Friday, May 18, 2012

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Interview with Ashley Eaves

Guest Writer: Kelley Saucier, LCCB President

     Everyone loves the bad guy. Think about all of the movies you’ve seen where you are rooting for the villain, enjoying yourself and then think, “Oh, wait Heath Ledger is evil right now.” Then you go back to rooting for Bat Man. You may have a similar experience when you watch Ashley Eaves as the wicked Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty.
     The beautiful Miss Eaves is quite tall, model tall, so when she goes up on pointe in her fantastic costume she is quite imposing. Her height is a fabulous asset as she brings her character to life in a really big way. Believe me, you are going to love her, even though you’re supposed to hate her. Ashley and I talked about how she creates such a vivid character. “I was in the drama club at Merryville High School. I was always cast as a larger than life or obscure character. We did musicals, and in musicals you must be animated. I played lots of characters, like if there was a crazy old lady, I’d be that. I researched on YouTube a lot for this role. I watched Royal Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet. Seeing others helped. Lady Holly’s version is different, but I am able to draw from the energy of those who have created Carabosse in the past.”
     The role of Carabosse is incredibly physical. I am worn out just watching so I asked Ashley about what it takes to get through it. “It’s a heart-pounding cardio thriller! I think Lady Holly tried to see how much she could put into 4 minutes of choreography. It’s good because it’s so challenging, but I’ve got 4 minutes to change the whole story. I’m the antagonist, so if I don’t do a good job then the audience won’t understand the curse and why Lilac is so important. I hope I make it come to life. I hope people see the contrast between Addie (Saucier/Lilac) and me; that she is good and I am evil and that really comes across.”
     Carabosse spends most of her 4 minutes menacing the Royal Court of King Florestan, so we discussed the give and take on the stage. “I love interacting with Damien (Thibodeaux/Catalabutte) and Mary and Joel (Werner/King and Queen). When they come to life with their characters the more comfortable I am being the Mistress of Evil. It’s been especially good this week being in the theatre.” I have to say their interaction is one of my personal favorite parts of the ballet. They are all so believable. So, when you come to see The Sleeping Beauty, you will definitely see great acting!
     Run – do not walk – straight to the Civic Center Box Office to buy your tickets if you haven’t already done so. Trust me; you do not want to miss seeing Ashley as Carabosse. She is so much fun to watch. Dynamic, gorgeous, and thoroughly entertaining – you are going to love to hate her!

     Ashley is the 21 year old daughter of Sharon and Darrell Eaves of Merryville, Louisiana. She is a senior accounting major at McNeese State University. Ashley began her dance training in Merryville as a tap dancer. She has studied dance for 19 years, four of those being ballet training at Lady Leah Lafargue School of the Dance in ballet. In her short time at LCCB, Ashley has had many feature roles including Mother in Daguerreotype, Miss Scarlet in Clue, Hawaiian and Japanese in Rudolph. Ashley teaches tap and Jazz at Lady Leah Lafargue School of the Dance.

Profile photo by Cameron Durham / Dance photo by Romero & Romero Photography

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Interview with Adelaide Saucier

Guest Writer: Kelley Saucier, LCCB President

     So let me introduce you to my eldest daughter, Adelaide. I can’t believe that she will be graduating from High School this May! It’s because of her that I am here writing all of these ballet company interviews, spending all of my time at the theatre and talking to Lady Holly 100 times a day. She had just turned three when I enrolled her in ballet class because that was what everyone else was doing. In third grade she quit other activities and said, “This is what I want to do.” It was her choice. I had no intention of being a ballet mom, having never spent any time at the barre myself. Yet here I am, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
     Adelaide has the great fortune to play Lilac Fairy, Queen of all the Fairies in The Sleeping Beauty. I asked Addie what the challenge is in being Lilac. Her answer: “What isn’t the challenge of Lilac? There are super challenging steps throughout the ballet. I have to be a leader and act regal, queenly. It’s fun. I am really enjoying it and it has helped me to improve as a dancer. My partnering skills have improved immensely.” In Act II, Lilac has a long partnering sequence with the Prince, Drew Anderson. Adelaide and Drew have been partners many times and I asked about their relationship. “Lady Holly says he calms me down and I give him confidence. It’s a great relationship. We are like brother and sister, and it translates well in our partnership. We have a lot of trust in each other.”
     Lilac Fairy is one of the leads of the ballet and she is in all four acts, so Addie and I talked about her stamina. “I am going to need about two gallons of water pre-intermission and two gallons post intermission, and I will be sucking oxygen in the wings. In Act I, the Birthday Party Scene, I am on pointe the whole time doing all of these bourres. It seems and appears easy, but it is so tough, and I have to look calm and pretty. There can be no tears. We have established levels of difficulty during Sleeping Beauty. The dancers have developed a code and hand gestures to express those levels as part of our comic relief. It’s ‘Fairy Bonding.’ Those bourres are a HIGH level!”
     Kisler Hathaway Whitworth, assistant rehearsal director, daughter of Lady Leah Lafargue Hathaway, artistic director emeritus, has been an important part of the training process for Sleeping Beauty. Addie says, “Kisler has really helped everyone so much, she has put so much into it, she’s great. She’s super positive. If you’re having trouble with a step, she just looks at you and can tell you how to fix it. I know that there is no way I’d be doing my variations as well as I am without her help. She’s really funny and a ham. She’s performing in the ballet and she’s still got it; she’s a pro.”
     Adelaide is grateful for the opportunity to perform a full length ballet with the Symphony with the amazing costumes and sets, and especially the growth as a dancer. This has translated into some great choices for her future – so where will she go to college? “I am still undecided. I am just excited to have choices. But wherever I am, dance will be a part of my life.”
     I said at the beginning of this piece that I am grateful too. For 15 years it has been my joy to watch Adelaide and Gabrielle enjoy the art and discipline of classical ballet and to participate behind the scenes. I never would have imagined my life as a ballet mom, but I have had the most fun being a part of LCCB. Adelaide made a great choice for herself, and for me. I think she will continue to make great choices in life. Who knows where she will lead me next.

