My family moved to Lafayette when I was seven years old and, in what seems in my memory to be a very short time, Beverly Latimer, Dot Mills, Marguerite Lyle ' my mom ' and others were busy stirring the pot that eventually produced the Lafayette Natural History Museum and Planetarium. Before there was a building, I recall summer afternoons spent participating in some sort of official/unofficial Natural History Museum activity in the shade of the garage of the Mills' River Road home.
Dot spearheaded the creation of the Children's Dance Guild at USL. As a mother of nine, Dot gave the enrollment of the program a boost with the participation of her daughters. Muriel Moreland ' a great dancer and educator ' headed the university's dance department in those days, so this was a very serious, somewhat academic pursuit. While some of us longed for glitzy costumes and dance recitals (we never had any), we were trained in modern dance technique, dancing rarely to recorded music, but rather to drumming. What an unusual opportunity! Classes met where space could be found ' the War Memorial Building, a classroom at St. Patrick's Church, a space at USL.
Dot was a university-degreed dancer herself and when we launched the Performing Arts Society of Acadiana (PASA) in 1989, Dot was so enthusiastic about our dance presentations. We shared many conversations about performances and the early pioneers of modern dance, many of whom she had known. What fun to talk to someone who had known Ted Shawn! In the not too distant past, she hoped to rally enough from her failing health to make one more trip to New York or to the modern dance mecca, Jacob's Pillow.
Even considering all of the dance expertise and enthusiasm that we've gathered in our community, there may be no one who knew more academically and artistically about dance than Dot. She loved the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey's signature piece "Revelations," performed to spirituals. PASA has presented the Ailey company twice and if this is the best gift that one could give Dot Mills, we are so happy to have added those events to the list of pleasures that brightened the glow in her heart.
Dot passed away at the end of January. PASA will miss her presence as we continue our pursuit of extraordinary dance. I will miss her, too. Dot, Beverly, my mom and those other mothers who juggled children, households and jobs as they created extraordinary community assets were great role models for us kids. Of all the gifts I have been given, it is certainly their vision and example that I treasure the most.
in case you missed it