Karen Hebert leaves Le Petit to join the Mouse
By David Cuthbert
New Orleans choreographer to be Tokyo Disney casting director
Karen Hebert leaves for Japan Jan. 15 and then to London & Paris for auditions
A little traveling music, please! Karen Hebert, a Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre mainstay as choreographer and leading lady (she was "Roxie Hart" in "Chicago" last summer), and a nationally recognized dancer, dance teacher and adjudicator, has left New Orleans to become a casting director with the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts organization.
"I leave for Japan on Jan. 15," Hebert said, "and the plans are to hand over the Tokyo Disney casting to me. This is really exciting because that park is like a little Broadway, and does unbelievable shows. After that I go to London and then on to Paris for casting auditions. I'll be doing casting for dancers, musicians, singers and actors for the Disney parks and I'll be in and out of Orlando."
This is fine with Hebert, because that's where her daughter, Pamela Bolling, lives, not to mention grandson Arlen. It was Bolling who alerted her mother to the job possibility.
"The whole thing is very exciting," Hebert said. "I feel like I've been in training all my life to do this job. And the great thing is that I can cast talented kids and give them their first Equity job, because Disney is an all-Equity operation."
Hebert knows dance talent all over the United States. For years, she has been traveling to different states to teach master classes to teachers and students for the Dance Masters of America, Dance Educators of America, the Dance Power Express and Starpower talent competition. "As a result, I know just about every dance teacher in America," Hebert said. "And I've seen and taught an awful lot of talent. I think that's one of the reasons I got the Disney job."
Hebert, who studied with Harvey Hysell and in New York with Lee Theodore (who started the American Dance Machine with Gwen Verdon to preserve Broadway choreography), and Vincenzo Celli, has toured the country with the Stars of the American Ballet and performed with Dance Kinesis of Los Angeles. She was principal ballerina with the New Orleans Ballet and has a previous Disney credit, touring with "Disney on Parade" as Mary Poppins and dancing the role of Ostrich in "Fantasia." She has a performance-choreography-teaching resume that fills three pages -- single-spaced.
But it's safe to say that locally, it's been her work with Sonny Borey at Jesuit High School and then Le Petit Theatre that has made her one of the city's best known and admired choreographer-performers. From 1991 to "Anything Goes" earlier this season at Le Petit, Borey, Hebert, musical director Derek Franklin and costumer Linda Fried have constituted a "dream team" that collaborated on some 25 productions.
"She is going to be truly missed," said Borey, the executive/artistic director of Le Petit. "It's almost like a part of us is leaving with her."
Hebert's Metropolitan Dance Theatre of New Orleans studio is being taken over by Jaune Buisson, Hebert's student, who is the choreographer for "Five Guys Named Moe" opening Friday at Le Petit (and who has helped "Guys" director Brandt Blocker bring back successful family theater to Le Petit's Teddy's Corner Playhouse).
"Putting singers and dancers to work is what I love best," Hebert said, "and I believe in symbiosis. Things are going to happen when they're going to happen. I love discovering talent, such as Joey McKneely, a student of mine who went on to choreograph 'Smokey Joe's Cafe' and 'The Life' on Broadway. And I was proud to have established the musical theater department at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.
"I've also loved my work with Sonny and Derek and playing parts for them. In fact, I'm probably going to do Roxie in 'Chicago' next summer at a Sarasota dinner theater, if everything works out.
"But I've packed up all my Big Easy Awards and I've found a fabulous apartment in Orlando on Turkey Lake -- which is as close as I'll probably ever get to Swan Lake."
© The Times-Picayune
RichKoster, Disney Echo modEARator