New Dance Studio Will Focus On Strength And Variety Of Dancing Styles
Story By Brad Goins • Photos by Andrew Fassbender
Local dancer and Pilates instructor Katelyn Chargois is opening a new dance studio, the Dance Conservatory of Louisiana, in Lake Charles.
At the new studio, the primary emphasis will be on ballet. But other forms of dancing, such as tap and modern, will be taught and practiced. The studio, says Chargois, will “expose people to all different kinds of dance.”
Instruction will be available for all who want to learn. Chargois says she felt a need to “offer open classes for the community.”
She plans to invite many guest artists to the studio.
The new studio will place a special emphasis on strength. Chargois loves both the art and athleticism of dance. She says a focus on strength is prominent in the Australian Ballet, but is not yet a key fixture of ballet instruction in this country.
Classes at the Dance Conservatory of Louisiana will begin in the first week of September. Interested parties can register at danceconservatorylouisiana.com. Chargois says the registration process is “super easy” and can be done entirely on the cell phone.
The Dance Conservatory of Louisiana will be located in the strip mall next to Crying Eagle — the one that houses Man Cave. Renovations on the space are wrapping up now. It’s not long until September. But when I asked Chargois whether the work will be finished on time, she said, “oh, yeah.”
The most significant of the renovations is what is called a “sprung” floor. This sort of floor is made up of eight layers, among which are layers of basket weave and rubber. The idea is to create a floor that’s not as hard on dancers’ feet as standard flooring.
Chargois feels that as an instructor, she can offer both an educational and professional background.
Born and raised in Sulphur, Chargois’ dance training began in Lake Charles at the Lady Leah Lafargue School of the Dance. She joined the Lake Charles Civic Ballet and was promoted to principal at the age of 14. She also participated in summer programs with the Houston Ballet, the School of American Ballet and the Kansas City Ballet.
She eventually left the area to study ballet at the University of Oklahoma, which has one of the Top 5 ballet performance programs in the U.S. She also studied in Spain at the Centre de Dansa de Catalunya under the instruction of Roser Munoz.
In 2017, she became a dancer in the Tulsa Ballet. After two years of performance, she went back to the deep south to get a master’s in kinesiology at Lamar University. While studying at Lamar, she completed a teacher training workshop for the Graham Dance Technique through the Martha Graham School. She also got Pilates-certified through the Pilates Instructor Academy.
Chargois has always had “a passion for understanding the body.” And, she says, “I love, love teaching.”
In recent years, she has often provided guest dance instruction in Southwest Louisiana, Southeast Texas and Oklahoma. She has taught large groups; offered private and virtual classes; and choreographed works for youth of all ages.
Building Strong, Healthy Dancers
At first, Chargois wanted her Lake Charles work to focus on off-season Pilates instruction. Then the COVID-19 lockdown interfered with those plans.
Just as the dancers were starting to trickle back into the studios, Southwest Louisiana was hit by two hurricanes in short order. “Dance studios closed down completely,” says Chargois. The number of performance spaces was significantly reduced as well, with many area theaters being put out of commission by one or both of the storms.
At this point, Chargois is planning to provide off-season Pilates training for dancers, athletes and anyone in the general public who is interested. Pilates, says Chargois, will “teach you about proper anatomical alignment and use of your muscles.” One specific goal of her Pilates work will be to help “build healthy strong dancers.” She believes that the “discipline, strength, and grace learned through a strong technical ballet training program will benefit every dancer, today and in their future.”
Until large-scale performances can be staged in repaired or rebuilt theaters, Chargois will “keep more things in-house” and focus on “in-house showcases” that are designed to give family and friends an opportunity to watch the dancers perform.