     Adelaide is the 17 year old daughter of Kelley and Luke Saucier of Lake Charles. She is a senior at St. Louis Catholic High School. Adelaide has studied ballet for 15 years, the last 10 with Lady Leah Lafargue School of the Dance and Lake Charles Civic Ballet; in addition she has participated in summer intensive workshops at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Dallas Metropolitan Ballet. Over the years, lead roles in LCCB productions have included The Flirt in Daguerreotype 2007 and 2010, Clemmy in Once Told to Me, Mary and Snow Queen in Rudolph. She also was a part of the 2004 cast of Petrouchka with the Lake Charles Symphony. Adelaide is still deciding where she will attend college next year, but has been accepted to dance programs at Chapman University in Orange, California, Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas where she is an alternate for the Nordan Fine Arts Scholarship, and has received a Loyola Scholar Award to Loyola University in New Orleans.

Profile photo by Cameron Durham / Dance photos by Romero & Romero Photography

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Interview with Julia Basone

Guest Writer: Kelley Saucier, LCCB President

     I can tell you from hanging around the studio and theatre, that dancers are most definitely athletes. The beauty and grace you see on stage has a lot of blood, sweat and tears behind it. No pain, no gain? You bet! I have seen more bloody bruised toenails on these dancers’ feet than I ever did when I was running marathons – note the past tense. Not to worry, Julia Basone is part of the Sleeping Beauty cast and she brings with her some very special skills learned during her time as a trainer for the St. Louis Catholic High School athletic teams.
     Most everything Julia has learned as an athletic trainer has been useful in treating herself as a dancer-athlete. “I have learned how to tape wrists and ankles, how to use ice packs, the correct heating pad temperature, when to use heat and when to use cold. It has also been great because I want to go into physical therapy for my profession.” While Julia mostly works with the football teams, she spends the entire school year in athletic PE where she treats any athlete who may need assistance, basketball players, soccer players, you name the sport. I asked her if she could see a connection between ballet and football, “Yes. In ballet, your technique has to be perfect and we learn patterns in choreography. That is sort of like their plays on the field.”
     Julia and I talked about her roles in The Sleeping Beauty, Fairy of the Songbirds in the prologue, and Cinderella with Adrian Durham in the finale. “There has been a big transition from the summer. This has been a year of growth because of the amount of work that has gone into the parts I wanted. It’s the biggest year yet! I initially wanted Annabelle’s (Bang) part and Annabelle wanted mine. We had a bet that she would get the part I wanted and I would get hers – and that is exactly what happened.” I asked her about the difficulty of her fairy role, also called Canary Fairy, because it is so quick and bird-like. “If I miss one step, I could be done. I have to hear every single note and stay with it. The jump is awkward, but it has become natural to me. My pointe work is so much better now.”
     Julia’s partnership with Adrian Durham, Prince Charming to her Cinderella is very comfortable. Although they learned the choreography later than their other parts in the ballet, it has been easy and they are having a lot of fun working together. They are frequent partners in the studio and shared the stage in the Russian dance during Rudolph this past December.
     So what does it feel like now that opening night of The Sleeping Beauty is almost here? “I am happy because as a ballet company we are stronger. Everything has come together so nicely. I feel like I am coming out of my shell because this is my first solo and I’m glad I have the opportunity to do it. I am excited to work with the Symphony, and if they happen to slow down Canary, well, don’t tell Lady Holly, but I won’t complain.” Funny, Julia – we know you can handle the tempo beautifully and we can’t wait to see it on Saturday night!

