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Patti Law School of Dance closes after 50 years

Pattie Law, far left, with other members of the Grub Gulch Garter girls, circa mid 1970s, including Carol Pakorra, Janice Goldman, unknown dancer, Candace (Ernest) Hoffman and Mary Ann Parks.
Pattie Law, far left, with other members of the Grub Gulch Garter girls, circa mid 1970s, including Carol Pakorra, Janice Goldman, unknown dancer, Candace (Ernest) Hoffman and Mary Ann Parks. Submitted Photo

After 50-plus years of teaching dance to children and adults in the Mountain Area, the Patti Law School of Dance has closed its doors.

Law, known to many as Miss Patti, has rented a 1,000-square-foot room at the Golden Chain Theatre to operate her dance school for the past 20-plus years. In addition to her dance classes, she has served as the dance instructor and choreographer for the Grub Gulch Garter Girls & Guys, and the Grub Gulch Grannies.

The Golden Chain Theatre’s board of directors, needing additional space for its growing School of Performing Arts, recently informed Law the GCT would no longer be able to accommodate her.

In a prepared statement, the board explained that two years ago the Golden Chain Theatre School of Performing Arts was established and it has become wildly popular, requiring the GCT to use more and more of its facility throughout the week to facilitate the growing demand.

“This year the Golden Chain Theatre celebrates its 50th anniversary,” the statement read. “This longevity is firmly built on the actions and support of many people over the years and especially those who had the initial vision for GCT. Patti Law is one such person, with a long history with the Golden Chain Theatre.”

The statement acknowledged that Law was one of the original organizers of the GCT, being one of a handful of people who put their homes up as collateral for a bank loan to purchase the Oakhurst Bowling Alley and transform it into the Golden Chain Melodrama Theatre. In 1999, the GCT was able to make the final payment on the bank loan.

The statement noted that the GCT board is eternally grateful for Law’s vision and support throughout the history of the GCT, and that in recent years, although not involved directly with GCT productions, she has been able to continue to rent one of the rehearsal rooms.

The statement said it is with much sadness that the GCT has come to realize that they no longer have the space to accommodate Law.

“Thus we have taken the course of ending our rental agreement ... the board of directors at GCT is eternally grateful for Patti’s contribution that has allowed us to provide entertainment for the mountain community as well as arts education for up and coming generations of children.”

Law paid $125 a month to use the space about four hours a week for her dance school.

Sara Persson, GCT’s current board of directors president, said the decision to not renew Law’s rental agreement at GCT wasn’t without a lot of thought, and was certainly not easy.

“The board had a lot of discussion, and put great deal of thought was put into this - the decision was not made hastily by any means,” Persson said. “The founders of the GCT, including Patti, had a vision of bringing live entertainment to our mountain community, and to the tourists that visit our area. As the GCT grows, it is our hope to keep that vision and legacy alive for many years to come.”

In addition to Persson, the board is made up of Miranda Simmonich, Steve Montalto, James Mierkey, Janice Ryder, Ken Ryder, Jack Boynton, Michael Van Buren and Melinda Rich.

Can’t afford to relocate

Law has taught dance classes to three generations of children in the Mountain Area. And although she says she is happy to see the GCT grow in a positive direction, she said it’s sad something couldn’t be worked out to allow her to continue at the GCT a short time longer.

“After 50-plus years of teaching dance in our community and volunteering my service to the community theater that I helped open 50 years ago, I was formally given notice that I could no longer hold my dance classes at the studio I rented at the Golden Chain Theatre,” Law said. “Since there is no way I could relocate and remodel another commercial space in town and pay only $120 a month, I am forced to close the studio permanently. Not only will I miss the children, this is lost income for me. I’m upset because we could not work something out for a year or two when I planned to retire. After working all those years to keep the GCT open, and to be there to burn the mortgage in 1999, It’s just not right to dismiss one of the founding members who loves the Golden Chain. This is not the way I dreamed it would all end.”

“I will miss the children the most,” Law added. “I always like seeing big, tough-looking sheriff deputies around town that I taught to dance when they were little boys. I always tease them that if they ever give me a ticket, I’ll tell everyone that I remember them in their dance tights sitting on my lap.”

