Owner and teacher, Concord Dance Center, Aston, PA
NOMINATED BY: Jamie Carr, daughter: “My mom has owned and operated her studio for 40 years. She has shared her passion for the art of dance with thousands of students and has always gone the extra mile for everyone. She was raised in an abusive household and dance was the one thing in her life that brought her true happiness.
She started out with a cassette player, a small room in her basement, a few students, and an undying love for teaching dance. Two of her former students left and opened a studio together down the street from her. Despite the hurt, my mom made it through, and this year she has more students than she has ever had.
Mom has thyroid cancer and it has spread to her lymph nodes. She was back at the studio a few days after surgery, against her doctor’s advice. She just can’t be away from her one and only true love in life—dance.”
YEARS TEACHING: I recently celebrated my 40th year. My former students threw a gala for me. They also got together and performed in my recitals. It was very special.
AGES TAUGHT: 3–18 years
GENRES TAUGHT: Jazz, tap, ballet, preschool, combo, cheer dance, and lyrical
WHY SHE CHOSE TEACHING AS A CAREER: My grandparents were very involved in the arts. I spent a lot of time with them, and they opened the door to my interest in dance. I saved money from a part-time job and took dance lessons; I was hooked from the beginning. Dance became an outlet for me to express my emotions and forget about my problems at home. From the moment I took my first class, I knew that dance would become my life and that I wanted to share that passion with others.
HER GREATEST INSPIRATION: Michael Lopuszanski, my Russian ballet instructor. I trained under him while I was performing with Philadelphia Civic Ballet. He was extremely strict and made me cry every week, but he taught me about self-discipline and respect. I am a better person and dancer after having trained under him.
TEACHING PHILOSOPHY: I used to only care about competition. I based everything on how many awards my students brought home. When a former student opened a school down the street from me, most of my competitive teams went with him. I was devastated, but after time healed my wounds, I chose to look at my school from a new perspective. I am here to instill the love of dance in every student. My philosophy is to offer quality dance education, raise self-esteem, and let these kids enjoy every minute of class.
WHAT MAKES HER A GOOD TEACHER: I go above and beyond for everyone. I serve as a teacher, mentor, psychologist, surrogate mother, doctor, and friend. I hit my pillow every night exhausted, but I truly love what I do.
FONDEST TEACHING MOMENT: When my 3-year-old preschool student told me that I was the best teacher in the world and that she is going to be on Broadway someday.
HER ADVICE TO TEACHERS AND STUDENTS: Never forget the passion you have for teaching and for dance. Sometimes this can be a thankless job. It seems that all you hear are complaints because people rarely give compliments anymore, but the one compliment you do get, you cherish, and that gets you through the next year. It’s also great to see the huge smile a student gets when she finally gets that step she has worked and worked on and you say, “Great job.” To students: keep working hard! No one is ever a “perfect” dancer, including your teachers, so continue your studies and be the best you can be.
IF SHE COULDN’T BE A DANCE TEACHER: I would work with dogs. My 8-year-old yellow Lab is recuperating from an injury. I have been his physical therapist for the past few weeks and will have to continue until he heals.
DO YOU KNOW A DANCE TEACHER WHO DESERVES TO BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT? Email your nominations to Arisa@rheegold.com or mail them to Arisa White, Dance Studio Life, P.O. Box 2150, Norton, MA 02766. Please include why you think this teacher should be featured, along with his or her contact information.