Charleston Ballet premieres a documentary

Founder of the Charleston BalletThe Charleston Ballet, the official West Virginia State Ballet, recently premiered a new documentary detailing the company’s history. Entitled “Andre Van Damme and The Story of the Charleston Ballet”, the film was presented at the West Virginia Culture Center on Saturday, March 24 by Education and the Arts Secretary Gayle C. Manchin and three-time Emmy Award-winning director Deborah Novak.


Founded by a Belgian immigrant, Andre Van Damme, a premier danseur etoile with the Brussels Royal Opera who came to this country knowing only two words of English (“Yes” and “Kitchen”), the Charleston Ballet has been in continuous operation since 1956. The film features interviews with founding and current company members, such as the late Charleston Ballet Historian Julianne Kemp and Beckley Dance Theater’s Artistic Director Jerry Rose. It also includes key figures in the ballet’s operations, such as Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, Randall Reid-Smith, Charleston Mayor Danny Jones and regional dance experts such as Dr. Yoav Kaddar, director of the Dance Program at West Virginia University, and Dr. Christi Camper Moore, Ph.D. of Ohio University.


Charleston Ballet dancers Jean Roberts, Marie-Claude Van Damme and Julianne Kemp“This documentary film has been nearly two years in the making,” said Charleston Ballet Artistic Director and CEO Kim Pauley before the premiere. “We are so lucky to have someone of Ms. Novak’s caliber to produce a film of this magnitude for the Charleston Ballet and chronicle its fascinating history for West Virginia.”


Novak, a Charleston Ballet Company member, directed and produced the hour-long film. “Not many people realize that one of the oldest ballet companies in America is right here in West Virginia, and this film celebrates the Charleston Ballet’s long artistic history,” she said.


The documentary premiere on March 24 featured refreshments and silent auctions. There was an unofficial after-party at the Marriott Town Center. All audience members received a DVD copy of the film and a gift bag.


Premiere of Those who missed the ticketed documentary premiere were invited by the company to two free public screenings: one on Friday, March 30 at La Belle Theatre​ in South Charleston and the other on Sunday, April 15 at Huntington Museum of Art​.


To see when the DVD will be available for individual purchase, visit  


Photos: Charleston Ballet Founder Andre Van Damme (top); Charleston Ballet dancers Jean Roberts, Marie-Claude Van Damme and Julianne Kemp as “Three Graces” (left); attendees at the documentary premiere on March 24 (right). Photos courtesy of Charleston Ballet.