Lake Charles Civic Ballet

Elastic and Tulle

Photos by Cameron Durham

LCCB performed The Sleeping Beauty ballet in 1995 with new costumes and sets. The costume creator for the performance was Costume Designer Ray Delle Robbins. Recently our company returned to Houston—back to Ray Delle so she could revive her creations to their beautiful beginnings. With help from Bobbie Grizzle who has labored beside Ray Delle for over 20 years, the women silently measured and pinned and wrote notes on small tan cards. Many alterations will be needed for over fifty costumes worn by the lead characters in the ballet.

Ray Delle recalled our original order for The Sleeping Beauty ballet as clearly as if it were yesterday. During her inspection of the costumes on this visit, she found the fabrics and designs still fresh and beautiful, but the tulle skirts and the elastic shows were in need of repair. While she worked with each dancer she answered our questions about her career and her job at Houston’s Theatre Under the Stars.

She began her education as an art and drama major, but quickly realized she liked to eat more than she liked to perform so she earned her teaching certificate. After teaching school for seven years, she worked for 17 years with Houston Ballet in the wardrobe department. For the last 25 years, Ray Delle has been the Costume Shop Manager at TUTS; although her title may change from show to show. Ray Delle manages three shows for TUTS theatre each season. Traveling shows featured at TUTS and her own contract work, fill in her free time. During our fittings, Ray Delle received a visit from her prop man and set man. It was quickly apparent they are a close theatre family as they greeted each other with bright smiles and hugs.

Ray Delle spoke of her ‘spells’ with certain colors and explained how her costumes show her love for a color during certain periods in her career. She easily recognizes her creations by the fabrics and her stitching. Ray Delle Robbins will be adding to LCCB’s The Sleeping Beauty extensive costume collection with new costumes for King Florestan XXIV and the Queen, Prince Désiré, Bluebird and many, many more. We are now accepting Sponsor memberships, and individual ticket sales will begin later in the year. Visit our website at www.lakecharlescivicballet.com to reserve your seat at the ballet and witness the splendor of Ray Delle’s work up close and personal.

50 is the New 30

by Rhonda K. Chargois


Southwest Louisiana doesn’t have a professional ballet company to claim as their own. The closest thing we have is a visit from the Moscow Ballet and their Nutcracker sponsored by a local ballet studio. We are fortunate to have our own civic ballet—Lake Charles Civic Ballet. LCCB dancers are students. For the most part, they are middle school and high school students, with a few college students and professional dancers that participate regularly in class and in performances.
Our company dancers are connected. Not that they come to class every afternoon and visit with everyone face to face. They’re connected online. They interact with friends, family, teachers and brands through Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube; they read and create blogs like Tumblr, Blogger, or WordPress. Smart businesses will meet these younger consumers where they hang out if they expect to be noticed by them and have an impact. Most ballet companies are smart. LCCB wants to connect. We may be over 40, but we’re acting much younger. I guess you could say we’re fighting our age. 
In our efforts to stay young and connect with new ballet fans, we have become much more social. No, we don’t visit in class, but we are connected with people and businesses through social media outlets. We are a nonprofit arts organization which means we are supported by a limited budget. We depend on the support of grants, sponsors, and volunteers. And just in case you didn’t notice—social media is cheap, but it isn’t easy.
Facebook should be fairly easy, right? Twitter is different and may take more time to understand if you’ve never tweeted. Blogging moves into more work. Flickr, YouTube, Foursquare, they all have something fun to offer to a company looking to ‘get social’ on a budget. It’s like an addiction. You add one social account, and the next thing you know you’re adding another and another. But remember, every account has to be updated, monitored, and actively used, or you may as well remove the word ‘social’.
I’ll admit. When my own children were younger I was against social media, but once my children were old enough to become ‘social’ it became my job as a parent to monitor their activity. As I monitored, we learned together the best ways to connect with the good and stay away from the bad content online. Now that I’m 50 which we all know is the new 30, I can connect with the younger generation. Connecting for LCCB means sharing what’s happening inside The Ballet and what’s happening in ballet outside our community. The Nutcracker is great Christmas fun, but ballet is so much more.
Our Social Media Team has a mission to track down the most current online ballet information and discussions. We want to share that information with our dancers and anyone else who may be interested. We want to share the links to our favorite blogs and Facebook Pages on The Ballet blog soon (just as soon as I learn how to do that—Jjk). Some ballet companies have beautiful websites, informative blogs loaded with eye catching photos, and they’re connected with social media in every way imaginable. Other companies are stuck back in a time warp before there was social media.
Last week I heard a mature woman exclaim she would be coloring her hair until the age of 100. Lake Charles Civic Ballet has a group of volunteers who believe our company is a valuable addition to our community and the world of ballet. Connect with us, and let’s be social. We’ll be the elderly women with colored hair staring at our smart phones and clicking away on our laptops.

