(April 18, 2008)
Contact: Rick DelaHaya, Centenary News Services, 318.869.5073
Ms. Ginger Folmer, Professor of Theatre, Speech, and Dance is...
Dancing Through Life...
If you go:
WHAT: Escaped Images Dance Company in Concert
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, April 26, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 27
WHERE: Marjorie Lyons Playhouse at Centenary College, 2911 Centenary Blvd., Shreveport
COST: $5, cash or check only.
CONTACT: 318.869.5242 for information. Box Office hours are noon to 4 p.m. daily.
To view coverage from Rick Rowe, "Live & on the Scene," click HERE.
SHREVEPORT, La. — Many seasoned Centenary supporters remember the 1957 production of The King and I that opened the Marjorie Lyons Playhouse doors for the first time, but none better than Ms. Ginger Folmer, now Professor of Theatre, Speech, and Dance at Centenary.
Then a 16-year-old student at Byrd High School in Shreveport, Ms. Folmer was recruited to replace one of the production's college-aged chorus dancers when Shreveporters demanded more performances of The King and I well past its scheduled end date that summer. "It kept running and kept running and kept running," Ms. Folmer reminisces. "Some of the dancers had to go off to college, and they needed people to replace them. They started teaching me the choreography backstage and in the wings and in the classroom, and three days later they threw me into the ballet sequence, and I jumped in and danced!"
That sink-or-swim debut performance at Centenary was the start of a long affair. Now, as Ms. Folmer wraps up her 32-year career with the Escaped Images Dance Company in Concert at Marjorie Lyons Playhouse this April 26 and 27, it seems that Ms. Folmer has truly danced through life . . . teaching and inspiring countless students to do the same.
Ginger Folmer instructs dance students at a recent rehearsal. Folmer has taught dance at the College for 32 years.
—Photo by Rick DelaHaya
"I grew up in a house where the front half was the studio and the back half was where we lived," Ms. Folmer says of her childhood. "My mother claims that she had to convince my aunt to let me learn to walk first, and then she could start teaching me to dance."
And her aunt did, but just barely. "I was not quite two years old on my first dance recital," Ms. Folmer laughs. "By the time I was three, I went into regular classes." Just as some families cook, Ms. Folmer's danced. "It was just something that we did."
At the age of 11, Ms. Folmer assisted her aunt with her classes, and the next year, she began teaching her own dance classes and choreographing recitals while she participated in the "big girl classes," continuing to learn technique from guest teachers brought into the studio.
When her aunt married a Navy man, and her mother remarried and moved to Huntsville the summer after Ms. Folmer finished high school, she took over the entire dance studio, learning the books from her grandmother and applying the training her aunt and mother had given her.
"I'd been living in the business all my life," Ms. Folmer shrugs when asked of her impressive history as a dance instructor.
Education: the Barre of Life
After a post-high school stint in the Dallas State Fair Musicals (where she earned her coveted Equity Card), Ms. Folmer jetted off to New York City where she auditioned for Broadway and off-Broadway shows alike for about three months. By the time she came home for Christmas, Ms. Folmer was ready to stay.
"While I was there I realized that it was such a chancy thing, that I needed to come home and get an education so that I had some work that I could do in order to support myself," Ms. Folmer enumerates. "I decided to stay and get a degree at Centenary."
She graduated in 1964 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater and speech, a minor in English, and certified to teach secondary. Ever since, just as ballerinas use the barre to balance during practice, Ms. Folmer has used her hard-earned education to support herself in life.
"Centenary has given me a good strong education upon which I've lived my life, and I think that's what an education is about. That's why I'm very strong on a liberal arts education; I don't think people should go to college so they can get a job in a specific thing. I think you go to college to learn enough to live your life fully, and to prepare you for living, not just working."
Back to the Original Choreography
Ginger Folmer instructs dancers on proper technique at a dance rehearsal recently. Folmer wraps up her 32-year career with the Escaped Images Dance Company in Concert at Marjorie Lyons Playhouse April 26 and 27.
—Photo by Rick DelaHaya
After meeting and marrying her husband, Richard, at the University of Syracuse where they were both working toward an M.A. in theatre, Ms. Folmer taught elementary and middle school drama, English, and speech classes in inner-city and suburban Detroit schools.
Eventually, Ms. Folmer met up with Robert R. Buseick, then head of the theatre department at Centenary. After several summers choreographing shows for Marjorie Lyons Playhouse, Mr. Buseick asked Ms. Folmer to come down permanently and teach dance to Centenary students and continue choreographing. "I turned the job down about four times because we lived in New York and my husband was an actor," Ms. Folmer laughs.
Before long, however, as the Folmers' son approached school age, they made the move back to Centenary more to get a backyard and a dog than anything else. "We thought we'd stay a year or two and see how it worked, so that was August of 1975 and we're still here," Ms. Folmer laughs again. Looking back, the Centenary community knows her as the defining instructor for the entire dance program.
Ms. Folmer's Finale
As Ms. Folmer prepares for her final production as Centenary's dance professor, she looks back on her 32 years at the helm. The College will certainly feel her loss. She has taught hundreds of students how to brush and buck, and how to appreciate the art of dance.
—Photo by Rick DelaHaya
"Ms. Folmer is an excellent teacher dedicated not only to the dance department but also to each and every student," said Hannah Moore, sophomore communication major and member of Ms. Folmer's Escaped Images Dance Company. "She is a natural at teaching and can explain steps in her Ms. Folmer ways that just make everything make sense. Not to mention she's adorable." Anna Andreen, first-year communication and art double-major, agreed, adding "From Ms. Folmer, I've learned to embrace my style and way of approaching any situation and to always exude confidence in what I'm doing, because even if I mess up, few will notice as long as I put my heart into what I'm doing and truly love it."
"I want them to be good dancers," said Ms. Folmer, sobering at the end of a long, light-hearted interview.. "If they want to teach, I want them to be prepared to teach and everything that's involved in teaching, how to approach people, how to work with people. To use their dance in some way that makes them happy and hopefully makes other people happy. If they enjoyed dancing here so much that they want to share that with other people when they leave, then I think we've done a good job."
It's certainly safe to say that, after more than three decades of dedicated service, carefully choreographing the Centenary dance department into a solid show, Ms. Ginger Folmer has not only succeeded in her humble goal, but has also left behind a legacy of dance instruction that will continue.
Ms. Folmer plans to stay involved as an alumnae and professor emerita, even as she passes the program to her former student, fellow Centenary alumna, and lifelong friend Renee Smith Cheveallier. This is not the end of the show for Ms. Folmer or for Centenary!
You can also:
- read coverage from the Shreveport Times.
- view video coverage from Rick Rowe, "Live & on the Scene"
- read a special review of the performance from the Shreveport Times.
About Centenary College of Louisiana
Centenary College is a private, four-year arts and sciences college affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Founded in 1825, it is the oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi River and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Centenary is one of 16 colleges and universities constituting the Associated Colleges of the South and is regularly rated as one of the top colleges in the South. In 2008 Centenary College celebrates 100 years in Shreveport and Bossier City.