Pat’s Dancers Electrify FRP Christmas Show - TribPapers

Pat’s Dancers Electrify FRP Christmas Show

Sher Shepherd Phillips, at left, hears studio matriarch Pat Shepherd start a pep talk during rehearsal for the Christmas show. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Hendersonville – Pat’s School of Dance is an integral part of A Flat Rock Christmas for the eighth year in a row. The Hendersonville-based dance studio kept its streak alive even in the pandemic, for Christmas 2020, when FRP streamed the show online as videotaped performances.

The 20-person, co-ed troupe is nicknamed the “Flat Rock-ettes,” for leg-kicking among other moves. It is in all 31 performances of the month-long FRP show that concludes on Dec. 21.

These teen dancers flourish with synchronized, precision moves and remarkable poise and stage presence.

Pat Shepherd has been the studio matriarch for over a half-century. She is co-owner/director with her daughter Sheraton “Sher” Shepherd Phillips. Sher’s husband Dustin Phillips and Brittany Roland also worked on choreography for the current show. April Jones Freeman and costume tailor Carol Ann Surrette also teach for the studio.

Sher said after they saw the show Friday night, “They did great! I’m proud of them all.” She noted that “the playhouse did not adjust any of our choreography. They began rehearsals on a Monday and Thursday. We joined them, to put it all together. We did have to change some spacing, once we got on the stage with the set and singers. We adjusted during rehearsal that night, and then also participated in “designer” run and tech rehearsals.”

Coaching Them Up

“‘Okay’ isn’t a word here,” Pat Shepherd told the show’s dancers at a rehearsal last week, in speaking about practicing toward perfection. Sher then reminded the dancers how “we can always do better.” They compare themselves to sports coaches, in giving specific instructions before and during rehearsals to seek continual improvement.

Dancers said that the tough love instruction pays off, for their doing much better in shows and competitions. “We work hard to get better and better,” Jackie Hernandez said.

Further, in joining veteran professionals on stage at FRP, they feel proud about fitting in and meeting such steep standards. “It’s so rewarding,” Cole Reasoner said.

Hernandez said, “We’re just like family.” She has danced at Pat’s since age five.

Many in the FRP show are students of Hendersonville and West Henderson high school. A few are from North and East Hendersonville, T.C. Roberson, middle schools including TCR feeder Valley Spring, along with some home-schooled teens and a few college freshmen.

Favorites, Spotlights

Paityn Reasoner and Kaitlyn Harrington get the spotlight as the only dancers in “Boogie Woogie Santa.” They flank singer Maddie Franke at center stage.

The tallest dancer is 6-foot-6 Alex Jacobs, of North Henderson. Jacobs and West male cheerleader Cole Reasoner were the first two Pat’s dancers to enter the stage, in the second number.

The troupe joined those two to tap dance to “The Happy Elf,” a bouncy tune. Kaitlyn Harrington said she likes that one best in the show, for its frolicking vibe.

Payton Reasoner most enjoys the energy of their modern hip-hop interpretation of 1864 tune “Up on the Housetop.”

Pat’s is known for its Rockettes-styled tap dancing and line kicking. The female dancers did that during a medley of “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” as “Pat’s School of Dance Feature.” It is eighth in the order of act one’s 14 numbers. A handful of the 26 numbers involve Pat’s dancers.

The dancers showcase several styles in the show. Ballet by eight dancers flows in “Once Upon a December.” There is a “jazz break” by all female dancers in “Last Christmas.” That number begins with four couples doing ballroom dancing. The couples include Tae Kwon Do black belt Jeremy Klingensmith and Samantha Kanipe, the youngest dancer in the show.

“Last Christmas” features athletic moves. Four male dancers leap over four crouched females. Cole Reasoner does a Dirty Dancing-like lift of Abigail Harrington.

Bowl Games

Bowl games, competitions and cruises are perks. The troupe will be part of the Pop-Tarts Bowl halftime show on Dec. 28 in Orlando, Fla. N.C. State (9-3) faces Kansas State (8-4). Kickoff is at 5:45 p.m.

Sarah Orr said it is breathtaking to join dozens of other dancers on a football field for halftime shows. Several dancers said they glance quickly to see themselves on the stadium’s huge scoreboard Jumbotron screen.

Some dancers will also perform on a Carnival Caribbean cruise in June.

The studio’s competition age groups are as young as 7-8. They will be in multi-state competitions in February through May. Combined, they rehearse 52 numbers. A free dress rehearsal of the teen troupe’s competitive program is planned for Feb. 10, in Polk County High School’s spacious auditorium.

Pat’s School of Dance is at 1256 N. Main St. Call 692-2905 or check for info about the studio and its classes.