Inside the Wardrobe: Part II

The Houston Ballet Wardrobe Department occupies a good portion of the second floor in the new downtown Center for Dance. Bolts of fabric, costume accessories, and racks of ballet costumes are just a few of the staging areas inside the wardrobe. Wardrobe Manager Laura Lynch moved our small group of visiting moms past the ballet bibles to an office space reserved for guest designers and local artisans. This area provides their guests with ample office space complete with desks, work surfaces, and plenty of storage space to work side by side with HB wardrobe staff.
Just past the guest office space in the northeast corner of the wardrobe is the Spray Room and the Dye Room. Where some tutus are designed to be spray painted to give them a distinctive color and shape many times the fabrics are dyed. The Dye Room houses several washer/dryer sets with one set reserved just for dying fabrics. In the corner of the room stands a restaurant grade food vat used to heat the dyes to a higher temperature for those hard to dye fabrics. There is a separate hot water tank to serve the high demands of this room. Laura explained the multiple techniques used to clean ballet costumes. The techniques include hand wash, machine wash, dry clean, and ozone treatment. Dry cleaning is the hardest on costumes because the chemicals break down the structure of a costume and the fabric. Ozone treatment is more costume friendly. Houston Ballet has plans to install an ozone facility on the premises. Costumes are routinely spot cleaned with a fine mist of straight vodka. Most of the moms had never heard of this technique.

the thread wall in ‘notions central’

Anyone in Houston would love to have the views designed into this building. Walls of windows surround this end of the department. One of the most colorful spots in the costume area is called ‘notions central.’ Here you will find trimmings, buttons, beads, and spools of thread in every color imaginable. ‘Onie’ White, wardrobe volunteer, shared her bead story with our group. During a rehearsal for Marie one small area of beading broke loose from one of the costumes scattering the beads across the stage floor—a potential safety hazard for the dancers. Onie was given the job of removing all the beading from the costume so the beads could be reattached in a more secure manner. By the time she finished her job, the beads filled a large hat box. Everything on stage is larger than life.
Cutting and sewing requires light and power. The wardrobe department has power brought into the room from the floor and the ceiling. Several outlet locations are necessary to run the commercial sewing machines and irons. Here is where Laura says the design could have been improved. If the electrical outlets in the ceiling had been installed on tracks, the space would be more versatile. I don’t think anyone is complaining about that one small error in design. Scraps of thread and run away pins are always a safety concern so no slippery floor tiles in the wardrobe—concrete floors throughout. AFA Code requires one dressing room be handicap accessible, and fatigue mats are standard equipment in every dressing room since dancers can’t stand still for 
longer than 15 minutes per fitting. That must be a union rule.

