Country music flowed through the hills of Alleghany as Patrick Swayze sang “froggy” songs on his guitar – with a Texan’ accent, of course, and kept all enthralled on the “Bernie Bus” holding nineteen dancers (and a precarious driver) on their way to dozens of Western New York Schools. Dancing their way into the hearts of uninitiated ballet enthusiasts, this troupe, mainly from the Royale Dance Theatre, accompanied with guest artists from the Pennsylvania Ballet, jostled along at six am, with a barrage of ballet bags resting on turned-out feet.
Patrick, or “Buddy”, as he was known, a talented nineteen year-old, and the recent winner of gymnastic, trampoline, and “Dancer of the Year” awards, was hustled up to Buffalo by prima ballerina, Michelle Lucci’s friend and manager, Randy Schwartz. Lucci, a former student, was to dance with our touring group and was thrilled to have a Texas ‘cowboy’ who doubled as a delightful dance partner for six weeks.
Son Mark joined in the fun, telling jokes, (which he does to this day), while his younger brother Matt snoozed up by the heater. The ten-foot trailer held dozens of costumes, huge speakers, sound and lighting equipment, our dance floor, and my speaker’s gown which, by the end of the tour was held together with duct tape as well as everything else in the trailer! Buddy was overwhelmingly loved by principals, teachers, and especially kids who were spellbound by his gymnastic & trampoline tricks.
Who knew that Patrick Swayze was to become a star, both on Broadway and then in film? From what I have heard, he kept his humble beginnings in his heart and do hope he remembered his first professional engagement here in Western New york.
In the huge ( and overcrowded) costume storage of the Royale, hangs the blue ruffled cowboy shirt used in his performance of “Americana” with Sandy P, and in a special vase in the bathroom, his coveted “boar” hairbrush, left in my car as I drive him to the airport.