By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Southborough – Meme Luttrell began dancing at age five when her mother, Terre Burke, was talked into teaching ballet to the neighborhood children. In 1966, Burke founded the Acton School of Ballet at the Minuteman Building on Windsor Avenue in Acton. The school is still in existence.?
Luttrell's love for dancing has not waned over the years. Instead, it has become an integral part of her life, offering her a refuge from the chaos of every day.
“For me, dancing is a complete release from the rigors of day-to-day life,” Luttrell said. “Whatever is going on with my kids, my husband, my parents or work doesn's even enter my mind while in class. I am just a dancer concerned with executing choreography. Plus, we laugh a lot!?After class I am reinvigorated and ready to get back to the rigors.”
Not a professional dancer, Luttrell says that she is just a dedicated student. She has performed at The Performing Arts Center (PAC) in Framingham with the Moving West Repertory Dance Theatre and has danced in the Commonwealth Ballet's Nutcracker performed at local high schools. Additionally, the Sereda DanceWorks repertory group that she is a part of has performed at Lesley University.
Luttrell taught for a while at both the Acton School of Ballet and the Arts Center in Southborough. Over the years, she has developed deep, long-lasting friendships with the women she dances with. She describes them as warm, supportive and funny.?
“A class I had been taking for over 20 years just ended last year,” Luttrell said. “Most of those women saw me through getting my first real job, my engagement and wedding, two pregnancies and the various trials and tribulations of the various stages of motherhood.”
For Luttrell, dancing serves many purposes.
“I?have attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) tendencies so the discipline from dance helps me stay focused and accomplish what needs to be done on a daily basis. I am also told dance is good for Alzheimer's prevention.?Most importantly, it makes me happy and happiness is a wonderful coping mechanism.”
Along with a love of dance, Luttrell has always had a love of the outdoors and an appreciation for the importance of protecting open space. The desire to preserve open space led to her involvement in Southborough Open Space – which began with casual discussions with her neighbor, Laurie Bourdon. The two women spent endless hours talking about the need for Southborough to adopt the Community Preservation Act (CPA).?One day, Bourdon's husband brought home an environmentalist, Freddie Gillespie, for lunch. Gillespie also shared their belief in the need for the CPA.?Soon, the three (Bourdon, Gillespie and Luttrell) were spending morning, noon and night working on a ballot initiative.?When the CPA passed, Luttrell started attending Open Space Preservation Commission meetings and was eventually appointed to the commission.
In recognition of Luttrell's work to protect open space and the environment in Southborough, she is the recent recipient of the 2012 Elaine Beals Conservation Award.
“I was humbled and honored to be associated with Elaine Beals, someone who I have great respect for,” Luttrell said.?”It was also nice to be recognized for my work on the Open Space Preservation Commission (OSPC).?It can often times be very frustrating being on the OSPC, not everyone believes in the importance of protecting our rapidly disappearing open spaces. One former commissioner referred to us as Sisyphus so it was nice to not have the boulder roll back over me for one night!”
Between her day job working for her brother (in the business office of three nursing/rehab centers that he owns), dancing and trying to maintain open space in Southborough, Luttrell has more than enough on her plate to keep her busy.