 theatrical wardrobe cabinet


Only costumes for the current jobs are housed inside the wardrobe and the Academy Summer Showcase was on the books the day of our visit. The wardrobe department has moved three times over the years, but the bulk of the costume and prop inventory remains at HB’s warehouse location. The warehouse offers some climate controlled space and houses costumes, props and scenery for the company’s extensive repertoire.
One table in the wardrobe held two partially constructed costumes for Cincinnati Ballet’s all new Nutcracker. Laura’s department is one of only a few professional ballet companies that ‘job out’ work in the off season. This generates income for their department and work for local artisans. Laura shared her complex system for scheduling contract workers around a ballet season. It is extremely important to stay on budget, but also to provide enough work to attract the local artisans. Laura answered all our questions and shared many helpful tips such as where to buy practice tutus, how to clean and care for our purchases, and career opportunities in the arts.
Just a few days later Laura Lynch was seen entering the dance lab to attend one of the performances of the Academy Summer Showcase. She was just another guest—to most, but a few of us seated in the audience knew differently. Our small group of moms will forever remember the day we were invited inside the wardrobe.
Many thanks to Houston Ballet, Laura Lynch, Onie White, and Debby Brown for inviting us inside their new home at the Center for Dance in downtown Houston, Texas.

The Dancers and the Maestro Meet

Photo by Cameron Durham

It’s not easy to enter the Rosa Hart Theatre via the loading dock door during a July deluge, but somehow, photography equipment, costumes, dancers, Lady Holly and Bohuslav Rattay, the charming new conductor of the Lake Charles Symphony, made it. The purpose? A publicity photo shoot for the March 2012 production of The Sleeping BeautyMaestro Rattay kindly took time out of his busy Summer Pops schedule do the shoot with LCCB principal dancers. Bohuslav  (Bo Hu slav, dancers discovered it is pronounced with the accent on the second syllable) is, as Katelyn Chargois put it, “cool.” He is at ease in front of the camera and jokes around on the set. The dancers enjoyed getting to know our new conductor. 
And what about those yellow sneakers? To honor Bohuslav, the girls showed up in colored Converse All Stars, only to discover that the Maestro’s famous footwear is actually a brand called Diesel. He says they are very comfortable.

Photo by Cameron Durham

While on set, Maestro Rattay told me that he is excited about conducting the Tchaikovsky score. Although he has worked with ballet companies in the past, this will be his first time conducting The Sleeping Beauty.
Talk about a busy schedule! Conducting the Lake Charles Symphony is not the Maestro’s only job. He is currently the music director of the Muncie Symphony Orchestra, Ball State University and has a busy guest conducting schedule. Rattay is originally from Prague, Czech Republic, so he also spends time in Europe. Bohuslav has said many times that he loves the people and the culture of Southwest Louisiana, and is most happy to be here. In a recent email conversation he shares, “I am eagerly looking forward to working with the young dance talents of Southwest Louisiana and foreseeing that this production of The Sleeping Beauty will awaken the Lake Charles arts community….. “ All involved believe that when combined, the talents of these two distinct organizations create an electrifying synergy greater than the sum of its parts and will add to an already lively arts season in Southwest Louisiana.

LCCB can’t wait to meet with Bohuslav and the rest of the Lake Charles Symphony orchestra in March. Mark your calendars for Saturday, March 17, 2012 at 7:00 PM. You won’t be disappointed!

Kelley Saucier
2011-2012 LCCB Board President

LCCB Season Sponsorships are available now, and include tickets to The Sleeping Beauty. Call Kelley Saucier at 337-513-5808 for more information. You may also visit the website at www.lakecharlescivicballet.com.

Lake Charles Symphony Season Memberships are also available now. For more information call their ticket hotline at 337-433-1611 or visit their website at www.lcsymphony.org.

Summer Intensive Is Over: Interview with Three LCCB Dancers

Photo by Cameron Durham / Studio Two

Three Lake Charles Civic Ballet (LCCB) company dancers Marietta Campagna, Adrian Durham, and Katelyn Chargois had ‘intense’ summers. All three dancers participated in a classical ballet summer intensive workshop. Marietta has been a Lady Leah Lafargue School of the Dance (LLL) student for almost 10 years. This is her second year as a LCCB dancer, and her second Summer Intensive (SI) with LCCB. 

