by robert stewart
Advocate staff writer
September 18, 2012
Hundreds of young, enthusiastic children piled into the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre on Sunday eager to land a role in “The Nutcracker — A Tale from the Bayou,” a Cajun version of the classic ballet the theater has hosted since 1993.
About 15 boys ages 7 to 12 lined up in a room waiting for Molly Buchmann to give them instructions.
Buchmann, co-artistic director at the theater, told the boys to march forward, spin slowly in place and march back.
“Right foot, left foot,” Buchmann said as the boys marched.
At the end of the session, Buchmann gathered the boys up and told them to try out again next year, even if they don’t get a part this year or don’t get the role they want.
“I would love to see every one of you next year,” she said.
The shows are scheduled for Dec. 15-16 at the River Center Theatre for the Performing Arts.
Sharon Mathews, the theater’s other co-artistic director, said the greatest part of the process is seeing the excitement on the children’s faces when the performances finally roll around.
“There’s a lot of magic,” Mathews said. “We create an environment at the River Center that’s special.”
Older, more experienced dancers auditioned for roles Saturday, while younger dancers took their turn Sunday in groups based on age.
About 300 of the younger children will be selected for roles such as lambs, cherubs, mice, soldiers and angels.
After the boys’ endeavor, it was the girls’ turn to prove their abilities.
During the 9-year-old girls’ auditions, about 60 participants dressed in leotards and tights lined up in six rows in one of the larger rooms in the dance studio.
Buchmann and other instructors stood at the front of the room and showed the girls the short routines they would perform for their audition.
The girls gracefully waved their arms through the air and quietly shuffled their feet while trying to imitate Buchmann’s moves.
Buchmann repeatedly instructed the girls to work on their facial expressions as they took their steps.
“It’s OK if you miss a step,” Buchmann told the girls. “It’s not OK if you don’t show any expression.”
As the children auditioned in studio rooms, their mothers and fathers waited eagerly and anxiously in another room set up with chairs and a registration table.
Elisha Coyle sat in that room as her youngest daughter 9-year-old Maggie Coyle tried out for a role. Her oldest daughter, 13-year-old Charlotte Rose Coyle, auditioned Saturday.
This year was Maggie’s second to audition and Charlotte Rose’s fourth, Coyle said.
While Coyle said the whole experience is fun, she still gets nervous when her daughters try out.
“You’re as disappointed as they are” when they don’t get the role they want, she said.
For Charlotte Rose, the process is a little more fun.
“It’s fun to hang out at rehearsals,” she said.
For other children and parents, Sunday was the first time at the tryouts — which was the case for Elecia Lathon and her 7-year-old daughter Elise.
Lathon said she and Elise first heard about the auditions after seeing a flier at Pampo’s, a dancewear store on Jefferson Highway.
Lathon said she hoped her daughter, who has been dancing for about four years, would enjoy the experience and learn about auditioning and performing.
“She’s a very creative child,” Lathon said. “She loves to express herself through dance.”