

But it’s com­ing to an end for Bob. The six shows this week­end and next week­end will be his last. Over all the years, he’s missed only one per­for­mance.

“I think it’s time,” he said.

But surely, come next Novem­ber, he’ll look into his 10-by-6-foot chest with $100,000 worth of tools that make high­per­for­mance cars roar, and his mind will drift over the candy canes to the Land of Sweets, the cloud an­gels and the Dew Drop Fairy.

FAB­RIC OF HIL­TON HEAD

Min­nicks is 67. And he’s still an ex­treme cy­cler, or at least that’s what I call some­one who rides a 17-pound car­bon fiber Trek bi­cy­cle 150 to 200 miles a week to train for races of 60 to 100 miles with a team of much younger peo­ple known as Hil­ton Head

Velo.

He came to Hil­ton Head as a ma­chin­ist schooled as a jour­ney­man in Lans­ing, Michi­gan. He came to re­pair boats at Skull Creek Ma­rina, and later worked at Tom Gould’s shop, and then the Ki­gre com­pany and for the past 16 years the BMW deal­er­ship, where he is a mas­ter tech­ni­cian. Five times, he’s won BMW’s Pro­files in Achieve­ment award, some­thing that only 27 peo­ple na­tion­wide earn each year.

But then there’s this other world.

“He first ap­peared as the Mouse King, made an ap­pear­ance on 4-foot stilts as Mother Gin­ger, and for 25-plus years has played the part of Dr. Stahlbaum,” said Lori Fin­ger, who chairs the Hil­ton Head Dance The­atre board.

Her daugh­ter, Katie Gi­rardi, grew up danc­ing in the com­pany, and now Katie is back as bal­let mis­tress and her lit­tle girl, named Karena, is in “The Nutcracker.”

Such is the sweep of life that Min­nicks has seen in the “con­trolled chaos” back­stage, where girls help other girls who are slightly younger, from the Sugar Plum Fairy down to the “baby mice.”

“Over the years,” Fin­ger said, “Bob has had a se­ries of wives — Paula Hart, Mary Cole­man, Kelly Og­den, Karena Brock­Car­lyle, Justine Hale Milo­sev, Jenny Zmar­zly, Mcken­zie Carter and my daugh­ter, Katie Gi­rardi.

“He has played fa­ther to count­less Maries and Fritz’. His ca­reer has spanned per­for­mances at the Com­mu­nity Play­house on Dun­na­gan’s Al­ley, 15 years at the Arts Cen­ter of Coastal Carolina, and now six years at the Sea­hawk Cul­tural Cen­ter.”

The lo­cal pro­duc­tion has touched thou­sands of lives.

TCHAIKOVSKY ON WHEELS

Ads in the “Nutcracker” pro­gram help tell the dancers’ story.

Par­ents and grand­par­ents use these words to de­scribe their dancer: com­mit­ment, pas­sion, ded­i­ca­tion, hard work, de­ter­mi­na­tion.

“The girls have got­ten stronger,” Min­nicks says. “The eas­ier they make it look, the bet­ter they are at it.”

It’s not easy for him any­more. He’s cut back on his bi­cy­cling, in part be­cause his friend Dr. Jeff Garske was killed rid­ing a bi­cy­cle on a 10-foot shoul­der of the Cross Is­land Park­way, in day­light, from be­hind, by a drunken driver. And, in part, it’s be­cause now he can do a full day’s work or a full evening’s bike train­ing, but not both.

He stuck with “The Nutcracker” be­cause he likes to be around kids. “You can tell,” he said, “be­cause I had six of my own.”

He likes what it teaches the kids.

“Ev­ery­one is help­ing each other, and I think that’s ex­tremely im­por­tant.

“It’s a level of dis­ci­pline you don’t get in school. I think you get it in some sports.

“It just gives them a poise about them­selves later in life.

“You’ve got to trust your part­ner — that’s im­por­tant.

“It keeps them out of trou­ble.”

Be­fore his kalei­do­scope goes dark on all the pageantry and hu­man drama, he’s seen scam­per­ing on tip­toe to the sound of Tchaikovsky, Min­nicks laughs. There’s one more thing he’s learned over the years.

“No­body’s here to watch me,” he said.

MARIE NICKSA Sub­mit­ted

Bob Min­nicks plays the part of Dr. Stahlbaum in the Hil­ton Head Dance The­atre pro­duc­tion of “The Nutcracker.”

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