Luchetti finds inspiration through culture, language
Rockland — Patti Luchetti has studied cultures, languages and dance for decades. Her curiosity, both locally and internationally, has transpired to involve teaching others.
As the executive director of the Penobscot School in Rockland, Luchetti has been involved with the language learning school for 30 years beginning as a French student.
"French is so important in Maine, half of the people that live in Maine have French last names. That connection is real," she said, adding that language learning is a tremendous asset, providing a familiarity with a global society. Luchetti is also a student of German and Russian languages.
"Language learning is the key to world peace. If you know someone's language, you get to know them and their culture. If you understand them you are less able to consider them an enemy or a threat. There's no doubt that language learning is a crucial thing," she said.
The Penobscot School focuses on immersion language learning, English instruction for foreigners and community events. The school provides opportunities for the public to experience cultural exchange. Hosting potluck suppers, language lunches and cultural gatherings — especially during holidays — are common for the organization.
Luchetti said her dancing is related to her work in that it is an international and cultural study. "My avocation and my vocation are related," she said.
Luchetti grew up in New Bedford, Mass. "There was this migration of city kids up to Maine and I'm a product of that migration," she said. Luchetti settled in Rockland and struggled to find a comfortable niche for herself. She found it in the dance world.
Luchetti came from an athletic family. Her mother was a skater and her father was a famous coach at New Bedford High School. Luchetti along with her two sisters and brother all learned to play baseball. In Maine, feeling she needed more activity, she decided to take a ballet class with Jimena Lasansky.
"I happened to fall into the world of dance from the world of high school sports with one of the best teachers in the United States," she said.
Luchetti said it takes 10 years to become a true dancer, so she took various part-time jobs to allow her the time to attend dance classes, studying classic and ethnic styles.
At one of her ballet classes, a woman name Penny McCauley was in attendance. McCauley's dance name was Phenidra. As an art, ballet is rigid and demands control. "All of a sudden, Phenidra comes into the class and she's moving differently and wearing jewelry. She just had this flowing nature," said Luchetti.
Phenidra opened a studio teaching belly, or Oriental, dance, and Luchetti decided to study with her. "I was struggling as a too fat little dancer in ballet," she said.
Luchetti's dance name, Shalimar, was chosen when she was part of a dance troupe participating in a "cabin fever reliever." The emcee at the event told her she had to have a dance name. "That's what I came up with and it's been a great name," she said.
Luchetti has traveled to Morocco and Guadeloupe to further her study of dance and music. In Morocco, she witnessed the Berber tribes performing traditional dances at a folk festival. "They come with their tents, goats and rugs and moved in," she said.
Luchetti is fascinated with Middle Eastern dance because of the music, the movement and the study of culture. "Which is true of any style of dance. When studying any dance, you get that same understanding of another part of the world," she said.
Oriental dance has roots in the Tigris and Euphrates river valley, explained Luchetti, but the dance has been influenced by many cultures and peoples, each style reflecting different tastes.
Luchetti prefers not to wear costumes. "I don't have that kind of time," she said. "I'm much more of a modern dancer with a limited costume."
She said there are many trends in the belly dancing world and a custom of following different teachers. Luchetti said one of her dancing influences is Mary Blum of Cushing, who studied with Martha Graham.
Oriental dance has struggled to obtain the concert stage for thousands of years because of its reputation of the dance of the slave or ill repute, she said. Luchetti described a new trend that followed, where belly dance became popular for exercise and an outlet for women to discover their femininity. The Modern dance style also traces its inspiration to belly dance.
Luchetti said if you have the opportunity to study with a great teacher, in any field, take advantage of his or her knowledge.
"The fascinating and rich study of another culture is why I've studied Oriental dance for 40 years, part of it was studying Arabic, playing the drums, and following other teachers," she said.
Luchetti now studies Tai chi and yoga, and continues to teach belly dancing through Five Town CSD Adult and Community Education and SAD 40.
"I believe there can't be too many dancers or dance classes because everyone enjoys and needs a movement program to be healthy," she said.
Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at JLaaka@courierpublicationsllc.com.