North Texas Giving Day | Chamberlain Ballet: Life and More Since 1984
Muscles, feet, even boundaries… they all get stretched. Stretching is a foundational aspect of every dancer’s life. The feeling of pushing through a stretch, to the point where your muscles release, is a unique reward. Released endorphins flooding your body are just a taste of the excitement you feel on stage when you’ve laid bare your heart and soul for an exuberant audience. The audience reacts because you’re able to show them just how determined you have been. You’ve worked hard. You’ve been dedicated. You’ve stretched.
We dancers love to stretch.
Memories can be the ultimate of stretches. You would think it were difficult to stretch back through 35 years of events, but this is an easy stretch. I remember it vividly.
May 1984, I was something years old (we’ll say -8 since you can do math). I had a ballet obsessed 2 year old toddler, and I was staring down the path of an early August due date. As a young current and expectant mother, my thoughts were where they should have been. I wanted my kids to be able to dance. I wanted to grow artists. I wanted to help change my community for the better. I’m lucky all three of my children have embraced the arts whole heartedly, but back then I was actually thinking of the wonderful dancers I had in my 7 year old ballet school.
I just wanted my students to dance, and the solution became Chamberlain Ballet.
Since that very first day, May 11th, 1984; Chamberlain Ballet has been a not for profit organization dedicated to providing our community’s aspiring young artists a stepping stone from the studio into a professional career.
The original performing company had 8 members, and we got to work. We stretched. Throughout the 1980’s, we pushed ourselves to dance as much and as often as we could. We performed at the opening of Collin Creek Mall. We provided summer concert series for young children at the Civic Center in Richardson, TX. We danced at the opening of Whole Foods on Belt Line Road in Richardson. We were decades ahead of that trend. There were numerous local festivals. There were also numerous 4th of July concerts, in collaboration with the Richardson Symphony Orchestra, at The University of Texas at Dallas.
Our premier performance was at the Plaza Theater in Dallas. The late, wonderful, Margaret Putnam wrote for the Dallas Times Herald:
“What it takes is a point of view, fresh choreography and some talent. Artistic director Kathy Chamberlain supplies all three… Chamberlain has groomed her dancers to excel at neo-classic ballet, with all the demands it makes on speed, attack and an open unfettered, clean look.” - Feb 19, 1985.
Those kids, they could dance. Many of our company members from the 1980's accomplished the original goal of Chamberlain Ballet. They used our stepping stone to professional careers, such as:
John O’Malley (ABT2), Kate Dowe (Beauty and The Beast/Broadway), Liz Jackson (Ballet Oklahoma), Brian Guilliaux (Tulsa Ballet).
This past season, our performing company had grown to over 40 members spanning multiple levels. These kids, they can dance. Many have just gotten home from studying at prestigious ballet and dance institutions across the country and internationally. Others stayed home and honed their skills with Chamberlain Ballet’s artistic staff of former professionals with companies such as NYCB and San Francisco Ballet. I am incredibly proud of these dancers’ work, but there’s always room to grow and build upon your foundations.
In 1989, we closed out the decade with a production which had a tremendous impact on growing Chamberlain Ballet in the coming decades. We partnered with the Richardson Symphony Orchestra in presenting The Nutcracker at Richardson High School. There was a historic snow and ice storm on opening night, but the auditorium was packed. We performed The Nutcracker 11 times in the Richardson and Garland communities that year. Those kids could dance. They stretched, and people came to see them.
Today, our performing company’s young men and women are poised for an incredible 35th anniversary season. They kick off the season, at Dallas Dances, with a Chamberlain Ballet staple, Veni Emmanuel choreographed by Lisa Hess Jones. Then they start the process of preparing to perform The Nutcracker alongside NYCB Principal Dancers Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle. We’re getting back to work. We have a full schedule of productions, festivals, training and outreach. Their artistry is growing, and they know they need to do one thing:
Thank you for your time and support.
We hope your support will help us stretch further.
Every week until North Texas Giving Day we will be telling our story through the decades from the 80’s, 90’s, 00's, 10’s, and beyond. Please get up and give to the arts and support North Texas organizations.