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Ballet Magnificat! Performance today

“Little Ricky’ of ‘I Love Lucy’ fame is executive director

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Ballet Magnificat! Performance today

From left, Stephen Lyon and his wife, Jolynda, founder, director and instructor at SONdance Christian Dance School, are joined by Keith and Kathy Thibodeaux of "Ballet Magnificat!"

VINCE REMBULAT/The Bulletin


POSTED February 21, 2009 5:15 a.m.
Keith Thibodeaux grew up performing in front of the television cameras.

Now, the 58-year-old former child actor who once played Little Ricky on “I Love Lucy” relishes his time behind the scenes.

He’s the cofounder and executive director of “Ballet Magnificat!,” a professional dance troupe based out of Jackson, Miss.

The international ballet company was also established by his wife. She’s the former Kathy Denton, who won the Silver Medal at the 1982 USA International Ballet Competition.

Starting at 2 p.m. today, “Ballet Magnificat!” will perform at Calvary Community Church, 815 W. Lathrop Road, Manteca.

“We have an incredible opportunity to see an internationally renowned professional ballet company of impeccable quality right here in the valley,” said Stephen Lyon.

He and his wife, Jolynda Lyon, who is the founder, director and teacher at the local SONdance Christian Dance School, helped make the one-day appearance of “Ballet Magnificat!” in the Central Valley possible.

About two years ago, they came away overwhelmed by the performance of the Christian ballet troupe.

Several local dancers have connections with “Ballet Magnificat!” including SONdance instructors Rachel Gustafson and Karice Hoffman.

Gustafson took part in the Summer Dance Training Intensive while Hoffman trained with “Ballet Magnificat!” back when she attended nearby Belhaven College in Mississippi.

“Ballet Magnificat!” has two touring groups. Included are “Alpha,” performing “Deliver Us” in Manteca, and the Israel-bound “Omega.”

Said Thibodeaux, “’Deliver Us’ is our biggest piece set in Egypt during days of Moses.”

He once played Little Ricky Ricardo on the classic TV sitcom, “I Love Lucy.”

“That seemed like three or four lifetimes ago,” Thibodeaux said Friday while constructing the ballet set on the stage of Calvary Community Church.

The work included three to four hours of work. “It’s much easier taking it down,” he added.

Life after “I Love Lucy” for Thibodeaux, who was billed as Richard Keith, endured his share of rough patches. He did appear on the “Andy Griffith Show” as Opie Taylor’s friend,  Johnny Paul Jason.

Ron Howard, who played Opie, went on to become the most successful former child actor in TV history, starring in “Happy Days” before becoming a big-time movie director.

“(Ron Howard) stay grounded,” Thibodeaux said. “Credit his family and friends – he never let his early success get to him.”

At age 4, Thibodeaux was once a child prodigy on the drums, going from banging on trash cans to playing on a national Big Band tour.

The youngster from Lafayette, LA was discovered on a TV talent search show and eventually became Little Ricky, portraying the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz on the beloved sitcom.

In 1969, he joined a rock group called “David and the Giants,” performing on drums.

These days, he seldom plays the drums. Thibodeaux battled back from a drug problem and depression to turn his life around.

In 1976, he met and married Kathy Denton, a talented ballet dancer. About the same time, he converted to Christianity.

In 1991, Thibodeaux joined his wife on “Ballet Magnificat!”

The  cost for the performance is $15.

“The Gallo center charges $35 for the cheap seats to see companies of this caliber, and the prices go up from there,” Stephen Lyon recently said. “ For us to have the opportunity to experience ‘Ballet Magnificat!’ and this riveting performance is truly a great value and will be an inspiration.”

The ballet troupe has performed at  the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., to Singapore’s historic Victoria Theatre.

Dancers include former members of Les Ballet Jazz de Montreal, Spokane Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, the State Theatre of the Czech Republic, Oldenburgishes Staatstheater of West Germany, Ballet Mississippi, Eternia Dance Theater of Sweden, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and the Houston Ballet Academy.

For more information, call (209) 475-2535 or log on to www.sondance.org.

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