Adrian started his dance career five years ago with LLL and has been a LCCB company dancer for three years. This year Adrian auditioned and was accepted to Houston Ballet Ben Stevenson Academy 2011 SI. Therefore, three weeks of Adrian‘s summer was spent with LCCB and three weeks with HB in their new Center for Dance. Adrian has now completed five SI’s.
Katelyn recently received her ten year certificate with LLL. She has been a LCCB company dancer for five years and has just completed her seventh SI. Katelyn auditioned this year for Joffrey Ballet in New York and Houston Ballet. She was accepted to both programs, but chose to attend Houston‘s SI. Katelyn attended all six weeks at HB’s Center for Dance. This was Katelyn’s second visit to HB for summer training.

Photo by Cameron Durham / Center for Dance

LCCB caught up with the three dancers to ask them some questions about their SI experiences. A simple interview sounds like it should be easy enough, but these dancers have been busy all summer, and with their upcoming season, it doesn’t look as though it will slow down anytime soon. Below is our question and answer session with the dancers.

LCCB: It’s customary for students to record all corrections given by instructors. What corrections during your SI did you find most beneficial?
Marietta: The corrections most helpful for me were to pull up and to stretch my foot instead of just pointing it.
Adrian: I received two important corrections this summer—while at the barre I have to adjust my core to keep my balance instead of using the barre to keep the balance for me; and there are times when a dancer doesn’t know a step so you need to rely on yourself instead of just following someone else.
Katelyn: I found the corrections on turns to be the most beneficial. We really worked on our body positioning this summer. When you turn you have to hold your core muscles and breathe. One of the main corrections that helped me with my turning was to think of having a short stomach and a long back. 

LCCB: Our company ballet class includes barre exercises and center work to develop proper technique. Tell us how summer intensive was able to develop your ballet class experience and dance training. 


Marietta: During the summer intensive classes we learned new and different combinations which helped me to improve a lot.
Adrian: My studio in Lake Charles has only a few male dancers. In Houston, I had the opportunity to work with a large group of guys. With the larger group, there was a healthy competition between us, and I was able to let my personality come out working with a group of guys.
Katelyn: During regular season your class time is shared—learning technique and choreography. You have more time during summer intensive to break things down and work on the details of your technique. Since there is more class time each dancer gets more individual corrections, too.

LCCB: What were your favorite classes taken this summer?

Marietta: It’s really fun to learn something new so my favorite classes this summer were musical theatre and jazz. I had a lot of fun in those classes.
Adrian: (without hesitation) Weight training—I learned the proper technique for a male dancer. I have used weights in the past, but this summer I realized I wasn’t really working correctly.
Partnering—this class helped me to understand each partner’s responsibility. We are a team, and we have to work together.
Katelyn: My favorite class this summer was Composition Class—we called it comp. I loved this class because you use your ballet training, but comp is an improvisation class. As an assignment, we had to choreograph our own dances using improvisation. Improvisation gives you freedom. In ballet, you’re trained to do steps a certain way—holding your core and pointing your toes. In comp class, you use your ballet training, but you change the order of the steps to make them your own. It really helps dancers to step outside the box and have a little freedom with their dancing. Dancers need this freedom in order to be less tense and more fluid with their movement.



LCCB: How did you feel about the class offerings and instruction by multiple teachers?
Marietta: Multiple teachers really helped me a lot in learning to focus. The instructors all had different personalities, but they were all really fun to work with so I liked the variety of dance and instruction.
Adrian: With a group of guys, we had classes that were focused for the male dancers. My view of barre has new meaning. Before this summer, I felt it was just something we had to do, but now I understand the need to warm up properly and to prepare properly for center.
Katelyn: Having a variety of dance classes helps me be more relaxed in ballet, and learning different dance styles makes you better prepared for a dance career. 
One of the best things for me was working with the different teachers—you don’t have the repetition of having the same teacher every day. Every teacher sees different corrections to give a dancer. Sometimes they even have a different terminology for the steps. It’s good to learn from a variety of teachers so you can learn to take instruction from anyone.