     Julia is the 15 year old daughter of Robin and Sigmund Basone of Lake Charles. She is a sophomore at St. Louis Catholic High School. Julia has trained for 11 years with Lady Leah Lafargue School of the Dance and Lake Charles Civic Ballet. She has participated in many LCCB productions, but especially remembers being harnessed and flying away as the Balloon Girl in Carnival in Venice 2010. Most recently Julia played the Kari Doll and Russian Dancer in Rudolph 2011. 

Profile photo by Cameron Durham / Dance photo by Romero & Romero Photography

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Interview with Gabrielle Saucier

Guest Writer: Kelley Saucier, LCCB President

      Well, I might seem a bit biased with this interview, because as you all know by now, I am a proud ballet mom. Even if she didn’t belong to me, I would think Gabby Saucier is pretty special.
     This has been a fabulous year of growth and progress for Gabby in ballet. She played the lead in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in December, 2011. This is a pretty big deal because age 13 at that time and in the 8th grade, she is the youngest lead for Rudolph ever cast. In addition to that, Gabby is the youngest main dancer in the production of The Sleeping Beauty. She plays Fairy of the Enchanted Garden in the prologue, friend to Aurora in Act I and The White Cat in the finale opposite Lake Charles native turned New Yorker William “Billy” Ward who performed for 26 years with the New York City Opera. Gabby is a couple of years younger than her fellow fairies.
     Gabby and I talked about her upcoming roles in The Sleeping Beauty. Being a fairy is quite different from the character roles she is used to, “[Fairy of the Enchanted Garden] is pleasant and graceful. The changes in her character are not as overt, she is more consistent.” Gabby says that being a fairy is fun and she is close friends with her fellow fairies. Although the role has been challenging it is all coming together, “I’ve grown as a dancer and gotten better.”
     The role of The White Cat is one that Gabby really wanted especially because her favorite part about dancing with LCCB is portraying a character. “When we went to Houston Ballet last year to watch their Sleeping Beauty I said, ‘I want that part!’” The pas de deux of The White Cat and Puss in Boots is always a crowd favorite because it is full of comedy. This is Gabby’s first time partnering. She had the opportunity to work with Billy Ward, LCCB’s Puss in Boots, a little bit this summer, which was great. “He is so nice and funny, and really tries to make me feel comfortable. The lift is challenging for me because I have a hard time remembering to lean back, but I’m getting it.” It’s also nice that Billy is finally here in Lake Charles for performance week, “It is fun to act with someone because you can feed off of the other person, and Billy is good actor.” I asked Billy if he has anything to say about working with Gabby, “I'm excited to dance with Gabby; her playful charm and talent match her sweet nature, and she's a perfect White Cat! Gabby also has the ‘adorable factor,’ that would make any guy in his right mind want to share this role with her. She's attentive and eager to take advice and apply it quickly to our partnership. It's a great gift to me when a dancer has no ego and rehearsals flow and become what dance really should be: shared joy. I think when this is all over I'm going to feel a little sad..”
     I think we all will feel a little sad too, Billy. 

     Gabby is the 14 year old daughter of Kelley and Luke Saucier of Lake Charles. She is in the 8th grade at Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School. Gabby has performed in numerous LCCB productions, and fondly remembers her debut performance in 2001 as Raggedy Ann in Rudolph. Gabby recently starred in the title role of Rudolph in the 2011 LCCB Christmas performance. She has studied ballet for 12 years, the last 10 at Lady Leah Lafargue School of the Dance and Lake Charles Civic Ballet. Gabby also participated in summer workshop at Dallas Metropolitan Ballet in 2010.

Top photo (with Ray Delle Robbins) by Cameron Durham / Dance photo by Romero & Romero Photography

Monday, March 12, 2012

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

Sunday, March 11, 2012

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 16th century. 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

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Interview with Marissa White

