Lynne Patton, director of Rocky Mountain School of Dance & Performing Arts in Denver, wowed judges this year on “America’s Got Talent.” The Silhouettes, her performing company made up of dancers of all ages (the youngest just turned 4!), creates unique shapes behind a screen, fitting perfectly into photo overlays. “That was one of the most brilliant things I’ve seen in a long time,” said “AGT” judge Piers Morgan. But how does Patton transform her dancers into works of art? DT spoke to her to find out.
Dance Teacher: Aside from “America’s Got Talent,” does Silhouettes ever compete?
Lynne Patton: All of the dancers in Silhouettes are competition dancers, but they don’t compete with the screen. I would love it if we could, however most of the competitions have a rule that we can’t turn the lights off. They do perform about once a month, often for corporate shows, creating custom logos.
DT: What are the biggest challenges when creating routines for Silhouettes?
LP: The screen is absolutely unforgiving. You cannot get away with having a dancer off her mark or having a dancer not turn out, because everything is blown up. And we can’t really see what we’re doing in the studio. We only have 12-foot ceilings and our screen is 18 feet high, and you have to be able to step away from it as well. We actually have to rent a theater if we want to see what we’re making. Plus, every theater is different. Every light we use and the dimension of that light to the screen changes, so the true preparation is actually done right before each show. They may have to angle their bodies in a different way because of the dimensions of light to the screen. If you were looking at it from behind the screen, you’d wonder why the dancers aren’t facing straight front. But when you’re in front of the screen, it looks like they are.
DT: Do the students work with you to create these designs?
LP: Oh yes. For instance, we were using a picture of a Denver convention center that has this huge blue bear statue outside of it. I had kids hanging upside down on each other just trying to make this bear happen, and after about three hours of this, one student said, “Hey Ms. Lynne, wouldn’t it be easier if we just got closer to the light and held our arms out like paws?” Such a simplistic approach, and it worked. We’ve learned that the possibilities are endless with what we can do behind that screen.
Rocky Mountain School of Dance & Performing Arts
Lynne Patton, owner/artistic director
Years in business: 20
Number of students in a performance company: 70
Number of students in Silhouettes: 42
Photo: "The America Show is my favorite," says Patton of the number performed on "America's Got Talent." "It's filled with so much patriotism and energy, and the kids just love it." (by Trae Patton, courtesy of NBC)