Photo by Cameron Durham / Studio 540
LCCB: What would you say was the most interesting class instruction you received during your SI training? Explain.


     Marietta: I really liked jazz class because my teacher taught us the
     differences. Things like instead of turning out, you turn in and you stay
     in plié for your turns—really good technique in jazz.
     Adrian: My family eats healthy, and I know about eating a balanced 
     diet. Nutrition class was creepy for me because of the photographs of 
     people with eating disorders.
     Katelyn: I would have to choose Pas de Deux Class—which is 
     partnering. At my studio, we don’t have a lot of partners to work with 
     in class, and it’s good to have the experience working with different 
     partners. Your partners can be all different sizes and strengths and 
     you have to be able to work with all of them. This summer our pas 
     teacher emphasized expression in our dancing. That’s always 
     embarrassing when you’re working with a guy that you don’t really
     know, in a room full of students watching you dance, and you have to 
     give expression to your partner and to the music. It really has to flow 
     and look like a pas de deux. That’s one of the hardest things to 
     do—to make it look beautiful.
This year Lake Charles Civic Ballet has put together an exciting season. During December, they will perform Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for school groups as well as a matinee and a gala performance for the community. In March 2012, Lake Charles Civic Ballet will perform a full-length ballet The Sleeping Beauty accompanied by the Lake Charles Symphony in the Rosa Hart Theatre. The training that Marietta, Adrian, and Katelyn gained this summer plays a big part in their preparation for such a daring season.

Pictured in photos from top to bottom: 

past and present LCCB company members – Megan Richard, Addie Saucier, Katelyn Chargois, Adrian Durham, Gabby Saucier, and Marietta Campagna

Adrian Durham and Katelyn Chargois

Adrian Durham w/ other HB SI students

Inside the Wardrobe: Part I

Photo by Katelyn Chargois / fabric bins in Houston Ballet Wardrobe Department
During the last week of Ben Stevenson Academy 2011 Summer Intensive, a select group of moms were given the opportunity to peer inside the wardrobe department of Houston Ballet. Located on the second floor of their new home downtown in Houston Ballet Center for Dance, the Wardrobe Department is expertly managed by Laura Lynch. Laura provided our small group of visiting moms with an insider’s view of ballet wardrobe and costumes. She shared information on the department’s organization, their attention to detail, and the reasons for the bare beauty of their new space. Many thanks to Debby Brown, ‘Onie’ White, and Laura Lynch for sharing their ballet home with us, and this rarely seen view of a professional ballet company.
In a smaller market, a wardrobe department runs with mostly volunteer labor, but a professional company “must” depend on a hired work force. Laura’s team consists of only one volunteer, Hermione ‘Onie’ White, and Onie considers her work in the wardrobe department a labor of love. She shared several of her own personal stories relating to the wardrobe, but one experience appeared particularly special. With instruction and assistance from a visiting designer, Onie constructed her first tutu out of scraps of tulle. Admittedly the adventurous project challenged her skills. Following the designer’s hand drawn sketches and working for over 500 hours on her creation, Onie gained a true understanding and respect for those who work in the wardrobe and costume industry. 
Houston Ballet’s wardrobe department is made up of many different areas each with a specific purpose. There is a shoe wall—no pointe shoes here. HB has a special Shoe Room for pointe shoes. These are all decorative shoes and boots created for the many character costumes. The photo above shows the bins that hold bolts of fabric used by the department. There are rolling tutu trees, library shelving filled with boxes of costume accessories, and many staging areas reserved for precise needs. Along one wall are the Ballet Bibles—one for every ballet. Each bible contains the details for every piece necessary to recreate a costume. Swan Lake has four separate bibles of its own. Onie told us about the Stitch Bible. The book contains directions and details to sew or repair any costume. The directions are very specific. To replace a missing button you must reference details such as the button location on the costume, the fabric, and the stitch to use. If you do not follow the bible details, then you must remove your work and begin again. The strict attention to detail required by the department is one of the many things that makes their business such a success. 
A wardrobe department is truly a magical place. The full-time staff and contract artisans of Houston Ballet work behind the scenes, but their talents are seen by all of us who share a love for ballet and the theatre. We will have more to share on our visit Inside the Wardrobe: Part II.

