North Texas Giving Day | Chamberlain Ballet: The 90's
Proper stretching. Great foundations. Solid growth.
Chamberlain Ballet grew to have 8 professional dancers and ballet mistress Lisa Owen on staff during the 90’s. We danced all around the area. We were growing, spreading our wings. In 1995, our dancers took the stage for Celebrate Plano. I reached out to alumni John O’Malley. He and Michelle Elliman, artistic directors for Neo Labos, came to town for their company to perform. Their work earned them a place in Margaret Putnam’s top ten best dance events for the year.
Our student ensemble was keeping quite busy as well. Our growth manifested at the studio. Expansion in the early nineties gave Chamberlain Ballet expanded rehearsal space. The dancers broke in the new floors rehearsing works for festivals, productions, our annual performances at Temple Emmanuel, and even hitting their marks for what would become a major mural in downtown Dallas. We were growing, and those dancers put in the work needed to share the stage with the guest artists coming their way.
We grew after 1989’s production of The Nutcracker, and so did the arts community around us. By the mid 1990’s we had established our Nutcracker production through performances at Collin College’s John Anthony Theater. The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier were often company members or alumni of Chamberlain Ballet. As the college arts department flourished, their needs for the theater were matched by our production’s growth. We grew into McFarlin Auditorium and made ourselves at home.
To celebrate our annual holiday production’s new home, we began bringing in major guest artists with the Houston Ballet under the direction of Ben Stevenson. Janie Parker, Phillip Broomhead, Tiekka Schoolfield, and a fresh faced Cuban phenom named Carlos Acosta all graced the stage with us. Carlos talked about baseball with my son while we held curtain (for over 30 minutes) before the show. The line to see Carlos stretched around the theater.
Phillip Broomhead became a dear friend of our organization. Mr. Broomhead provided world class performance. He partnered with Chamberlain Ballet Principal Dancer Karen Hirst. He choreographed Coppelia on Chamberlain Ballet dancers and performed alongside them as Franz at McFarlin. In Coppelia, he was joined by Lauren Anderson as Swanlinda, and Dori Perez as Dr. Coppleuis. Phillip Broomhead is one I’m not quite finished mentioning, yet. Our growth in the 90’s included the former Houston Ballet and Royal Ballet principal dancer several times over, and I’m thankful for his continued relationship to this day.
Mr. Broomhead spearheaded an influx of world class dancers and instructors working with Chamberlain Ballet. Truman Finney taught summer ballet workshops at Chamberlain School of Ballet bringing awareness to the non profit company and honing the skills of several future professional dancers. Petter Jaccobsen staged an original ballet on Chamberlain Ballet dancers as he was beginning his career as Artistic Director for the Royal Swedish Ballet. His sister, a costume designer in Sweden, designed and executed the costumes for "Under the Sea” an original ballet commissioned by Chamberlain Ballet's Board of Directors. Evelyn Hart, ballerina with Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet, was a special guest artist for our Dances at a Gathering featuring student ensembles from throughout Texas.
1991’s production of The Nutcracker saw Chamberlain Ballet’s growth expand to outreach. Our first Community Connections performance opened up a vast new aspect of our organization. We were growing fast, and our outreach began to match as well. Under the guidance of Vivianna Lubertina, Chamberlain Ballet began its free after school dance program at the Douglass Community Center in partnership with the City of Plano in 1996. Community outreach and helping others was an important position held by my father, Morrie Chamberlain. We now have a scholarship fund in his name, and his spirit drives much of the soul of Chamberlain Ballet. My father was a fixture around our organization in the 90’s. He was in his 70’s then, but he was still trying to grow… even as a dancer in adult ballet. When he passed in late 1999, Chamberlain Ballet commissioned Lisa Hess Jones for a work in his honor. Its debut in 2000 was a seminal moment for Chamberlain Ballet. Lisa Hess Jones’ choreography shaped our Nutcracker beginning in 1996. It had been key to helping our production and organization grow.
As we grew, we reached out to more guest teachers. We aimed to expand the influences and experience from which our dancers drew inspiration:
Truman Finney (Summer Intensives)
Some of the results from our growth:
James Knight - Houston Ballet, Memphis Ballet
Armando Maldonado - Dutch National Ballet
Christy McKenney - Houston Ballet
Amy Schildnecht - Dallas Ballet & Siegfried and Roy - Las Vegas
Lola Stuart - Dayton Ballet
Colleen Swihart - Houston Ballet, Memphis Ballet, Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Düsseldorf, Ballett Rossa, (at Oper Halle), Halle-an-der-Saale
Christi Weindorf - Memphis Ballet
You hear about style being cyclical. This past spring, our dancers had photoshoots for our Focal Pointe production and other projects (such as our new website). We wanted them to be themselves. We wanted to be able to show you their artistic identity. We want them to continue to explore their artistic side. That’s how you grow. By the late 90’s, our program was bursting with creative artistic energy. It was a beautiful decade of dance. It forced us to grow. I’ll let you decide which decade’s style the current company seems to favor.
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.