Dancing in Spoleto Festival is a summer dream job

Some college students spend their summer days at the pool, scooping ice cream at a local shop, binging on Netflix shows or waiting tables. Our college students spend their summer days fervently preparing to perform alongside renowned artists at Spoleto Festival USA—a 17-day long performing arts festival held in Charleston, South Carolina.

Rising third-year contemporary dance student LaVance Cuiellette was selected for the opportunity to perform at Spoleto this summer along with 11 other students from the School of Dance. Here’s what he learned from his experience dancing in the lowcountry: 

Tell us about Spoleto. In what production did you perform?

I was in an opera called “Eugene Onegin.” We had to stay healthy, stay focused and stay alert for any kind of last-minute change in choreography or production. I danced in every act of the opera and in most of the scenes. 

Editor’s Note: “Eugene Onegin” was the opening showpiece of the 2017 festival.

Eugene Onegin

UNCSA students danced in "Eugene Onegin." / Photo: Leigh Webber Photography

Share a special moment from the festival:

I’m often given nicknames—either for someone not being able to pronounce my name or for me doing something that’s funny or catchy. The costume director for “Eugene Onegin” nicknamed me “pretzel boy” because I was caught eating delicious pretzels as I was in my costume. (I was not supposed to eat in my costume!)

Did you meet anyone interesting or impactful?

Yes! One person that impacted my entire experience was Ms. Ruthy. She did an incredible job choreographing and setting everything up for the dancers. She was professional, nice and beautiful. And she’s my idol because she was the stunt double for Halle Berry in one of my favorite childhood movies, “Catwoman.”

LaVance and Ms. Ruthy

Cuiellette and Ms. Ruthy before a performance.

How did you prepare for Spoleto?

I constantly reminded myself that this is a job that I am being paid for and when money is involved, you ought to know that it’s not good to waste other people’s time.

I also had to be ready to see new faces and shake hands, because as an introvert I know how anxious I can get when I meet new people.

What did you learn about yourself through this experience?

I learned that there is always room to grow as a dancer and as a professional. I need to work on communicating more with the people that I work with.

Describe your Spoleto experience in one word:


by Hannah Callaway

July 10, 2017