The Studio Performing Arts Center started in 2006 with the goal of offering excellent instruction in all three performing arts: Dance (ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, lyrical, contemporary, and hip hop), Voice (Singing/Musical Theatre), and Acting. Founded by Patrice (“P.K.”) Van Voorhees (B.F.A. “with Distinction”, Music Theatre/Dance, University of Michigan), the purpose for The Studio was to develop a conservatory where all three performing arts could come together and follow a comprehensive and well-thought out curriculum. “Our focus is to develop the whole student – artistically, intellectually, aesthetically and technically in a nurturing and positive environment.”
P.K. feels that the arts are crucial to the development and continuation of our society – and that a quality arts education is very important. She grew up dancing at her mother’s studio (Theda Assiff, founder of Assiff Studio of Dance is now a guest/master instructor at The Studio). In high school, after already experiencing spots as a guest dancer with the Royal Ballet of Canada and Agnes De Mille’s Heritage Dance Theatre, P.K. decided she wanted be more than a featured dancer in the chorus of productions.
“Our focus is to develop the whole student – artistically, aesthetically and technically in a nurturing and positive environment.”
“I was performing as a dance scholarship recipient for the Lansing Matinee Musicale organization, and at the same performance was a NYC actor giving a speech on Acting, and Lindy Rich (a former Lansing-area voice teacher) who was singing. The actor convinced me I needed to take voice lessons because it would open me up to more opportunities later on. I went home and urged my mother to call Lindy and set it up.”
She did, and it started Van Voorhees on another path. She was accepted into U of M’s prestigious Musical Theatre program and graduated “with distinction” and with the unexpected honor of portraying “Maria” in West Side Story, even though she was blonde and an undergraduate. She headed to NYC where she studied with master teachers David Howard, Alexandra Danilova, Nenette Charisse, Roni Mahler, Miguel Godreau, Alvin Ailey, Patrice Soriero, Frank Hatchett, and Michelle Assaf among many others (for dance), the legendary Fred Kareman (for Acting) a protege of Sanford Meisner’s (The Neighborhood Playhouse), soprano virtuoso and mentor Elizabeth Howell (for voice) and edgy Robert Marks (for vocal coaching).
“My years in New York were exciting. All of these famous, creative people were very accessible and you could study with masters in each field.” She performed in just about every venue an actor could; Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, Regional Theatre, Dinner Theatre, Summer Stock, Commercials, Films, and even MTV Videos. “I was being considered for the part of ‘Doria’ in Smile (a musical written by Marvin Hamlisch and the late Howard Ashman), and after five callbacks they cast Jodi Benson (Disney’s voice of The Little Mermaid) instead.” So she headed to Los Angeles to work, hoping to return back to New York with more “box office draw”, like Benson.
“Los Angeles is a very different business than NY, and I feel uniquely qualified to speak about both.” In California, she met her husband, Randy, also an actor. She discovered she loved directing and teaching and began to explore both, but after the Northridge earthquake, she began making plans to leave. “I loved California. We were never going to leave, but once you have children your focus changes.” By that time, her mother had decided to retire and sold her studio.
“We decided to come back to Michigan because the school systems here are comparable to private schools in California.” They settled in East Lansing and P.K. kept busy directing high school shows and spending a summer as Director of the Boarshead’s Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory. “I really loved working with the students, but I wanted a more continuous program…. at the schools, each year it was like starting over. I had to teach the students to dance and act and I had just ten weeks to do it as well as putting on the show.”
With The Studio, P.K. is able to continue what she loves best. “It is so wonderful to watch the growth in the students. We have limited class sizes which allow us to give a lot of individual attention, and the growth on a weekly basis can be remarkable.” The Studio students train all year and perform in a Collage Concert at the end of May to show off their new skills in the various fields they have studied. Several years ago, P.K. started The East Lansing Dance and Theatre Company, where students that want to perform more can.
The Dance Company has performed After Ever After, an original ballet, Peter Pan, Adventures In Neverland, The Adventures of Snow White and Rose Red as well as Excerpts from The Tales Of Beatrix Potter from “Tall Tales Of Long Ago And Far Away” to critical acclaim. They have also co-performed with the Acting Company on The Seven Wonders, An Original Piece For Actors And Dancers, that P.K. wrote, based on the children’s book, “The Seven Wonders Of Sassafras Springs” by Betty Birney.
The Acting Company has also performed Law & Order: Fairy Tale Unit, Effigy In The Outhouse, The Greek Mythology Olympiaganza and The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon. In 2016, we were proud to be able to present the Michigan premier of The Monologue Show, a new play by writer Don Zolidis. Many shows are handpicked for the variety of parts and opportunities the students have to play multiple parts or challenging characters, often requiring students to play 3-4 parts each, often within seconds of each other. In addition to the theatrical performances, the dancers and singers also perform for local charities and nursing homes throughout the year.
P.K. is pleased at the reception The Studio has received since it’s founding. “My goal is to expose my students to the arts in the best way I know how and see where it takes them. There is an old saying ‘You’ll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind’. It does take dedication and hard work to be good in the arts, but it is something that will stay with you your whole life. The self-discipline is so important: everyone needs to learn patience, as well as what it’s like to try and fail, and get up and try again. Delayed gratification for our younger citizens is essential. You may not get something today, or even next week. Learning to understand the process it takes to be successful at something makes the success down the road even sweeter, because with enough training and perseverance, you will achieve in the end. Not only do you get to express yourself artistically, you also get to be physically fit, develop spatial skills, be good at public speaking, learn improvisational abilities, realize tenacity and perseverance and acquire musicality. All of these are qualities that you will need and use for life.”