Veteran represents Mystic in local dance competition

Victoria Rivera and Jim LaCoursiere prepare for the 47th New England Danceport Championship March 8-10 in Groton. (photo courtesy of Jim LaCoursiere)
Victoria Rivera and Jim LaCoursiere prepare for the 47th New England Danceport Championship March 8-10 in Groton. (photo courtesy of Jim LaCoursiere)

Jim LaCoursiere has a very busy schedule, regularly traveling with the American Legion to lobby for veterans issues and work with other veterans organizations. This winter, he’s also had to squeeze in foxtrot lessons so he’s ready to take to the dance floor on March 10.

LaCoursiere, a Montville High graduate who moved back to town after serving in the Air Force in the early 1980s, is the local face in the Dancing with Our Heroes competition, part of the 47th New England Dancesport Championship sponsored by Fred Astaire Dance Studios from March 8-10 at the Mystic Marriott.

More than 20 studios in Connecticut and surrounding states are participating in the Dancing with Our Heroes benefit, with one dance instructor from each working with a local veteran in a Dancing with the Stars-style competition to raise money for the West Haven Fisher House.

Victoria Rivera, an instructor with the Mystic studio, is dancing with LaCoursiere. She will also be performing as part of the professionals dancing competition the night of the gala, and she said it’s nice to work with the other regional studios for a common cause like the Fisher House, a national organization that provides free lodging for veteran families staying near a military or Veterans Affairs medical center.

LaCoursiere has served the American Legion in a variety of capacities, not only locally with the New London, Niantic and Montville posts but also at the state and regional levels; currently he works for the Connecticut department as a field representative for the Soldiers, Sailors and Marines Fund. He said his connections with other veterans organizations in the state led to his involvement with Dancing with Our Heroes, though the only dance experience he had coming into it was the “barroom dancing” inspired by having a few drinks.

“This is all brand-spanking-new to me,” he said. “I’m enjoying it. I went from having six left feet and I’m down to about three left feet.”

Rivera, a Puerto Rico native living in Groton, said she was lucky to work with Jim because he’s open to trying anything. Pairs get to choose whether they do a swing or foxtrot routine for the competition, so during their first lesson, they sat down to learn more about his strengths and style, and she created a foxtrot routine just for him.

“It’s been a lot of fun. We’re working on making sure that he feels confident and comfortable and has fun out there,” she said. “He just builds it in his mind and goes for it.”

Tickets for the gala are $125, and votes can also be submitted online for the two dozen pairs competing. For more information about Dancing With Our Heroes, visit dancingwithourheroes.com.

a.hutchinson@theday.com

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