[Editor’s note: Amphaymany “Pi” Keohavong was one of the most successful former UL Lafayette students you’ve never heard of. He parlayed a natural talent for dance into an international touring career with some of the most prestigious dance companies. Keohavong, 39, died earlier this month after a brief battle with stomach cancer. Following is a tribute to Pi by friend and fellow theater student Michele Boulet.]
Once upon a time at a university in southwestern Louisiana there was a young man named Pi. He came from a far away place called Laos with his family to make a new life in America. In a beautiful Spanish town on the Bayou Teche the Keohavong family settled and prospered. The son went to USL, where he met a bunch of crazy-fun theater people who fell in love with him. How could they not? Pi was kind, smart, funny, handsome and a very hard worker. He was the kind of person you wanted/needed on your crew, someone you could trust and rely upon. This Laotian-American Berry Boy wanted to learn the art of technical theatre. Acting wasn’t his thing; he liked to use his hands to build the sets and light the stage, and he was very good at it.
Then came the dancing class requirement — we all had to take the basic dance classes — ballet, jazz and modern. So Pi put on some tights and showed up for work. Under the tutelage of his excellent and tough teachers a performer was discovered; this small, strong and fit young man was a natural. He could leap and soar and stop on a dime. Pi flowed like water and writhed like a hurricane. He had a natural athleticism, grace of form and masculine power that was innate and unstoppable. The pleasure of the dance filled his soul, winning him a scholarship to the Erick Hawkins Troupe in New York City and, as they say, a star was born.
I asked his long time friend, Stacey Simon, a New Iberia resident and ex-professional dancer at the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, how our Pi fared in the big city and she told me, ”It was as a big change for him, but it was what he was meant to do — it was his calling, and he went into it full force.”
From the professional stage of Erick Hawkins to Philobolus Troupe to the last big gig with Momix, our Pi danced his derriere off — not literally, as he had one of the nicest gluteus maximi I have ever seen. The last time I talked to Pi was on the phone, when he was established and comfy in NYC. I called my friend whom I had not seen or talked to since 1993, and it was like old times, just catching up, sharing stories of our adventures in the professional performing arts, me just back from Seattle and he the most successful member of our USL family.
Somewhere along his travels our Pi met a special lady, and they fell in love, got married and made a home in a small village in Italy. This is where his funeral was, and from what I heard, it was packed. A couple of hundred people made their way to the village that Pi and Sylvia settled in to say their goodbyes. His passing was noticed and covered by the local media, and his new family mourned his death in the Old World. The testaments to Pi on his Facebook page are truly magnificent in both tone and variety. This guy was loved massively and intensely; he affected so many around the world. The impact of his so very well lived and loved life is a testament to a real life fairy tale. Who among us has touched so many? Please head over to the Facebook page for Amphaymany Keohavong for a fuller picture of our sweet, smart-ass, bad-ass Pi. He made us all so proud.
If I could ask Pi one last question, I think it would be something like, “What do you think is next? How do you feel about it?” And he might say, “I hope it is as full of love and fun and interesting times as this life has been to me.”
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.
President Barack Obama is turning to black radio listeners to plead for midterm votes, a targeted approach to drum up Democratic support at a time when many candidates don't want him around in person.
WaPo Watergate editor Ben Bradlee dies; Clintons stump for Dems; Liberians stranded and more national and international news for Wednesday, October 22, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
"I am extremely disheartened by the political machines that are attempting to hijack my efforts along with others that advocate for children."
Landrieu, who is fighting to keep her seat for a fourth term, said that Ebola is serious and precautions should be taken, but she accused Republicans of using the virus outbreak in West Africa to "create fear" here at home.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.
State education officials are preparing to release performance scores for public schools and public school districts.
Saints coach Sean Payton is starting a new week by emphasizing, repeatedly, the many good things he noticed during New Orleans' latest loss.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.
Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger recently on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders.
Louisiana's health department says it will seek law changes to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests.
It wasn’t the historic slashes to higher ed funding or the ensuing tuition spikes that recently had LSU’s student body and faculty riled up in collective outrage.
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.
Lawmakers have sidestepped a decision on whether they accept claims from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration that the state closed last year's books with a nearly $179 million surplus.