Jenny Castillo has a 10 year old daughter, Olivia, who has been taking weekly dance lessons from Law and performing in her shows for the past six years. Olivia has twin six year-old sisters, Grace and Belle, who have been taking dance lessons and performing for three years.

“In addition to learning dance, all three of my girls have gained a lot from Miss Patti and her classes such as self esteem and confidence,” Jenny said. “She’s much more than a dance teacher. She’s been a part of our family ... she’s been in our home for the girls birthday parties.”

Castillo said she has been taking her girls to dance classes every week for the past six years, and with the studio closing, there will be a big void in the family schedule.

“I know there are other options in the Mountain Area but they will never be the same as Miss Patti,” Castillo concluded.

Law did a colorful Christmas Show with all her students for 48 years.

Shirley McClennen was a member of the infamous Grub Gulch Grannies for nearly 30 years, along with Betty Boltinhouse, Betty Smith, Pat Cram, Cleme Woupio, Gloria Blevines, Vivian Radanovich, Helen West, Betty Rich, Corky Clark, Bernie Dent, and Jeri Barron.

“Patti always came up with something creative and fun for us and something she knew the audience would like,” McClennen said.

“Boy did we have a good time with Miss Patti for all those years ... you think keeping little children in line is tough, she really had her hands full with us,” laughed McClennen. “She wanted us to do the best we could and she did the best she could with us, but more often than not, we had our share of humorous mistakes on stage that audiences seemed to love. What they have done to Miss Patti is simply not right, and I will not step foot in the Golden Chain again.”

Jeri Barron was a member of the Grub Gulch Grannies for 20 years.

“We had so much fun with Miss Patti all those years,” Barron said. “I couldn’t wait to get there for rehearsal or a show and each time I hated to leave.”

Barron said all the ‘grannies’ were volunteers, most on a limited income, who paid for their own costumes and gas.

“The expenses could get a little heavy at times -remember gas at $5 a gallon - but no one wanted to disappoint Patti so we all hung in there year after year,” Barron said. “Some times we would travel out of town to do a show for $50. It cost us a lot more than $50 to put on the show.”

“I would say without hesitation, it was Miss Patti that single-handidly keep the GCT open during some of those early years,” Barron said. “If it wasn’t for her there wouldn’t be a Golden Chain.”

Barron said she loves the Golden Chain with all her heart and loves the current productions that just seem to get better and better.

“I just wish the board would have considered letting Patti stay another year or two,” said Barron.

“I want to thank the community and all my friends and family who supported me and allowed me to teach dance to them and their children the past 50 years,” Law said. “I have three generations of families that have taken dance from me and everyone has always treated me with love and respect. Unfortunately, I don’t feel I have been treated that way by the majority of the current Golden Chain board of directors.”

When asked to comment, Law’s husband Mark Poggi uttered just five words - “Shame on you Golden Chain.”

Golden Chain Theatre Board of Directors statement

“This year the Golden Chain Theatre celebrates its 50th anniversary. This longevity is firmly built on the actions and support of many people over the years and especially those who had the initial vision for GCT.

Patti Law is one such person, with a long history with the Golden Chain Theatre. She is one of the original organizers of the theatre, and she was one of five couples who mortgaged her home to make the purchase of our existing property a possibility.

In 1999, we were able to make the final payments to reimburse those who contributed so much to the beginnings of our theatre. Through the years she has taught many students and produced many shows at the theatre. We are eternally grateful for her vision and support throughout the history of the theatre.

In recent years, Patti has not been involved directly with our theatre’s productions but has been able to continue to rent one of our rehearsal rooms to continue her dance school.

Two years ago we established the Golden Chain Theatre School of Performing Arts and it has become wildly popular, requiring us to use more and more of our facility throughout the week to facilitate the growing demand. It is with much sadness that we have come to realize that we no longer have the space to accommodate Patti’s rental of our facility, thus we have taken the course of ending our rental agreement.

The Board of Directors at GCT are eternally grateful for Patti’s contribution that has allowed us to provide entertainment for the mountain community as well as arts education for up and coming generations of children with a desire and aptitude for performance and we regret the fact that we no longer have the space available to rent to Patti.

Our sincerest hope and plan is to continue to honor Patti as well as all of those who have contributed so much to the beginnings of GCT. We wish her the absolute best in her endeavors in teaching dance to the young people of our community.”

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