Family Works: Hokus Pokus Liquors: The House of Many SpiritsSeptember 2023
Southlake Theatre Expands SWLA’s Performance Arts OpportunitiesSeptember 2023
by Angie Kay Dilmore
Katelyn Chargois began practicing ballet at age five. Today, this savvy 27-year-old has crafted a successful career from the art of dance. In 2021, she opened the Dance Conservatory of Louisiana, where she teaches ballet, tap, Pilates and strength training. When parents began asking if their children would perform in productions, Chargois realized she needed to take her ballet business to the next level. “I want to give my students performance opportunities, but the arts aren’t always well-supported. It’s hard to put on the level of performance you want to put on without financial support. I opened a school, but if you want to produce large artful ballets, you need a non-profit.”
One year after opening her studio, Chargois assembled a board of directors and founded Bayou Ballet. The primary purpose for her non-profit is to grow the art of ballet within the community. “I want to flip the script on people’s conception of what ballet is. Ballet has an undeserved reputation that it’s ‘boring’. My goal is to get ballet out in front of people and show them that it’s athletic, it’s fun, it’s entertaining.”
Chargois and her board brainstormed ways to make that goal happen. They decided to create a short ballet production and present it to local elementary school students in the form of an assembly. “The days of selling out the Rosa Hart Theatre to school groups for a classical ballet performance are over,” she says. “So, I’m taking the ballet to them.”
To develop a show, Chargois connected with children’s writer Tommie Townsley, who has written and published numerous Louisiana-themed animal stories. Chargois chose Townsley’s book, Clyde the Cajun Calf. She adapted a few sections, sketched some costume designs and sent it back to Townsley for input. “Tommie loved the concept,” says Chargois.
For the musical score, she chose Aaron Copland’s Rodeo – a five-song series with a western vibe. “I wanted it to feel like home.” In addition to narrating and choreographing the show, Chargois also created all the costumes with some help from her friend and costume designer, Lauren Carmen. “Like many people involved in the arts, I’m very particular. I need control over the details. Tommie’s book, illustrated by Anne Dentler, is full of beautiful watercolors. I want the costumes to have that same feel. I want them to look like dance costumes, not theater costumes; and I want the dancers to look like dancers and embody the characters. I chose simple leotards that can be painted on. Characters include Clyde, of course, as well as sunflowers, cowbirds, and corn stalks.”
The ballet production is 22 minutes long and each assembly will last approximately 45 minutes. “I’ll start by having the students try some simple ballet moves,” says Chargois. “When people watch ballet, they often think it looks easy. We’re taught that a dancer’s job is to make it appear effortless. I disagree with that a bit. I tell my dancers we need to show them the difficulty, but not with our faces.”
Chargois says the show will present ballet to students in a way that’s connected to Louisiana culture. “It’s fun and exciting. It’s also good for my dancers to experience taking a show “on tour” and learn how to manage those potential challenges. I think they’ll really have fun with it!”
Clyde the Cajun Calf debuts in elementary schools beginning January 2024.