2013-08-02 / Community

Dance Company ready for season finale

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

SACO – The Dance Company – a local “family” of dance performers – is gearing up for its final performance this summer of “The Best of Broadway.”

Saco resident Deb Lombard, the company’s director and founder, said there are dancers who started with the company’s first production 21 years ago, and who now have children performing in the show. This year’s first production of “The Best of Broadway” was held July 9; its second show will be held 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6 at The Temple in Ocean Park.

Lombard, a professional dancer and choreographer, started the company in 1992 to give people of all ages in the community an opportunity to learn and develop their dancing skills. Although she choreographs about 10 shows a year, and occasionally performs in New York, Lombard said seeing her students grow into confident dancers gives her the most fulfillment.

“You never know who you’re going to touch, you might spark something. I’ve worked with kids who are now in Broadway and in movies,” Lombard said.

Someone Lombard calls a “dear friend,” who had a lot of experience and worked professionally in New York, on Broadway, and as a producer for Radio City, inspired her to start something that would bring show tunes to her community.

“I’ve always loved Broadway musicals,” Lombard said.

Nicole Turgeon, 24, also of Saco, joined The Dance Company during her freshman year in high school and has been with the company for nine years. Although Turgeon hadn’t danced much before her experience with the company, she had twirled batons.

Turgeon said she will always perform in “The Best of Broadway,” as long as she lives in the area. She attributes her dedication to Lombard’s knowledge and the sense of belonging that members perpetuate – “It’s like a family,” she said.

Lombard said she prides herself with giving dancers more confidence.

“You become part of a general family,” Lombard said. “It’s not a competitive thing.”

Turgeon was best friends with one of Lombard’s daughters and used to just watch the shows, but soon found herself drawn to taking part.

“Deb’s knowledge is everything,” Turgeon said. “She really pushes you, helps you branch out and come out of the comfort zone … she gives everyone confidence.”

“I had basic rhythm, but I didn’t know basic styles of dance,” Turgeon said. “Now I know them all – swing, salsa, tap dance, hip hop – every single style we’ve done at one point or another.”

As a teenager, Turgeon said she used to look up to the adult dancers and think to herself, “I can’t wait to play that role.” Now the roles are reversed, she said, and younger dancers look to her with that same admiration.

Emilee Wermenchuk, 14, is going to be a sophomore at Thornton Academy and has been with the company for five years; she started learning dance when she was in first grade. Wermenchuk said she looks up to Turgeon.

“She is amazing,” Wermenchuk said, “and Deb often refers to her as ‘her other daughter.’”

Wermenchuk said the company adults are “a major influence, have much energy and enthusiasm.”

“When they walk on stage, smiling and happy, it really lifts the spirit of the company,” she added.

Wermenchuk said when she was younger, she was extremely shy, even nervous.

“The Dance Company definitely took me out of that shell. What they did was very relaxed, very comfortable and it has helped me in front of crowds, in letting loose, especially in certain dance numbers,” Wermenchuk said.

This year, Wermenchuk will work as a camp counselor for the first time, to help mentor the 60 children who attend The Dance Company’s weeklong summer sessions. Lombard said there are two camp sessions each year, and the “The Best of Broadway” performances are coordinated to occur during camps, so young dancers can attend. A “mini-Best of Broadway” show is also performed by the children during the same week, Lombard said.

“It’s definitely different around the children; you can make fun of yourself a little more,” Wermenchuk said, adding that she finds teaching the younger children gratifying because she helps them learn the same skills she learned through the company.

“It helped me with interacting and learning in general, and following along to pick it up (dance moves) fast,” she said.

When the company does large numbers together that involve adults, teenagers and children, Wermenchuk said, “it is definitely important to help; (kids) can get easily distracted.”

Wermenchuk said while she looks up to adult dancers like Lombard and Turgeon, she also finds it interesting to work with children who were like her when she was younger.

“The kids on the first day of camp are shy, nervous, but by Friday, you seem them open up. It’s such a wonderful thing to see them come alive,” she said.

Wermenchuk, who will be in this year’s “The Best of Broadway” performance, said she has been rehearsing her parts since November. She is also involved with the Thornton Academy Players, the drama outfit at her school, and has recruited two of her friends from the club to join The Dance Company production. One of the most exciting aspects of the show, she said, is the exposure to different types of music.

Lombard did not want to reveal which numbers would be performed, but said, “There will be a good mix of old and new.”

Lombard said the company owns about 120 different numbers it can use for performances, and there will be “something for everyone.”

“There’s always an element of surprise. I really like doing it that way because (the audience) gets there and they’re shocked,” Lombard said.

Although the show will feature primarily local dancers, Lombard said there are also dancers who come from as far as New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York to be in the show every year. In all, nearly 40 dancers will participate in this year’s performance.

Lombard said she is flattered by the compliments “The Best of Broadway” receives, even from professionals in the industry.

Lombard said last year a director from Broadway saw the show for the first time and told her he “absolutely loved it.”

Another time, a member from the original cast of “Ain’t Misbehavin” saw the show and told her he was amazed, saying, “I can’t believe you can do this with local people.”

Although she would not reveal performance numbers, Lombard did offer a sneak preview of the types of dance numbers to expect this year – a “great” Charleston Ragtimestyle piece, a “huge” salsa number, some Fosse jazz, an African number, a “prim and proper ‘My Fair Lady’ - style piece,” a country dance number and “a little gold nugget that’s been around for a while.”

The show will take place in The Temple at Ocean Park and is sponsored by the Ocean Park Education Bureau.

“The temple is an amazing structure. It is all wood inside and was built in the late 1800s,” Lombard said.

As far as the performance goes, Turgeon said it usually feels like it ends way too soon.

“It’s kind of a surreal experience when you’re actually doing the show, it goes by really fast. It’s an adrenaline rush.”

Tickets can be purchased at the door on show day.

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