An Occasional Fairy Tale

Guest Writer: Ashley Eaves, LCCB Principal
“Once upon a time,” is a familiar saying for everyone. Growing up, all of us have imagined what it would be like to fly like Peter Pan or to be the beautiful princess awakened with a kiss from her handsome prince. Storybooks and fairy tales have impacted the lives and imaginations of children for many generations and shall continue to have relevance for those to come. I remember imagining what it would be like to meet the characters from these stories such as the menacing evil villain or the kind fairy godmother.
Today, as a dancer with the Lake Charles Civic Ballet, I am allowed to put a face to these remarkable characters. Recently, several dancers and I were able to dress up in the costumes from The Sleeping Beauty ballet for storytime at Central Library located in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The children were fascinated as Lady Holly told the tale of The Sleeping Beauty as the ballet dancers tiptoed their way into the hearts of the audience. I was dressed as the evil fairy Carabosse. The children and parents were astonished at my wicked costume, mystified by the Lilac Fairy, and enchanted by the beautiful Princess Aurora.
Needless to say, it was an occasion that made me realize none of us are too old for fairy tales and storybooks.

Costumes Set the Stage

In just a few weeks, our company members will travel to Houston for costume fittings in preparation for this season’s The Sleeping Beauty. That kind of trip for our pre-professional company members, especially in today’s economy, represents a commitment to provide the best for our dancers and our community. For most of our dancers, this will be their first experience working with a professional costume designer. Lake Charles Civic Ballet, on the other hand, has a long history with the woman who created many of the costumes living in our attic.

New costumes for TSB will be created and old ones altered by their original designer, Ray Delle Robbins from Houston Ballet and Houston’s Theatre under the Stars.  Although you may not hear her name mentioned with the same regularity as those who perform on the stage, Ray Delle’s talent is just as valuable to the success of the performance. Her beautiful costumes have made many appearances in LCCB performances over the years and are a lasting testimony to her talent. Those who have been around The Ballet mention her name as if she is one of the family. It will be exciting to introduce our young dancers to this woman. She and the dancers together transform the stage into the world of the character.

QR Reader and Codes

Soon you will see a QR Code in print from Lake Charles Civic Ballet. We thought a little explanation might be helpful for those of you who have not run across one of these 2-dimensional boxes, or maybe you have and did not know what they could do for you.

How to use a QR Reader from Shannon S. on Vimeo.

Not Just Another Walk in the Park

 Photos from 2010 Alzheimer’s Walk ‘Team Lady’

Guest Writer: Chelsey Orr

Alzheimer’s disease affects many individuals and their families, but often gets overlooked because it progresses slowly and its victims can survive many years with it. Just because these victims can live with the degenerating disease does not mean that the impact it has on the individual and their family is any less than those who suffer from cancer or heart disease.

            My mother, Lady Leah, has accomplished so much in her lifetime. Whether it was through her many friendships or her creative imagination, she could bring a smile to anyone’s face. She always put her best foot forward and truly brought life and enjoyment to every ballet she created and that we still enjoy to this day.

            In an extremely tragic turn of events, this wonderful “Lady” that worked so hard and had such an incredible imagination, ended up with this horrible disease. It is sobering to think of this beautiful woman and her equally beautiful mind being struck with such a horrible fate.

            When something this tragic hits so close to home, the need and desire for action becomes much clearer. It is for Lady Leah and the millions of others that are affected by this disease that we are raising awareness and funds to help cure Alzheimer’s and keep it from being the “Forgotten Disease!”

            For more info on the Alzheimer’s Walk and the group set up for Lady Leah join our facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/groups/231518163536443?ap=1 or contact: Chelsey Orr (337) 304-0059