Ballet company beginning at Lucretia’s

Published 9:22 am Thursday, November 24, 2011

A local dance studio is striving to offer a new full-time ballet company in Decatur County.

Lucretia’s School of Dance, located at 117 S. Broad St. in downtown Bainbridge, has routinely offered ballet classes but recently secured the help of two additional professional dancers to assist. The dancers, Natalia Botha and Charles Hagan, are from Tallahassee, Fla., and work at the SABA (Southern Academy of Ballet Arts) there.

“We have had 16 teenage girls on Saturday morning at 9 a.m. for an hour-and-a-half ballet class since the start of September,” said Tami Wester, artistic director of the new Decatur County Ballet Company. “Many of them were in the dance lines and were up late Friday night at football games and travelling from football games. That just shows how committed they are and how badly they want the opportunity to dance ballet.”

Wester said the plan is for the new Decatur County Ballet Company to hold its first board of directors meeting Dec. 4. After that, Wester hopes the company will be able to attract patrons and donors to keep it stable locally. She hopes that the company will be set to perform The Nutcracker again by December 2012, and possibly add more regular productions as well.

“I’d like to get this board going and get the community behind this effort,” she said. “We want to get it started so that we can keep the arts here in Bainbridge. There is a lot of talent right here in Bainbridge.”

Biographies of the guest instructors are as follows:

Natalia Botha, born in Pretoria, South Africa, began her training in Canada as a chosen scholar at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. At age 11, she was awarded a full scholarship for the summer to attend the Joffrey Ballet School in New York. Also on scholarship, and under the continued tutelage of her mother, Gwynne Ashton, Ms. Botha studied at the National Academy of Arts in Champaign, Illinois, training both in the United States and abroad with many world-renowned teachers of this century. She soon became a member of the National Ballet of Illinois.

To further her career, Botha joined the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 1976 under the direction of Patrick Frantz and later Patricia Wilde. During her tenure, she danced many soloist and principal roles of varied repertoire from the great classics (Giselle, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker) to original contemporary works by Alvin Ailey, Agnes de Mille, Domi Reiter Soffer and George Balanchine. Currently Botha teaches, directs and choreographs locally for Pas de Vie Ballet. Botha and her husband Charles Hagan staged Peter and the Wolf for Chattanooga Ballet in 2008. Most recently, and also for the Chattanooga Ballet, they staged an original work, Totem Motion.

Charles Hagan began his early training with Sylvia Watters in his hometown of Evansville, Ind. At age 16, he was awarded a full scholarship to attend the National Academy of Arts under the direction of Michael Maule.

After graduating from the Academy, Hagan joined the National Ballet of Illinois and in a short time became soloist. In 1978 he joined Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and in 1980 was named soloist. Because of his versatility in dance, mime, makeup and dramatic ability, Hagan was promoted to principal character dancer in 1985 — a title created especially for him.

During his tenure he danced all the principal character roles, along with many leading classical roles ranging from the “Blue Bird Pas de Deux” (Sleeping Beauty), “Pas de Trois” (Swan Lake), “Peasant Pas de Deux” (Giselle) and a variety of Balanchine repertoire.

On the administrative side, Hagan served locally, statewide and nationally for the American Guild of Musical Artists and as company manager for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre when they toured. In addition to his position as ballet master for Pas de Vie Ballet, he teaches locally, choreographs for and serves as ballet master for Ballet Theatre South and enjoys a second career as a piano technician.