Community Portrait

Dance dynamo followed suggestion to teach

By: Michael Kirby
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There is something about Paula Duffy that is immediately endearing. It’s hard to tell if it’s her New York accent that she has yet to lose, or the endless energy that this petite woman has that makes people want to rally with her. Duffy was raised in New York. Her passion is dance, which she first studied at age 3. The daughter of a dancer, Duffy trained under the tutelage of Andre Eglevsky, premier danseur of George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet. Upon moving to the Auburn area in 1998, Duffy volunteered with St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. She was staging a children’s talent show when a parent suggested that Duffy teach dance. “Out of the blue one of the parents suggested that we needed some dance opportunities up here and asked if I might open one or two classes for our kids that are local,” Duffy said. Not wanting to work too much, but seeking to keep up her teaching and dance skills, Duffy took on the challenge and started a couple of classes with the Auburn Recreation District. In the 10 years since saying yes to that simple request to share her knowledge and passion, Duffy has created a dance program called, “Come Dance with Me,” aimed at bringing dance and performing arts to children of all ages and backgrounds. “I just wanted to bring good dance training at a reasonable cost to area children,” Duffy said. “I remember the recreation supervisor at the time said dance has never gone over well, but I had an idea that I could create a program to bring dance to any child that was interested.” On Monday, Sept. 8, Duffy will start another season offering dance classes through the Auburn Recreation District, only now her Come Dance with Me program consists of 33 dance classes serving students aged 18 months through adults. Fifteen teachers will assist Duffy. “I have children that started in the early years and they stayed and are now in their ninth year still taking classes, going on to compete and winning,” said Duffy. Classes include musical theater, jazz, tap, ballet and even hip hop. She also offers an opportunity for children to perform in two musical dance shows a year. “The Nutcracker” ballet and a Broadway-type show will be presented with roles for each child who wishes to participate. “Everybody gets an opportunity – no recital – I will find a place for each child, disability or ability,” said Duffy. Duffy is trained in instructing special needs children and according to their abilities they are able to participate in the shows. “We’ll do ‘The Nutcracker,’ but it’s our way, not your common Nutcracker,” said Duffy. “We also do ‘Broadway in the Foothills,’ excerpts from old Broadway, which the children probably never ever heard of, and also something very new that they can relate to.” Duffy is very concerned that each child who attends her dance classes have good self-esteem. “We need to make each child feel comfortable. I want each child to walk in here and feel great about themselves,” Duffy said. “I owe these children the best that’s in me, that I can give them, to bring out the best that’s in them, and they shine for me.” Duffy lives in Rocklin with her husband, Kevin. She is the mother of three children and grandmother to three.