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Conceived by Belgium native Andre Van Damme, the Charleston Ballet’s 30-member company debuted at the city’s Municipal Auditorium in April 1956. The company was an outgrowth of Van Damme’s American Academy of Ballet, a school he established in Charleston after immigrating from Europe in the late 1940s. Van Damme’s dream was to build a company that would offer an outlet for talented dancers from the Charleston area, and feature guest performances by professionals.

The Charleston Ballet was designated the official West Virginia State Ballet in 1972. Van Damme, who had been principal dancer with the ballet company of the Royal Opera of Brussels, choreographed more than 100 original ballets for the Charleston Ballet and routinely danced male lead roles during the early years. Prior to forming the company, he and his principal dancer, Julianne Kemp, had toured Belgium.

At Van Damme’s death on February 3, 1989, Kemp, who was assistant director, kept the company going until a successor to Van Damme could be named. Eventually, Kim Pauley, his protégé and the company’s principal ballerina, agreed to take the job of director. In recent years, the Charleston Ballet has offered two to three concert series each year, as well as a holiday season production of ‘‘The Nutcracker’’ and abbreviated programs for school children.

This Article was written by Kay Michael

Last Revised on June 29, 2012

Cite This Article

Michael, Kay "Charleston Ballet." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 29 June 2012. Web. 18 May 2024.


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