Meet the Alumni
Shannon O’Brien School of Dance takes pride in the achievements of their alumni. Regardless of their career choice SOSD alumni move ahead in their lives with the poise, experience, enrichment and self-confidence that a SOSD education has given them.
Teacher, dancer, academic, globetrotting handstander.
When asked at 8 years old what she wanted to be, she would have told you a “dancing doctor.” Now at 24, her answer is still the same… only perhaps a little different than she’d once imagined, and probably includes a bit more detail.
After graduating from SOSD in 2016, Elyssa spent a year living between NYC for her studies and in Paris dancing, traveling around Europe to work with rising choreographers. There, she was exposed to contemporary dance and to such diverse, yet all very uniquely intricate, processes of creating dance (theatre) productions. She grew intrigued by new culture and realized there was a whole world out there, waiting for her to discover. This inspired her to apply and be accepted into London Contemporary Dance School, where her days were spent dancing from dawn until dusk, collaborating with composers, and traveling the United Kingdom to represent the students of London’s small specialist institutions at both Trust meetings and conferences alike.
When COVID struck she decided to take a gap year. This year gave her time to redefine her own dreams. During this time, she was a teacher with SOSD’s TutuTutoring program, taught in after-school community art programs for students of Pawtucket, Woonsocket and Central Falls; and began research with MindLeaps, an international nonprofit that uses dance as a platform to transition vulnerable youth back into an education setting. In 2021, she travelled to Rwanda to complete her Tier II teacher training with this organization. This year taught her the difference between working with the community instead of for the community, which is one of the biggest lessons she feels fortunate to have received.
The last year Elyssa spent working towards completing her Master's Degree with Trinity Laban Conservatory, the birthplace and hub of Dance Science. Dance Science is a fairly new and growing field, consisting primarily of psychology, physiology, biomechanics, developmental education, healthcare, and research. This is the year she finally understood for herself what being a "dancing doctor" means to her, and looks going forward.
This October, Elyssa will be moving to Nepal to join forces with ECC Nepal, an organization that works to bring interactive education to rural education communities. This organization works to supply students with an education who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity due to circumstance. There, she will be teaching creative movement arts, assisting with teacher trainings, and allowing her life to be changed by the sweet, sweet souls of her students.
Looking to the future, Elyssa plans on applying to PhD programs, and becoming a certified Dance Movement Therapist to better support the work that she is already doing. Her current research includes: how dance is a Positive Childhood Experience (what this looks like qualitatively as well as neurologically); how dance can optimize lateralization in the forebrain when introduced at primary age; how dance promotes both neurological and emotional resilience in adolescents; how to quantify hope; gender gaps in rural education; and the intersect between interactive education models, (new) urban education pedagogies, principles of dance/movement therapy, and drama therapy core processes
Devon Larcher was part of the Bill Evans Touring Company for the 2014- 2015 season, performing at the Ailey Dance Theatre, And other venues in the Rhode Island and Massachusetts area. He has just returned from working with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines as a dancer and an aerialist on Legend of the Seas. Now home, Devon is continuing to pursue his passion for the arts dancing with Urbanity Dance Company, Fusionworks Dance Company and Ten31 Productions.
He is a native of Pawtucket, Rhode Island where he graduated from the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Devon started his career traveling the world on the Royal Caribbean cruise line as a dancer and aerialist. Devon not only loves the stage but also to choreograph and create which he has had the opportunity to do both in the states and internationally. Devon joined the Koresh Dance Company in 2018.
After her time at SOSD, Julia attended Hofstra University in New York, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Dance and a minor in business. Since then she has moved to NYC to pursue her dance career. Some of her notable performances included a workshop with the esteemed Merce Cunningham Trust, and the Amalgamate Guest Artist Series, both at City Center Studios. Most recently Julia performed with the Amy Marshall Dance Company at the Battery Dance Festival, outdoors in Manhattan (pictured). When not performing and taking class, Julia is an instructor and personal trainer for a dance-based fitness method. She loves coming home each year to set choreography on the fabulous SOSD dancers!
Alyssa is an actress and comedian based in LA. Limperis can currently be seen starring as Sydney in the Showtime hit show FLATBUSH MISDEMEANORS which just debuted their second season. Her one hour comedy special about losing her dad, No Bad Days, premieres on Peacock on August 12th. She starred in the independent horror/comedy feature film TOO LATE opposite Ron Lynch, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Fred Armisen. Her other recent credits include the short film BRANDI FINDS GOD from Gonzalo Cordova, How to Avoid a Sappy Goodbye from Doug Rogers and she has completed a role in the feature film THE LIST co-starring Halston Sage. Additionally, she stars as ‘Mary Peck’ in the scripted podcast Edith that was nominated for best fiction podcast by iHeartRadio, 'Denise' on HBO MAX's THE HAMLET FACTORY and voices multiple characters on both the Spotify podcast THE LAST DEGREE OF KEVIN BACON and Cartoon Network's WE BABY BEARS. She has also been featured on CONAN, LAST WEEK TONIGHT, A LITTLE LATE WITH LILLY SINGH and AUNTY DONNA’S HOUSE (Netflix).
