Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011
Her professional dance career derailed by scoliosis, Gina Hanchey spun her love of ballet into a vibrant new enterprise. by Emily Henagan
When Gina and Matt Hanchey transplanted their labor of love, The Ballet Académie, to the hub of downtown Lafayette, they orchestrated a simultaneous juxtaposition of classical and contemporary dance and mingled art with business. And Gina, the co-owner and instructor of the 2,400-square-foot revamped building, didn’t make the move by happenstance; she relocated her business with the kind of timed precision found in arabesques and assemblés.
“I want to make this space more open to the artists in the community and more open to the community, as well as promote more dance downtown and more of a performing arts kind of vibe,” says Hanchey. “This is a perfect area because we have all the amenities downtown. They can rehearse; they can stay a block away; they can walk to restaurants.”
Hanchey is already aligning this vibe by collaborating with Paige Krause, Acadiana Center for the Arts’ education coordinator and artist-in-residence, to incorporate modern ballet classes into The Ballet Académie’s curriculum. Hanchey is also coinciding her open house with the Fall Fest Art Walk Saturday, Sept. 10. It will feature work by family friend and local artist Kelly Guidry and will also showcase tattoo artist Jake G’s works and graphic designer Josh Strickland’s digitally created images.
“So, I’m trying to think beyond just the students,” Hanchey continues. “Students are still the primary focus, but I really want to try to get more of a community in here and house touring companies for rehearsals. Also, that is so beneficial for the students to see professionals rehearsing.”
Hanchey instructs her students, who range in age from 5 to mid-40s, on a well-sprung floor that protects the dancers from injury.
“Gina is very professional,” says student Elizabeth Romig, a wife and mother of two boys. “She focuses on each student individually at his/her level. No matter what level you come in, she will push you to the next level. She keeps things moving, and no two classes are the same.”
And though Hanchey is known as an instructor who pushes her pupils, other students are quick to point out that she’s perfected a delicate balance of perseverance and fun.
“It’s not so hard that you get frustrated, but it’s not so easy that you get bored,” adds student Amber Wright, a Mobile, Ala., native. “It’s such a positive environment.”
This environment consists of a sprawling 1,000-square-foot dance floor that faces mirrorless walls, an aesthetic conceived by Hanchey.
“We will have a mirror on the side wall because there are times when it’s beneficial for the dancer to see her moves on the mirror,” she explains. “But when they’re dancing in the center or across the floor, it’s as if they’re on the stage; there are no mirrors on the stage. It really allows the girls to focus on their lines and not try to see what they look like in the mirrors. In ballet everything has to be exact and the minute you just shift your eyes a little, you’ve lost your balance or you’ve lost your line. Not having a mirror in the middle of the dance floor has been amazing.”
Hold a mirror up to the slender, striking Hanchey and you will never realize that she suffers from a crippling form of scoliosis that decimated her professional dancing career aspirations and almost annihilated her mobility. Hanchey’s childhood physician advised her to begin ballet lessons to help combat her scoliosis, but it was this scoliosis that also cut her dancing career short.
Doctors told her without surgery she would not be able to walk by age 35, and her health insurance would not cover the then-$600,000 surgery because it was a pre-existing condition. Cedars-Sinai surgeons performed the surgery pro bono on Hanchey, then 28 and living Los Angeles. Since fully recovering, she has become the principal dancer in her own life, juggling choreography, marriage, motherhood and screenplay writing.
“After a year of bed rest after the surgery, I was so thankful to get up and be active,” says Hanchey, now 37. “I felt so lucky. I said, ‘Let’s party; let’s do something.’ I did do something.”
Whether coordinating and choreographing her students for the school’s annual spring performance at the AcA’s Moncus Theater or feeding a city that hungers for dance doubling as art, Hanchey is doing much more than something.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
Three bedroom Acadian or a two bedroom town home
Ready to geaux in purple and gold
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
The recently established Downtown Lafayette Restaurant & Bar Association will host a special viewing of the upcoming New Orleans Saints taking on the Carolina Panthers in the open air of Parc Sans Souci on Thursday, Oct. 30.
Belief in a national outbreak of the Ebola zombie virus is becoming more of a threat every day, and The Hayride — Louisiana’s one true bastion for unrelentingly conservative political commentaries — thought it wise to share a certain special someone's “important message” with readers Tuesday on what to do when, not if, it comes.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.
JPMorgan Chase is giving $1 million to Louisiana's community and technical colleges, to help with workforce training efforts to match students to available jobs.
President Barack Obama is turning to black radio listeners to plead for midterm votes, a targeted approach to drum up Democratic support at a time when many candidates don't want him around in person.
WaPo Watergate editor Ben Bradlee dies; Clintons stump for Dems; Liberians stranded and more national and international news for Wednesday, October 22, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Law firm unveils newly renovated 200-year-old building.
UL grad named web developer at BBR Creative
Lafayette-based emergency department staffing and management company raises $120 million in senior credit facilities through GE Capital, Healthcare Financial Services.
High-rise apartment building, parking garage, hotel and retail part of new development.
A common thread runs through many of those we oppose: Enshrining in the Constitution protections on programs and their funding sources has had a disastrous effect on Louisiana’s most important economic development engine.
"I am extremely disheartened by the political machines that are attempting to hijack my efforts along with others that advocate for children."
Landrieu, who is fighting to keep her seat for a fourth term, said that Ebola is serious and precautions should be taken, but she accused Republicans of using the virus outbreak in West Africa to "create fear" here at home.
The number of Louisianans with jobs continued to set records in September, but the state's unemployment rate kept rising.
Three bedroom cottage or three bedroom ranch
Sheer lace perfection
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Louisiana is drowning, quickly.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.