Despite Power Outage, 'Pirouettes, Pliés And Pets' Event Shines

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Community events

Dancer Cynthia Meyer prepares to dazzle.  JULIA CUMES PHOTO

CHATHAM – A guardian angel with a sense of humor was looking out for Kim Roderiques last Thursday evening when it came time for her sell-out fundraising event “Pirouettes, Pliés and Pets” to begin at the Chatham Orpheum Theater.

The successful event took in $40,000, but at the last minute it nearly didn’t happen. Roderiques, a photographer, had devoted one year to planning the evening to raise money for three nonprofit groups dear to her heart. They are Monomoy Community Services, which supports Chatham’s families with childcare and other services; MSPCA Cape Cod, an animal rescue and adoption center in Centerville; and Chance to Dance: Youth Ballroom Program, which helps with the often-prohibitive cost of dance lessons, shoes, regulation clothing, costuming and competition fees. Each group will receive nearly $13,500.

So what exactly went wrong? When Roderiques stepped into the Chatham Orpheum at 6 p.m., 30 minutes before the reception was to begin, it was pitch dark. “It took me 10 minutes to understand what had happened,” Roderiques later said.

At about 5:55 p.m. power had gone out to 600 customers in Chatham, including the Orpheum Theater. At 6:30 p.m., the time the reception was to begin, 150 guests as well as performers and staff were crowded into the Orpheum’s lobby in near darkness. The Orpheum’s signage lights were running on a battery that was rapidly running out of juice. And when the battery died, everyone would have to leave.

In the dark, people asked for glasses of prosecco. They were unavailable because the refrigerator could not be opened. A woman then asked for room temperature red wine. That was unavailable because the cash register could not be opened and the credit card machine was down.

Kevin McLain, executive director of the Orpheum, advised Roderiques that three minutes remained on the battery.

Roderiques wondered if the elaborate event could be moved across the street to the First Congregational Church of Chatham or somewhere else. But dance instructor Adam Spencer, who was to emcee the event, asked Roderiques if she wanted to “keep the integrity of what you have, or do you want to break it up?” Of course, Roderiques wanted to retain the event’s integrity. For one thing, the performances would take place on a stage specially-constructed by Rob Stello of Stello Construction. The stage took two hours to set up.

Ninety seconds remained on the battery, McLain informed Roderiques. Then the seconds were ticking down below the minute mark. It was almost time to leave.

At about 7:15 the power abruptly came back on.

“The lobby exploded with shrieks and screams and laughter,” Roderiques says. And the shared experience of being in the dark had somehow changed the atmosphere from random people gathering to a group of friends. The evening began, a little behind schedule, but none the worse for wear as prosecco corks popped. Domonic Boreffi was the “food guy” and he hustled to serve the hors d’oeuvres donated by the Chatham Squire.

During the reception, Roderiques launched her new 62-page book “Pirouettes, Pliés and Pets,” showing Roderiques’s extraordinary photographs of dancers and animals.

Then everyone moved into the theater to watch prerecorded interviews of three dancers by Chatham’s bestselling author Anne D. LeClaire. And following that, the evening’s live musical and dance entertainment commenced.

One more mishap marked the evening. Naomi Turner, tap dancing in a quartet, toppled off the back of the six-by-17-foot stage. The music kept going and then “we saw this little head pop up from the back. ‘Keep going, girls, keep going,’” Turner told the other tap dancers. Turner was unscathed by her fall.

Roderiques had another surprise up her sleeve. The Diane Kelley Dance Studio in West Boylston donated over 100 costumes to the Youth Ballroom Program. Roderiques had a garment rack rolled down the aisle in the theater.

After the performances, the film “Pirouettes, Pliés and Pets” was shown. The 30-minute documentary by videographers Clarence Crowell and Geoff Bassett documented what Roderiques calls “the extraordinary connection between dancers and their pets.”

Later on, when people asked Roderiques what was the best moment of the evening, she answered, “When the lights went on. Even in the stress, everyone was so nice.

“It was truly a magnificent event,” Roderiques adds. “It was an incredible high.”

To help with her project, Roderiques received a grant from Rockland Trust Bank. As well as the Chatham Squire, Roderiques thanks the Chatham Orpheum for opening its space for the evening.

The book “Pirouettes, Pliés & Pets” can be purchased for $25 at the Chatham Orpheum, with all net proceeds going toward the three nonprofits. Watch the Orpheum schedule at www.chathamorpheum.org for an encore showing of the documentary.