Lake Charles Civic Ballet

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Posts Tagged ‘HB’

Interview with Adrian Durham

Guest Writer: Kelley Saucier, LCCB President

     Well, there aren’t that many guys at the ballet studio. The men are definitely outnumbered, but that hasn’t deterred 15 year old Adrian Durham. He’s at the studio as much as the girls, working hard and perfecting his craft.
     I’ve been around the studio a great deal during my time on the board, gotten to know the kids, but I realized that I had never talked to Adrian about how he arrived here. It turns out to be one of those stories you hear about in the movies about a movie. “I saw the movie Bojangles with Gregory Hines. After that, I started tap dancing all over the house. Margaret’s mom, Mrs. Lie, suggested I come to the studio to take tap. Then Lady Leah got me to be a Robot in Rudolph. That started my transition to ballet, and then I gave up tap.”
     Wow, just like that! Now Adrian not only takes company classes and rehearses 5-6 days per week, but he attended the Houston Ballet Academy’s 2011 Summer Intensive and has been accepted to attend the 2012 Houston Ballet Summer Intensive. That’s intense training! I asked him how he decided to audition that first time in 2011. “Well, Katelyn’s mom, Mrs. Rhonda, suggested it, and I thought, ‘Why not?’ I wasn’t really serious about it; I just figured I’d try. Then I got in, so I decided I should go. That was the turning point. I loved it. Before Houston, I liked ballet, but after Houston, I decided that is definitely what I want to do. I would like to get into Houston Ballet and stay there after I graduate from High School.”
     Houston Ballet has not only inspired Adrian’s dream for a future in ballet, but it really gave him an opportunity to work with more male dancers and to focus on those skills particular to their gender. He says it was perfect timing because he may not have gotten the parts he has for Sleeping Beauty and Rudolph without that training. Both performances have included partnering skills, and he was able to do quite a bit of that in Houston.
     In both Sleeping Beauty and Rudolph, Adrian partners with Julia Basone. He says that they are very comfortable with the partnership and have worked together quite a bit in the studio. Their Russian dance in Rudolph was certainly a big hit with Lady Leah Lafargue Hathaway, artistic director emeritus of LCCB. I was watching one of the performances with her when she asked, “Who is that young man?” I answered, and she got over the fact that the young Robot is now a young man, she said, “Well, we need to use him more. He knows what he’s doing!”
     And that is why LCCB is grateful for the movie Bojangles!
     Adrian is the 15 year old son of Pat and Arthur Durham of Lake Charles. He is a homeschooled sophomore. Adrian has trained for 6 years with Lady Leah Lafargue School of the Dance and Lake Charles Civic Ballet. In 2011 Adrian participated in the Houston Ballet Academy’s Summer Intensive and will attend again in 2012. Adrian has been in many LCCB productions, most recently sharing the stage with Julia Basone as Russian Dancers in the 2011 Rudolph production. They are pleased to be partnering in The Sleeping Beauty finale as Cinderella and Prince Charming.

Photos by Cameron Durham

Interview with Katelyn Chargois

Guest Writer: Kelley Saucier, LCCB President

    Some people are born to dance – that is so true for Katelyn Chargois aka Princess Aurora! This 16 year old home-schooled junior has recently been accepted to the School of American Ballet 2012 Summer Course. The opportunity is a dream come true for dedicated ballerinas across the globe, and the opportunity of a lifetime to get even better training for our local star. So, I asked her what her goals are. “Right now I’m looking at college programs. I would love to be a part of a professional company. I see myself having my own studio and helping other kids with the art of ballet.”
     Or, could it be that she has a future in costume design? One of the most fascinating things about Katelyn to me is that she is curious about every single part of a ballet production. When we visited costume designer Ray Delle Robbins at Theatre Under the Stars in Houston, Katelyn wasn’t just interested in how her Aurora costumes were going to fit; she wanted to know all about how tutus are made and got detailed instructions on how to make her own. She is also known for the being the best at sewing pointe shoes, “She’s the fastest and you can’t even see her stitches,” according to Adelaide Saucier.
featuring Ashley Eaves as Carabosse
     Perhaps her future will be in marketing? In her spare time, Katelyn has created most of the ads you have seen on our social media sites. I may be biased, but I think they are all beautiful and LCCB could not ask for better work from a “professional!” Again, she has taken the time to figure out most every aspect of marketing our organization.    
     With regards to the current production of The Sleeping Beauty, Katelyn and I discussed the role of Princess Aurora and how it is different from her previous roles with LCCB. “Usually I have a character with distinct emotion, but with Aurora I am not really sure. Is she flirty or like a little kid? Or like an adult? She’s majestic, but it’s complicated. In 2012 a 16 year old is definitely different from a 16 year old in the 16thcentury. Today you don’t get boys for your 16th birthday,” she says in reference to the suitors who come to Aurora’s 16th birthday party in Act I. “In Act I Aurora is young; she is royal but not snooty. In the finale, she is getting married, and is happy because the love of her life has found her.” Despite the pressure of having the title role, Katelyn is calm, relaxed, and very much looking forward to taking the stage next week.
   I am quite certain that no matter what direction this talented young lady pursues, she will be extremely successful!
     Katelyn Chargois is the 16 year old daughter of Von and Rhonda Chargois. She is a Home School Junior. Katelyn has trained for 10 years with Lady Leah Lafargue School of the Dance and Lake Charles Civic Ballet. She attended Houston Ballet Academy’s Summer Intensive in 2009 and 2011. She has been accepted to School of American Ballet (SAB) 20 12 Summer Course and Houston Ballet Academy’s 2012 Summer Intensive. Katelyn has been featured in many LCCB productions including The Flirt and Little Brother in Daguerreotype, Little Sister in Debut, Swiss and Mary in Rudolph. She will attend the SAB Course in New York City this summer.

On the lake photo by Cameron Durham / The Sleeping Beauty photo by Romero & Romero Photography

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.

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.

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.

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.

Lunch Break Is Over

 Photo by Katelyn Chargois

More Than Ballet

Photo by Brad Puckett / American Press

Lake Charles Civic Ballet has always offered its company members more. More than just an end of the year recital, the dancers enjoy precious opportunities to perform on the stage for the audience. In addition, LCCB provides dance students with a six-week summer intensive workshop taught by professional instructors from around the country. The workshop provides outstanding training for the serious ballet student. Dancers know how easy it can be to settle into comfortable surroundings—your regular studio, normal classes, that favorite instructor. For a dancer to gain full value from their ballet study they must stay connected. They must feel connected. Summer workshop can help the dancer reconnect. They walk into the studio like it’s new, try a different style of dance, and learn from instructors with different teaching methods. It’s exciting! It’s sort of like a metabolism boost for their dance study—infusing energy and excitement. Summer workshop for ballet students can provide hands on training into the world beyond dance. Lake Charles Civic Ballet dancers experience the big stage. They present full-length story ballets to large audiences, but that’s not all. Company members perform and work behind scenes in ways vital to the success of the performance. Everything imaginable from setup to cleanup becomes part of the dancers’ experience. The training, not always glamorous, develops the dancer. Not all dancers will become the principle ballerina in a professional company, but some may. Others may choose a career path they discovered while training in the company. The audience will eagerly embrace the talented professional ballerina and they will also need someone to design her fabulous costumes, run the complicated sound board, and plan that strategic marketing campaign to connect the audience to the arts.

Every year some of our company dancers attend summer workshops away from home. This summer a few of our members will attend Houston Ballet’s Summer Intensive program. Some of those Level 8 students can participate in career studies courses. Read what Jaclyn Youngblood, Academy Intern, shares about these students’ classwork.

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