North Texas

Texas Ballerina Makes History at the Smithsonian

Classically trained dancers from around the world are getting the opportunity of a lifetime with the Texas Ballet Theater.

After 14 rounds of cross-country auditions, 33 dancers were selected to train under artistic directors and professional dancers within Texas Ballet Theater’s summer intensive.

“We have dancers from Japan, Argentina, Australia, Mexico, and of course right here in north Texas,” said Artistic Director Ben Stevenson.

The program is a five week intensive, taught by professional dancers who have greatly excelled within their careers.

Lauren Anderson, who was the first female African-American Principal Ballerina in the United States, is teaching during the intensive.

“I love seeing the light-bulb come on,” said Anderson. “While I’m teaching I can see their drive kick in and you see them working hard and becoming successful, its inspiring,” she said.

Anderson spent years as a principal dancer with the Houston Ballet.

“Before I learned to dance, I was a violinist. So, my love of dance comes from music. As dancers we get to physically become music with our bodies. The joy comes when we get to tell the story with our bodies through music,” she said.

The Houston native began dancing after she saw the Houston Ballet perform the Nutcracker.

“I met Lauren when she was 11 years old,” said Ben Stevenson, who mentored and directed Anderson at the Houston Ballet. “She had so much personality. I told her: ‘You should really think about Broadway, not classical dance,’ and she said: ‘No, I want this.’ And with all of her hard work she did it,” said Stevenson.

In 1990 her years of hard work pushed her center stage, she became the first female African-American principal dancer in the United States.

“I was Alice in 'Alice in Wonderland,' I was Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Cleopatra, these were all roles that were monumental in my career. I really credit Ben for that. Alice was described as 'a white girl,' and I was not. My role as Alice was never even imagined until Ben put me in that role,” she said.

She has been an inspiration to many dancers around the world, including Misty Copeland who (in 2015) became the first female African American principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre.

Anderson’s passion and talent were celebrated for years on stage, and now her accomplishments will be memorialized at the Smithsonian Institute. Her pointe shoes will be placed in the Washington DC museum at the end of September.

“Its honor and its humbling. I am to continue to inspire other young dancers to accomplish their dreams,” she said.

Texas Ballet Theater’s summer intensive trains students from 12-22 years of age in ballet technique, pointe work, men’s class, and variations of jazz. The five week program is being held at the Texas Christian University, and will end with a performance on July 22, 2016.

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