Ballet Magnificat! is magnificent

Published 2:25 am Sunday, March 11, 2007

Someone told Kathy Thibodeaux years ago that a Christian dance group would never make it in the real world… there was just no market for it. But, she and her husband Keith listened to God rather than “someone” and Ballet Magnificat was born in 1986. It is headquarted in Jackson.

The company now has two professional ballet troupes which tour the world bringing a message in dance that speaks very loudly without words. Keith Thibodeaux said their’s “is a ministry that spreads the Gospel. Although, it is a neat package. Sharing the Good News with audiences the world over and still getting to sit down with the students one-on-one with Bible study. I’m just so amazed we’ve grown to this extent.” You might remember Keith as a little boy. He played Little Ricky on the “I Love Lucy” show.

Their Summer Dance Intensive and Teacher’s Workshop attracts dancers from across the nation and internationally, as well. That curriculum lasts four weeks.

The School of the Arts was established in 1989, and currently 400 students are enrolled to study dance. The school fosters technical and spiritual training of dancers of all ages through specialized class instruction and workshop. Trainees pay tuition and are responsibile for living expenses, as in any higher education institution.

The school’s curriculum is from September to May and is intense. A student may need to train only a year or for up to four years. Ballet Magnificat! website has more details on that at www.balletmagnificat.com.

“In order to make it to apprentice status,” Thibodeaux says, “a person must know what the ministry is all about, and must have a calling to be here. It isn’t just choreography, it’s about style, and it’s about having the heart for the ministry. Our main goal is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ through dance.

“The 400 kids that come to the Summer Workshop get taught not only the physical things, but the Spiritual things. Some have diet issues, such as eating disorders. We get to minister one-on-one with these students.”

Thibodeaux says that a child should start ballet training at a young age, but it really depends on the child.

One of the members of Alpha Company is John Vandervelde who graduated college as an engineer in Alberta, Canada in 1978. He started taking dance classes for recreation and Mr. Lambros Lambrou, asked him to join his ballet training program in Canada. That training gave him the opportunity to dance professionally with the Spokane Ballet Company and then on to the International Exposition in Vancouver. In 1987, he joined Ballet Magnificat! and is the Company Minister and Personnel Director. His youngest of six children, Joseph, plays a part in one of the ballets.

There are as many success stories in Ballet Magnificat! as there are members of the companies.

They have been to Canada, Belgium, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Greece, Singapore, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico.

The Company is not the only Christian ballet troupe, churches from all over have begun starting their own companies, but it is the largest professional Christian ballet company. “This is the premiere of companies,” Thibodeaux said.

When asked if there was any advice he would give a promising young ballet dancer, Thibodeaux replied, “Need to be the best you can. The main thing is, don’t be obsessed to the point that it affects your life. It is more important to stay within the will of God. And, if you don’t get [chosen to study at Ballet Magnificat!] then don’t let it crush you. There are more important things like relationships.”

He went on to say that training is important and staying focused is also important, but not to the point where it obscures God’s plan and will for your life.

You can see “Deliver Us!” performed by Ballet Magnificat! in Jackson at Thalia Mara Hall on March 24 at 7:00 PM or March 25 at 2:00 PM. Music is from the “Prince of Egypt”.