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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

WELL FOUNDED

Carol Anglin Dancenter keeps dancers center stage around the world

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Carol Smitherman Anglin has been the director and owner of Carol Anglin Dancenter for 34 years and is also the founding artistic director of the Louisiana Dance Foundation. Her company has performed throughout America, Russia, Europe and Canada and this year celebrates 33 years in business and its 25th anniversary as Shreveport’s first and only regional ballet company.


Anglin began her ballet training with Joyce Newman in El Dorado when she was only 4 years old. “My parents put me in ballet because I was very shy,” Anglin said. “I had a wonderful dance teacher, and she had very global thinking. She was very involved in the national dance industry so she was a great influence. She brought in a couple of professional companies and brought in guest teachers, and I remember those things really inspiring me.” 


When Anglin was 11, her family moved to Chicago, and she was accepted into Zaki Labovsky’s School of Ballet. “Zaki Labovsky changed my life,” Anglin said. “My first teacher had given me point shoes, and she said, ‘no, no, no, no, no, no, no …’ And she took them away for two years. I had to fight to get them back. I learned what hard work was about. There was also a lot of international influence there. My art teacher was from the Art Institute of Chicago. My dance teachers were from the professional world, and my piano and flute teachers were with the Chicago Symphony.”


The dance community was very small when Anglin moved to Shreveport and started her dance school in 1982. “Shreveport has a huge visual arts community and a huge performing arts community,” Anglin said. “But there was a big emphasis on competition, and a lot of parents wanted their kids in competitions with trophies and ribbons. That’s big business now, but we were one of the first studios in Louisiana that started going to conventions and competitions back in 1983. My friend Joe Tremaine, who is a resident of rural Louisiana outside of Monroe but is now one of the biggest stars in Holywood, encouraged me to get my students out of Shreveport so they could see what dance was outside of this area.” 


“It was all very different back then,” she said. “It was more education-based. We went to national finals and we won our trophies, but the main thing was that when we showed up at these conventions, we were different. Our dancers were more ballet and modern-trained, and their judges and faculty always recognized my students for their clean training and for their professionalism.”


“We formed the Louisiana Dance Foundation as a presenting organization, and we began to regularly present regular companies,” Anglin said. “We had master classes and residencies and took these artists into the public schools so that more students could benefit from what we were bringing in.”


The Louisiana Dance Foundation has presented the summer dance festival for 33 years. “We have people from 14 different states and countries who attend regularly,” Anglin said. “All of that exposure has helped our dancers understand that they can’t rest on their laurels, that there is a big world out there, and if they are going to be competitive for college scholarships or professional dance careers, it has to start at a very young age, and it has to be continuous.”


Anglin’s favorite dance genre is ballet. “I absolutely love classical ballet and classical music, and that’s where my heart is,” she said. “I never liked Modern Dance, and then I was thrown into taking a master class with Alvin Ailey Company and I thought, ‘oh, my, what is this?’ Ballet is so disciplined and so vertical, and Modern Dance, well, it’s not.”


“When we brought in the Alvin Ailey Company the second year I was here, we did a master class to plant the seeds for bringing in the company,” Anglin said. “That’s where I met my artistic partner and friend for life of 33 years, Dianne Maroney-Grigsby. She was the assistant artistic director of the Alvin Ailey Second Company. She performed all of the principal roles. She was why I really embraced Modern Dance.” 


Anglin received the 2004 Regional Dance America/SW Stream Award for outstanding artistic direction; artistic growth and excellence; and commitment to the Regional Dance America movement. She has twice been a SRAC Artist Fellowship recipient, and her choreography has been selected for Regional Dance America/SW Gala performances, Tanzsommer Innsbruck Galas in Austria, performances in Russia, and at several Jazz Dance World Congresses in Chicago and Washington, D.C. She has received choreography awards from many institutions including the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.

Yet, Anglin is most proud of her work here at home. She has produced more than 500 master classes, workshops and professional performances in Shreveport, but she is all about the students. “Most people like to brag that they’re the biggest, but I take great pride in saying I’m the smallest school in Shreveport,” Anglin said. “I am able to personally teach every child in my school. I only have 125 students, and I teach all 43 classes a week.”


Dozens of Carol’s students have pursued college dance or professional dance careers including Ashley Murphy, former principal dancer of Dance Theatre of Harlem, NYC, who is now principal dancer with The Washington Ballet in D.C. “Ashley was scheduled to go to medical school, and we brought in Dance Theatre of Harlem and partnered with the Strand,” Anglin said. “I asked her parents if she could take just one more class, and I got it set up where she could take company class with Dance Theatre of Harlem. She’s been with Dance Theatre of Harlem since 2002, and she became their principal dancer. And now she’s the highest-paid principal dancer with the Washington Ballet.” 


“I’ve always had a multi-cultural school,” Anglin said. “The students come from different socio-economic backgrounds. That’s the beautiful thing. Everybody can progress and have equal opportunities. We have many students who have been able to pay for college with scholarships.”


“For example, Rachel Ericson just got back from London, where she spent over a year completing her master’s at the Laban Institute,” said Anglin. “She is dancing professionally in New Orleans. Brandy Coleman is another professional with the Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, which we had brought in from Chicago. She had just become an apprentice and was on stage at the Strand Theatre, and that night the director introduced her as the newest member of Jump Rhythm. So she made her move to Chicago, and she’s been there since 2001.”


Like other former students, Coleman regularly returns to Shreveport to mentor other students. “We just took her choreography to the The Ballet Bons Temps Festival in Baton Rouge,” Anglin said.


“When we got to the festival, there were 25 companies and three nights of performances, so we performed on the first night with Brandy’s piece, ‘What We Do with Time’,” Anglin said. “The second night we watched the other companies and the kids took classes all day long with an international faculty, and then, the third night was the big gala. We were one of nine companies chosen to perform.” 


Another special part of Anglin’s life teaching dance is that she has trained and danced with all three of her children. “My daughter, Bailey Anglin, who is with Ballet Austin graduated from the Kirov Russian Ballet Academy in Washington, DC,” she said. “Then she was with the Richmond Ballet and now Austin. She’s about to make her big move to New York. She just auditioned for the Alvin Ailey First Company, and she got narrowed down to the finals.” 


On May 21, Louisiana Dance Theatre will return to the Strand Theatre where the company has performed for 33 years. “We try to educate people about the importance of what we do,” Anglin said. “The child is so important, and if you don’t do anything but help them with self-confidence and self-esteem, you’ve given them a foundation.”

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