BWW Feature: Houston Ballet Academy's 2016 Spring Showcase

Mallory Mehaffey & Students of Houston Ballet Academy.
Photo: Amitava Sarkar, courtesy of Houston Ballet.

For Charlotte Larzelere, dance was a happy accident.

"We had just moved [to] town, and my parents thought it would be a fun thing for me to do," says Larzelere. "I liked music, I never sat still, and the old academy building was right down the road from my house."

Now, fourteen years later, the 18-year-old Larzelere is a member of Houston Ballet II, the second company of the Houston Ballet, and will dance this weekend in two of the four ballets that comprise the Houston Ballet Academy's annual Spring Showcase.

Sabrina Lenzi, Ballet Mistress of Houston Ballet II, praises all of the students participating in this year's showcase, especially their commitment to their art form - a commitment Larzelere knows well. "I've spent over three-quarters of my life not just dancing," says Larzelere, "but being at the Houston Ballet Academy."

And it wasn't always easy. "When I got older, it became difficult to balance school and the ballet. My sleep did take a bit of a backseat for a while, but I learned how to compartmentalize. I think it's one of the most important skills I've ever learned."

At fifteen, she began dancing all day and doing school online. "It was a big shift, but I knew I was ready when the time actually came. Now that I am in Houston Ballet II, I want to be a good role model for the students who are just starting out. They may not know my name or cross paths with me at the academy that often, but I am proud to share that space with them. It's a community where everyone is united in growth."

The showcase offers one of the few opportunities to see the community united on stage, as all Academy students - in the pre-professional and professional training programs and Houston Ballet II - perform. Larzelere remembers, "I used to get so nervous when all the older dancers were in the room and [I] wanted to do well for them."

One of those times was during STUDIES, a piece by Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch that the Academy performs every year during the showcase. Once, while watching an old DVD of STUDIES with a friend, she found herself in for a surprise. "[T]his little girl has a small solo where she steps forward into a spotlight and leads her level in a bow. I did that part when I was younger and remembered how hard it was to balance in the light, so I laughed when she started stumbling a bit. But then I looked at what year the video was from and realized that the little girl was actually me, and man, was I a mess!"

This year, Larzelere will dance in John Neumeier's YONDERING, a piece Lenzi says features intricate, difficult partner work that must look flawless in the execution. "[T]he inspiring elements of YONDERING are the sensitivity and subtlety of the carefully choreographed shapes in the slow ballades, in contrast to the exuberant and boisterous energy of the fast group dances," Lenzi explains.

"[It] challenges the students ability to subtly interpret the piece, while physically pushing their stamina and technical ability."

Rounding out the program is THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD, which sees Welch's choreography coupled with Peter Brenier's Beatles Go Baroque, and Mikhail Fokine's CHOPINIANA, chosen because, Lenzi says, "[t]he ethereal quality of the port de bras and the lightness of the foot work are an important foundation for classical ballet."

When asked why Houstonians should come out this weekend to see the Spring Showcase, Lenzi gives three very good reasons: "this year's program is excitingly diverse, musically enticing and of course - the cutest moment - the little babies involved in STUDIES!"

Houston Ballet Academy's 2016 Spring Showcase will be April 22 at 7:00 p.m. and April 23 at 1:30 p.m. in Cullen Theater at the Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Ave. For more information or to buy tickets, please call 713-227-2787 or visit

And keep in mind that proceeds from ticket sales go toward a worthy cause - subsidizing tuition for students enrolled in the Academy. Don't miss the opportunity to support the babies and the arts!

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From This Author Natalie de la Garza

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