Guest Writer: Kelley Saucier, LCCB President

     Books, barista, ballerina, bed.  Put another way: school, work, studio, sleep. That is how our busy Fairy of the Crystal Fountain, Marissa White, spends her time. As the manager of Joe Muggs coffee shop in Books-A-Million she works about 45 hours per week. Add to that 12 hours of class at McNeese, plus rehearsals at the ballet studio, there is no doubt that Marissa is an expert in time management!
     Marissa’s family has been a part of LCCB from the beginning. Her grandmother, Debi Buras White, founded the company with Lady Leah Lafargue Hathaway in 1968. Over the years the legacy has included many members of the White family; Marissa’s parents, aunt, uncle, sister and cousins have all performed in LCCB productions. Only her brother escaped the stage – it seems Marissa had no choice and lucky us, because she is beautiful!
     I sat down with Marissa to talk about her upcoming roles in The Sleeping Beauty, Fairy of the Crystal Fountain in the Prologue and Princess Florine in the Finale. First, we talked about Fairy of the Crystal Fountain in the Prologue. “The challenge for me is to remain fluid with my arms and continuing the movement. The arms are doing something completely different from the feet. It’s like a river, moving water and fluidity. My costume represents water. I really wanted the part of the Crystal Fountain.”
     Marissa then explained the role of Princess Florine. “Princess Florine is Prince Desire’s sister. She had been trapped in a tower and a blue bird freed her by teaching her to fly away. I imagine that while I’m dancing.” Playing the role of Marissa’s blue bird is David Sanders of Dallas, Texas. David and Marissa danced together in 2008 when David spent a summer here in Lake Charles working with Les Jordan of North Central Ballet.  That connection is the reason David will be joining the LCCB cast of Sleeping Beauty. Marissa says the partnership is going well. “David really works to make me look good, and gives me a lot of security. He’s a big actor and has a big personality. I have to work to match that, so that’s the challenge for me. Also, he’s 6’3” and I’m 5’4”, so I have to dance big. It’s been fun and really nice to reconnect.” In the finale, the beautiful Princess Florine and Blue Bird are guests at the wedding of Princess Aurora and Prince Desire. They dance a beautiful and difficult pas de deux.
     So is Marissa showing any signs of fatigue with her hectic schedule and the big performance looming? No, not at all; as she says, “I stay organized and have my routine.” And now, if you need a good latte, you know where to go!

     Marissa White is the 21 year old daughter of Judy and Mike White. She is a junior accounting major at McNeese State University and manager of Joe Muggs coffee shop. Marissa has trained for 16 years with Lady Leah Lafargue School of the Dance and Lake Charles Civic Ballet. She has been a featured performer in many LCCB productions including Spinster in Daguerreotype, Snow Queen, Reindeer, and Arabain in Rudolph, and Colinda in Louisiana Saturday Night. Marissa hopes to own her own coffee shop one day.

Profile photo by Cameron Durham / Dance photo by Romero & Romero Photography

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Foundation For Life

My name is Billy Ward, and I'm proud to have started my life in dance at Lake Charles Civic Ballet.

My sister Rebecca danced with Lady Leah from as early as I can remember. Lady's son Bill was a childhood friend of mine, and one day, my brothers (Clay & Norman) and I were enlisted by Bill to work backstage. As we were tying a giant backdrop of Oak Alley to a pipe, readying the stage for one of Lady's signature ballets, she walked out of the darkness of the upper stage-right wings. She was pure raw energy; you could feel her presence moments before you saw her. Until that day, I'd never met this tiny, confident, beautiful woman. 

She introduced herself: "Hello, I'm Lady Leah, director of the Lake Charles Civic Ballet. Thank you so much for helping us." Wow! She was the stuff of old southern lore. A lady in all aspects, and the director! I was speechless, which was normal for me at that point in my life, as I'd been diagnosed with an extreme case of dyslexia. I still don't care much for the word failure, but the fact is before that day, I was a failure. In my childhood, defeat after defeat left me a shell, a numb and frightened kid who didn't care about learning. I didn't even want to try anymore. How many times could I take the blame for not applying myself or being lazy? The moment I met Lady Leah, I guess God intervened! 

Lady walked up to me and asked me to take off my shoes and point my foot. Just like that, right out of the blue! I thought, this Lady is nuts! Anyway, you didn't say no to Lady Leah, so I took off my shoe and mimicked what I thought a pointed foot was. She looked at me and said, "You have to be a dancer."

I thought; get me out of here quick! No way am I going to do this stuff. I like being around beautiful girls in leotards, but I'm not dancing! Well, the next thing I knew, she had set up a class to teach some of the guys - including my brothers - to learn to lift the girls and to do a polka, in case she needed us for a ballet she was choreographing called Buckskin Believers. In class she started sneaking in a ballet step or two. I remember jumping across the floor with my brothers as Lady counted out the music for us, screaming, "Jump boys!" I was stunned at the joy and camaraderie I felt, doing the step and sharing it with my brothers. It felt right to use my body like this, in a centuries-old art form I was doing without too much difficulty.

About a week later, I showed up for the class but guess who didn't? All of the other guys! I grabbed my backpack and tried to get out of the room without Lady seeing me, but she nailed me, saying, "Billy Ward get to the barre between Missy and Renee and do what they do."

I left Lake Charles the next year with a full scholarship to the 2 best ballet schools in America! If it weren't for Lady being the force of nature and the complete "total theatre" experience she is, my life may have taken another turn. I owe her everything; I learned to believe in myself because of her support and excitement in my dancing. I thank her every day and know even now, as I am still dancing with the New York City Opera, that my wonderful life, my joy, was uncovered for me by her. 

Thank you, Lady, for dreaming and telling me daily you knew I could do it! Nothing is impossible...