Dance studio mum on actress Emma Watson's visits


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Lori Javornick and Michelle Dawson kept a Hollywood-sized secret for six weeks.

As dance students and their parents cycled through The Academy of Dance by Lori on Mt. Lebanon's Washington Road, actress Emma Watson, best known as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies, conducted dance workouts undetected in an empty studio.

Ms. Watson, 21, was in the Pittsburgh area from April to June to film "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," a movie based on the book by Upper St. Clair native Stephen Chbosky.

She and other cast members stayed at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Bethel Park during filming, and when Ms. Watson and her assistant searched for a place where she could exercise without attracting attention, they spotted the dance studio.

Neither Ms. Javornick, the artistic director for the academy, nor Ms. Dawson, the co-artistic director, had heard of Ms. Watson when her assistant contacted them about providing dance space for the movie star.

"I think that's why she liked us so much," Ms. Dawson said.

They said they would help her use the studio without being spotted by fans or photographers.

The two women told only their spouses -- not their staff, students or other family members or friends -- about their secret mission.

They gave Ms. Watson a key so she could come and go as she pleased, and when their students asked who was using the studio, Ms. Dawson said it was one of her friends from out of town.

One day, a group of parents came to the dance academy early, and Ms. Javornick and Ms. Dawson told the movie star to put on sunglasses when she left so her famous face would be covered.

With one exception -- a paparazzi photograph of Ms. Watson near the studio surfaced -- her presence in the studio remained a secret, even though dozens of her fans -- teen and pre-teen girls -- were dancing in other rooms of the studio day and kept in the dark until after Ms. Watson left Pittsburgh.

"They just couldn't believe it when we told them," Ms. Dawson said.

Last month, the dance company moved to a new spot in the former basement of the Borders bookstore on Highland Drive in Bethel Park.

Ms. Javornick and Ms. Dawson plan to display photographs signed by Ms. Watson in their new lobby as a reminder of weeks she spent with their studio.

"It was a whirlwind experience for us," Ms. Dawson said.

As they got to know her, the two directors forgot she was a movie star and came to think of Ms. Watson as one of their regular students.

But there were a few big reminders that she wasn't a typical student, such as when she sent them text messages to say she wouldn't be at the studio because she was flying to Los Angeles for the MTV Movie Awards.

During her time in Pittsburgh, they gave Ms. Watson, who went by "Em," advice about where to eat and visit when she wasn't filming, and they even tried to find her a special kind of milk she wanted.

Ms. Watson felt so comfortable at the studio she convinced the rest of the cast to rehearse a dance scene there rather than at a Downtown location. So, the dance academy played host to the entire cast, including actor Logan Lerman and Mr. Chbosky, the director.

"It was just a fun energy to have in our space, and it was fun to get to know the cast," Ms. Dawson said.

As a thank you to the two women, Ms. Watson invited Ms. Dawson, Ms. Javornick and her daughter Lauren,10, to watch her shoot a scene at Peters Township High School.

As an extra thanks, after filming ended, Ms. Watson's New York City-based trainer taught a special class for several of the dance academy's students.


Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707.


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