She has been trained comedically at the UCB and theatrically at Stella Adler.
The viral success of her comedic “Mom” videos led to recognition from Today.com, Vulture, Decider, Forbes, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe and other top-tier media outlets.
SRA Grad Fournier a Patriots cheerleader
January 24, 2011
By TERRY NAU
PAWTUCKET — Most pro football experts figured Kelsey Fournier and her New England Patriots cheerleader teammates would have spent a chilly Sunday evening outdoors at Gillette Stadium, coaxing freezing fans into making noise for the home team in the AFC championship game.
Instead, the New York Jets ousted the favored Patriots last Sunday in the conference semifinals, ending the season for players, fans and cheerleaders alike.
Fournier, a 2007 graduate of St. Raphael Academy, has been a member of the Patriots cheerleading squad for the past two seasons and hopes to make the team one more time before moving on to other things in her life.
“It was always a dream of mine to become a Patriots cheerleader,” Fournier admitted last week. “My parents (Ron and Heather) and sister (Alicia) are all big Patriots fans. I can remember sitting around the television, watching the Patriots, ever since I was a little girl. That’s when I started to dream about becoming a Patriots cheerleader.”
That dream came true in 2009. Kelsey has spent the last two years balancing her studies at Rhode Island College with the many duties of a Patriots cheerleader.
“There is a three-year limit for Patriots cheerleaders,” Fournier said. “I am finishing my second year. We have to try out all over again every year. I am hoping to qualify for my third and final year with the Patriots.”
Fournier’s background is in dance, not cheerleading. She did not participate in cheerleading as a high school student.
“I began taking dance lessons when I was three years old,” she admitted. “I have trained at the Shannon O’Brien School of Dance in Seekonk for 18 years. I have danced competitively, both in national and international competitions. I went to Poland in 2008 with the United States Dance Team.”
Looking for a new challenge, Fournier tried out for the Patriots’ cheerleading squad in 2009 and made the team on her first try. Kelsey’s experience and training in dance gave her a strong foundation for the tryouts. However, once she made the team, Kelsey learned a whole new array of cheerleading skills under the direction of head coach Tracy Sormanti.
“I had to learn a lot of new things,” he said. “In cheerleading, you have to be able to toss people. You need great social skills because we do so many community and charity events. It is considered a part-time job but it’s more full-time when you take into account all the time we put in each week.”
Fournier is a senior at Rhode Island College majoring in community health. She spent Christmas and New Year’s entertaining troops in Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Qatar. Fournier was joined by coach Sormanti and five other Patriots cheerleaders. They blended into a group of entertainers who gave 10 shows while touring 12 forward operating bases and command outposts.
Fournier never realized that the dancing lessons she began taking as a three-year-old would take her 18 years later to Afghanistan where she would help entertain soldiers.
“I volunteered to go on an Armed Forces Entertainment Tour,” she said. “Six Patriots cheerleaders and our coach (Sormanti) went on the tour. We flew over on a plane that was called the Bob Hope Express.”
Bob Hope, of course, began the whole process of entertaining troops during World War II and followed through in Korea and Vietnam. This vital morale-building process has continued in Hope’s memory during recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Fournier and her teammates arrived in Kyrgyzstan on December 20. They reached Northern Afghanistan on Christmas Day and then spent celebrated New Year’s in Qatar.
“Kyrgyzstan was pretty cold,” Fournier said. “It is near northern China, up near the mountains. It was snowing all the time. Afghanistan is just very cold. We finished in Qatar, where the temperature was around 70 degrees.”
Fournier gained some insight into the hardships that soldiers experience during their tours.
“Our trip definitely gave me a greater appreciation of what our soldiers are doing over there. We got to experience some of the things they deal with, like the cold weather. One of the best things we did was eat every meal with the troops. We got to know some of the soldiers on a personal level.
“It was Christmas and New Year’s and that really put things in perspective for us, knowing the soldiers were away from home during the holidays. You realize that could be any one of us. I really appreciate what our soldiers are doing over there.”
Fournier said it was “a touching moment” when the troops presented the entertainment squad with coins that honored their visit.
“They give out coins to soldiers for special things they have done,” Fournier said. “It meant a lot to us to receive one from the troops.”
And the soldiers really appreciated the shows that the Patriots cheerleaders and other entertainers performed in front of large crowds.
“The shows were great for their morale,” Fournier said. “We did 10 full shows. We visited 12 forward bases and command outposts.”
Several bases featured crowds of around 3,000 soldiers. At a few remote forward command posts, the show played to perhaps a dozen soldiers. The entertainment squad traveled on a variety of military aircraft: Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters along with C130 and C17 airplanes.
Fournier and her teammates signed autographs, did photo sessions with the troops, and participated in several re-enlistment ceremonies.
“It is an experience I will never forget,” Kelsey Fournier said