Overheard as principal dancers Gabby Saucier and Annabelle Bang were leaving the studio: “Nancy is so awesome!” “She really is.” When asked why, they answered: “She is so supportive and empathetic. She gives great corrections and is really nice about it. She understands. She always says things like, ‘I remember what it was like,’ and ‘that was hard for me too when I first started learning it.’ She makes you feel good. She’s just great!”
This fifth installment in our Assemblé 2014 blog series describes why Cinderella is a labor of love for Nancy Sensat Higginbotham and why LCCB is lucky to have her back. Tickets go on sale February 11 and are available at the Civic Center Box Office or www.ticketmaster.com . See Assemblé 2014 March 22 and 23 at Rosa Hart Theatre!
By Nancy Sensat Higginbotham
Helping Lady Holly stage Cinderella has been one of the most amazing things I have done in the theater. I started taking ballet in 1969 with Lady Leah, and my mother started making many of the costumes. Some of those costumes are the same ones we use today. Because of that, I was always exposed to many of the behind-the-scenes activities associated with LCCB. I can remember watching Ms. White and Lady Leah as they discussed how the costumes needed to be put together and trying them on the dancers to see how they moved before the final decisions were made. Not only was I privy to the costumes, my mother also sewed the drops before Ms. White would paint them. I was there for nearly everything that was needed to execute a performance. I was lucky enough to be around at the inception of many of the major ballets that are in LCCB’s repertoire.
As I grew up, I worked very hard and tried to absorb everything Lady Leah and our summer workshop teachers told me. By the age of 14, I had landed my first lead role as Rudolph and loved it. I felt as if I had wings when I was on stage. There were so many people who helped me and I was one lucky girl. I performed many of the lead roles during my time with LCCB. My time on stage lasted until my final performance in Lake Charles which was our Christmas production of Cinderella in 1997 where I performed the role of Cinderella opposite Billy Ward. My late brother was one of my ugly step sisters, and my two wonderful children were also on stage with me. It was truly a magical performance.
I stayed away from the studio for several years after that. It hurt my heart not to be on the stage performing. It had been such a major part of my life. A few years ago, Lady Holly asked me to teach beginning pointe, and I loved working with these girls. They worked so very hard and made a tremendous amount of growth their first year in toe shoes. It was very rewarding. My work schedule prevented me from teaching the next year. Those little girls are now performing with the company.
This summer, Lady Holly asked me to teach again. But this time, it was teaching a company class. I had changed careers and my schedule was much more flexible. I was a little reluctant to teach the company class, because I didn’t know if I could offer them what they needed until I saw something very familiar in the eyes of the dancers: desire and love for ballet.
Putting Cinderella back together has brought back many fun memories. These dancers are working very hard on every detail at every rehearsal to be prepared and offer a beautiful performance. They have been putting in extra time before and after class with me to perfect every detail. I understand what it is like to be on the stage performing these roles and having someone to take that personal interest to make it a memorable event. The dancers are putting their whole heart into their choreography, both technically and artistically. It is amazing to see the progress that is being made and the smiles on their face when I tell them how amazing they look. I am so honored to be giving back to the company that gave me so much.
Nancy Sensat Higginbotham is married to Ronald Higginbotham and mother of Matthew and Christopher. She is currently an instructor with Lady Leah Lafargue School of the Dance and a court reporter.
Photos by Danley Romero (www.romeroandromerophotography.com)