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Devotion to dance
Fort Wayne Ballet's Lucia Rogers
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Anyone who has seen Lucia Rogers dance — and, if you’ve seen any Fort Wayne Ballet production in the past decade plus, you’ve seen Lucia Rogers dance — might describe her as a graceful dancer, or an elegant dancer, or an ebullient dancer, or a half-dozen other complimentary adjectives, depending on which part she’s playing.
And behind the scenes, in the rehearsal studios and classes, colleagues describe her as versatile, conscientious, and dedicated to her art. The consummate professional, in other words.
But to hear Rogers tell it, when she was young and just starting out in dance, she had what we’ll call a certain level of comfort at being in the spotlight, and her parents had another word for it besides poise or presence. “They said I was a ham when I was younger,” she laughs. “I wasn't afraid to perform and seemed to enjoy an audience. My younger sister and I were always practicing and trying new things that we learned in classes or rehearsals when we were younger.”
It’s safe to say Rogers’ performance skills have matured since then. Principle dancer at the Fort Wayne Ballet, Academy Coordinator, and instructor, Rogers dances the lead role in two performances of the Fort Wayne Ballet’s production of Cinderella, which begins its run on March 22 (Juanita Araque handles the role for the other performances, and Rogers plays a stepsister). For 27-year-old Rogers, it’s the latest in a long list of roles at the Fort Wayne Ballet, an organization she’s been involved with — first as a student and then as a staff member — since her family moved to Fort Wayne when she was in fifth grade.
The second of four children, Rogers says her parents always encouraged them to get involved in different activities. In addition to helping out at the family business (the Rogers owned The Palace Restaurant), Lucia and her siblings all played sports, took dance, and played piano. “We were all exposed to a lot of different things, and I think that helped us figure out what we really wanted to do,” Rogers says. “(Our parents) asked that we just commit to something for a certain amount of time, and if we didn’t want to continue after that, we didn’t have to.”
Rogers followed her older sister Emily into dance classes when she was three years old, and though she honored her parents’ wish that she try a little of everything, it was obvious early on which activity Lucia preferred. “My sister would spend hours practicing the piano, and I would spend hours dancing around the piano,” she recalls. “My mom would say, ‘Lucia, you need to practice. Stop dancing. And Emily…”
Rogers’ family moved to Fort Wayne when she was in fifth grade, and Rogers became involved with the Fort Wayne Ballet; it was two or three years after that that Rogers decided to really focus on dance and ballet. “Ballet was the one thing I could do really well, and I loved the challenge,” she says. “I knew I had to work at it, but I loved the difficulty and the art of it, and I just loved being able to perform.”
Committing to ballet, however, meant sports, cheerleading, and other activities Rogers’ was involved in — and enjoyed — had to take second place. But Rogers knew the kind of dedication it would take to become really good at dance. “To me, the opportunities I’ve had far outweigh what I might have missed,” she says. “Through my dancing, I’ve been able to travel, work with some wonderful teachers, and experience things I would not have had otherwise.”
After graduating high school, Rogers joined the staff of the Fort Wayne Ballet, becoming principle dancer, teacher, and academy coordinator “…so one day, when I can’t dance — which I hope isn’t for a while — I’ll know that side of things,” she says.
“I’ve been given so many wonderful opportunities as a dancer here at the Fort Wayne Ballet, and I want to give back,” Rogers adds. “I want to be able to help the students in the same academy I’ve grown up in.”
When Rogers takes the stage in Cinderella, it’ll be the second time she’s danced the role; the last time, in 2007, her younger sister Adrianna played one of the wicked stepsisters, and her brother Sam was a squire.
Each role, Rogers says, has its own challenges — there’s the technical side and the artistic side, the dance moves you have to master and the tone of the character and the story you have to portray. Rogers says she’s loved different aspects of all the classical roles she’s played, but when I ask her to name her favorite, Rogers — with a little hesitation — picks Giselle, an unhappily-ever-after fairy tale where the title character meets the man of her dreams, is betrayed by him, then goes crazy and dies. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that Rogers wasn’t really sure she wanted the role. “I was worried, because there’s a ‘bad’ scene (where Giselle goes mad), and I thought ‘I don’t think I can handle this’,” she says. “But that ended up being my favorite part of the ballet. There are so many sides to that role, and it was just a perfect mix of everything.”
Actually, hearing Rogers confess that she wasn’t sure she could take on a role is surprising. When she talks about dance and ballet, the word Rogers uses again and again is ”challenge.” Dancers are always striving for ‘perfection,’ or something close to it — she says you can always turn more or balance longer, and while striving to reach that next level can be very frustrating — after all, you have to make it look easy, too — it’s also the most rewarding part of the profession.
“As a dancer, we’re always trying to grow not only technically but artistically,” she says. “There’s so much involved in the technical side of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle. But your technique is the means to the end; there’s no art without the artistic side to. To me, that’s one of the most important things about dance. If the audience can’t relate to you, if they can’t invest in that and find your investment in that, it changes the story.”
The Fort Wayne Ballet presents Cinderella with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic
Friday, March 22 at 8 PM
Saturday, March 23 at 2:30 PM and 8 PM
Sunday, March 24 at 2:30 PM
Arts United Center
303 East Main Street
Tickets: $30/adult; $25/seniors and youth; $15/children
By Phone: Call the Arts United ArtsTix Community Box Office at 260.422.4226 Monday - Friday from 12 noon to 6 pm
In Person: Arts United ArtsTix Community Box Office, 303 East Main Street (front vestibule) Monday-Friday between 12 noon - 6 pm.
Adult tickets available on-line at: tickets.artstix.org
A Glass Slipper Party follows all Matinee performances. This is a fun-filled opportunity to meet the dancers, enjoy the beautifully designed costumes up close, and receive a special treat. Tickets are $8.
Also, immediately following the Friday opening night performance, there will a champagne and dessert reception in the Ian Rolland Gallery. Adults and children are welcome, with food and champagne being provided. Opening Night Champagne and Dessert Reception tickets can be purchased for $10 for adults and $5 for children.