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By Lisa Vernon-Sparks
The Providence Journal
March 26, 2011


Large vertical windows capture majestic vistas served up by the Claiborne Pell Bridge and a serene Narragansett Bay, the backdrop for many homes along East Shore Road in Jamestown, and a certain cottage home. This particular dwelling has a favorite place special to 10-year-old twin dancers, Travis and Tyler Atwood.

Inside the home, under a white ceiling with exposed beams and a shiny wooden floor, the expanse is where the boys leap to new heights and stretch their boundaries. “We used to call it the great room,” said Sheryl Atwood, their mother. “It’s [really] just the family room.”

To Travis and Tyler the space is where improvisations flow, and passion and technical prowess dominate the room’s décor. “This room makes me comfortable and creative — I can be myself,” said Travis. Tyler adds, “My living room is relaxing, but also full of energy.”

The actual family area is snug in the room’s right end, if one is standing in it and looking at the bridge. In that area are the basics: A large flat-screen TV. A zebra-print throw rug lies under afew leather coffee table-like ottomans, and the red micro-fiber sofa face the windows. The walls, painted a pale green and blue, create a corner. Matching accent pillows soften the look, and a gray leather couch hugs the wall.

The edge of the sofa doubles as the boys’ ballet barre, a necessary tool for dancers to assist with warm-ups. For most dancers, really any large space with a smooth, sprung floor — one that has a little give when jumping — and a mirror is an instant studio, making the family room the ideal spot.

“They do see it as a special magical place. It’s really bright colors. It’s open and sunshiny. It’s just full of energy. It’s hard not to feel energized there,” Atwood said. “They get inspired.”

It wasn’t always a mini-studio.

Atwood and her husband, Chris Atwood, moved to the cottage in 2004, savoring its spectacular views and idyllic environs, and had it renovated to taste.

The home is a split-level and sits above Narragansett Bay, with an extended porch deck for outdoor dining. The couple hired architect Peter Twombly of Estes/Twombly Architects in Newport, to redesign the space but the studio effect came much later.

When Travis and Tyler were 7 years old, they discovered dance’s magic and power unwittingly by a whim of their mom, who decided to switch from all the traditional boys’ sports activities.

Figuring it would be a short-lived detour, no one in the family dreamed Travis and Tyler would stick with dancing like green on grass.

For most dancers, movement is an obsession. Travis and Tyler, trained in ballet, jazz, modern and hip-hop, among other things, are always doing some form of practice, improvisation and testing out new steps. It has paid off, as the duo has snatched up an abundance of accolades and awards in the three years they have pursued dance, including recently at the World Dance Championships in Europe, and fetching the gold and sliver medals last fall for Team USA in Poland.

“As the boys began doing more dancing, we started pushing the furniture to the edges of the room,” Atwood said. “They were always stretching and flying around doing leaps … and doing different moves. We got them tumble mats. We put the mirror up a year ago.”

Atwood said she and husband, Chris, don’t really mind the boys claiming the family room as their personal dance studio. It has become an adopted concept.

“Sometimes I am a life coach and personal trainer,” said Atwood, who added she holds sessions in the space. “It’s a nice space and having it set up in that way for the boys pays off for me as well.”


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