'Star' turn for Midcoast painter

By Dagney C. Ernest | May 07, 2014
Photo by: Dagney C. Ernest Plein air painter Colin Page, pictured rehearsing with Jessica Libby, is putting down his paintbrushes and tying on his dance shoes for “Dancing with the Local Stars.”

Camden — Colin Page is not completely new to “performing” in public; ever since he arrived in the Midcoast, the Cooper Union grad has been a familiar sight at the side of roads and harbors, painting oils en plein air. But Friday night, May 9, he will do something he has never done before — perform on the stage of the Camden Opera House, as part of the sixth annual “Dancing with the Local Stars” benefit showcase.

Page is one of 10 local luminaries who will step out of their comfort zones and into the spotlight, performing ballroom dance numbers with local instructors to help raise funds for Wayfinder Schools (formerly The Community School). Also strutting their newly-acquired stuff will be Rafi Baeza, Mimi Bornstein, Allie Bowen, Staci Coomer, Kerry Hadley, Justin Hills, Robin Jordan, Jennifer Ross-Boshes and Amanda Strong. Doors will open 6:15 p.m. for the 7 p.m. show.

Strong, who helped organize the extravaganza, brought Page into the fold this year. She and the artist chatted about dancing — Page had taken a class many moons ago at Swing & Sway Dancing in Rockland, and returned a few years back with his soon-to-be-wife for some wedding prep — “and two or three weeks later, she contacted me about the show,” he said a week before the one-night-only event.

Saying Yes to the Dance Shoes — he will be hoofing it in a black and white pair he got for the wedding — was not something Page did lightly. Finding the time for lessons two times a week would be a challenge, he knew, but he does spend more time in his Camden studio during the winter months. Of course, the home also includes a toddler and an 8-month-old baby.

“It’s already hard to squeeze in painting time! The 2-and-a-half-year-old is down to a schedule, but not the other,” he said.

Still, after looking at videos of the different dance genres, he decided on one of the more challenging ones, West Coast Swing.

“My other class had been East Coast; West Coast is a little smoother. I knew it was a big commitment, but thought it would be the most fun to have in my tool belt when I’m done,” he said.

Like most of the other Local Stars, Page began working with his performance partner in February. The event pairs newcomers with local pros from either Swing & Sway Dancing or Kinetic Energy Alive. The show also includes special performances by Studio Red, Shana Bloomstein, Nathifa Shakti, KorinnsDance, Rockport Dance Conservatory, People To People Dance Center, Swing & Sway, Kinetic Energy Alive and the students of Wayfinder Schools.

Page is dancing with Jessica Libby, manager and instructor at Swing & Sway. The first few classes were devoted to learning the basic steps, turns and spins. Then they began working on choreography.

“I brought in a couple of songs, didn’t even know if they had the right beat. We’re doing Bruno Mars’ ‘Treasure,’” he said

Page said Libby had a loose idea of what their number would be and choreographed. He soon found that dancing a set piece is very different from dancing socially — and that dancing for presentation is not like anything he has ever done before.

“God, no, not remotely! Well, I did a PechaKucha, but there were maybe 100 or 200 people … and I was talking about something I know pretty well,” he said.

Pretty well, indeed. In addition to earning his BFA in painting at New York’s famed Cooper Union, Page studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Baltimore School for the Arts. His work has been shown across the country and in Mexico. Page currently is represented by Dowling Walsh in Rockland, Courthouse Gallery in Ellsworth, Greenhut Galleries in Portland and the Anglin Smith Gallery of Charleston, S.C.; and he will lead two Rockland-based Coastal Maine Art Workshops this fall. In August, he will have a large solo show at Dowling Walsh Gallery in Rockland.

“That’s basically all I’ve been doing since February, this and painting for the summer show,” he said.

The two pursuits are very different. Painting is “a quiet, lonely art form,” Page said. So trading the art studio for the dancing studio a couple of times a week has been good. He said he has enjoyed working with the Dancing for Fun staff.

“Christian [Clayton], Steven [Dones-Rogers] and Jess are really fun, so there’s a lot more socializing,” he said.

And working on the dance number, and, more recently, the big ensemble finale, has become part of his home and studio life too. The music keeps rolling through his head — “it’s a constant rhythm” — and his working on the steps around the kitchen has not gone unnoticed; his daughter started toddling around saying, “I dance like Daddy!”

At first, Page said he thought there was no connection whatsoever between his painting and dancing — that was part of the both the appeal and trepidation of agreeing to be in “Dancing with the Local Stars.” But on further reflection, he realized there is in fact a bit of synergy.

“I do my best with the dance routine when I can relax and just have fun with the music. Thinking just gets in the way. With painting, I also find my best work comes from letting go and having fun with it,” he said.

Page was not alone in finding the first rehearsal on the Camden Opera House stage less than fun. Going from an enclosed studio with mirrors and no audience to an open stage in front of 500 seats would give anyone pause and “It scared the hell out of me,” he said. But all the dancers will have more opportunities to tread the boards before their big night, and he will try to keep in mind the best work/letting go formula.

“Of course, it's much easier for me to do that with painting, but I hope to be able to loosen up and just enjoy the dance on the night of the performance,” he said.

Those who want to take in “Dancing with the Local Stars” are advised not to wait until performance night to get their tickets, as the popular event often sells out by then. Tickets are $25, $10 for children younger than 13, and are available at Camden National Bank, Green Tree Coffee and Tea, HAV II, Grasshopper Shop, Beauty Mark Spa, The Reading Corner, Camden Opera House, Swing & Sway Dancing and online via wayfinderschools.org.

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Staff Profile

Dagney C. Ernest
A&E editor for Courier Publications, LLC
(207) 594-4401/4407, ext. 115
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Dagney has been providing Courier coverage of the local arts scene since 1985 and has helmed the multi-paper A&E section since it debuted in 2003. She has been a local performing artist, community and professional, for 30 years and spent a decade writing, producing and announcing on-air for several Midcoast radio stations. When not in the NewsNest, Dagney likes to be in motion.

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