The Art of Dance
Patricia Lavoie’s dance students are dressed for an upcoming performance (“a delightful production,” says Lavoie) that’s based on a book by local author Tracy Kane called “Fairy Flight.” It’s one of two major performances that draw large audiences for the Southern New Hampshire Dance Theater each year; the other is “The Nutcracker.” Lavoie, who danced professionally with the Connecticut Ballet and others, began the dance school and performing company 14 years ago in Bedford, where she had grown up: “I wanted to bring back to my hometown community the opportunities that weren’t available to me when I was a child.” The school has sent students to continue their training at prestigious dance companies such as The Boston Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and the American Ballet Theater. She takes pride in not only helping students pursue their dream of being professional dancers, but also of cultivating a love of the art of dance in many others.
Did you put on shows for people as a child?
Yes — in our family living room for anyone who would watch. My parents were of course my biggest fans.
I saw “Swan Lake” when I was young … and it was love at first sight.
Besides dance steps, what does learning dance teach you?
In simple terms, dance teaches us numerous life lessons such as self-discipline, time management and self-awareness. Most of all dance teaches young people how to acquire a skill the hard way — good-ol’-fashioned hard work.
How does a ballerina stand on her toes? Does it hurt?
Ballerinas stand on their toes with the aid of dance shoes we call pointe shoes. And, yes, it does hurt!
How hard is it to find work as a dancer these days?
It’s like anything else. There certainly are some great jobs out there. But it requires a lot of hard work, persistence, luck and in some instances being in the right place at the right time.
Do all of today’s distractions make it hard to attract an audience?
Not necessarily. Our children’s stories such as “Fairy House” and the “The Nutcracker” are very popular and we often attract large audiences.
How much practice does it take to put on a performance like that?
A lot. Depending on the show it can be weeks or months. Since 2001 we have been hired by the Palace Theatre to perform “The Nutcracker” alongside the Palace Festival Orchestra … so we’ve had a lot of practice putting on
You’ve said that dance is an important part of society’s cultural fabric and heritage. Do you think it’s as important today as it ever was?
Absolutely. Look at today’s popular TV shows “Dancing with the Stars,” “So You Think You Can Dance” and “America’s Best Dance Crew.” It’s such an integral part of who we are as human beings.
Biggest success story?
The biggest overall success story for SNHDT was back in 2005 when our performing company was evaluated and accepted into Regional Dance America Northeast as a member with performing status. It is an honor to be part of this national organization of pre-professional ballet companies and the exposure and opportunities it has afforded the young dancers has been incredible. My personal success is just knowing that SNHDT has cultivated and facilitated a generation of students (and young people) who really love and appreciate the art of dance. Not to mention the many who have gone on to pursue their dreams of becoming professional dancers.