Anna Marie Leo
Artistic director, Anna Marie Dance Studio, Wilmington, Delaware
NOMINATED BY: Gail Skinner and Amelia Kinsolving, Leo’s lifelong friends and fellow teachers: “At the 2013 DanceLife Teacher Conference, we were amazed by the number of people who approached Miss Anna Marie to tell her what a great influence she had on them. At the age of 84—and as her studio enters its 64th year—Anna Marie continues to teach, always willing to share her talents with students and fellow studio owners alike.”
YEARS TEACHING: 64
AGES TAUGHT: 4 through adult
GENRES TAUGHT: Ballet, tap
WHY SHE CHOSE A TEACHING CAREER: I think it chose me. When Joyce Potter asked me to assist her I thought it was a huge honor, and I fell in love with it.
WHY SHE IS A GOOD TEACHER: It’s the fact that I love children and love to nurture them—because not enough people do. Also, I care about their lives outside of the studio.
DID SHE EVER CONSIDER CLOSING SHOP: On rare occasions, either when things got tough financially or tough with parents. But I had a loving and supportive husband who said, “No, no,” and encouraged me to stay. Even after we had a fire and lost everything, I had enough drive to start a studio all over again.
BIGGEST MISTAKE YOUNG OWNERS MAKE: For young owners and teachers both, the biggest problem is trying to be friends with students and parents. They need to know you’re the boss, because it can be very easy to lose any or all control.
LOOKING FORWARD AS STUDIO PASSES TO NIECE: There’s always that anticipation of new adventures: new dancers, new upcoming talents, new shows—and not just at my studio, either. I love to watch other studios’ recitals, performances, and showcases.
FONDEST MEMORIES: Meeting Alexandra Danilova—she told me my attitude was like a dog at the fire plug, and now here I am, a ballet teacher. Meeting Roni Mahler and Arthur Duncan, who became my dearest friends; and Annie McQuitty, head of Dance Excellence, who is an extremely kind person and also one of my dearest friends.
BIGGEST CHANGE IN THE STUDIO WORLD: It’s becoming a world of competitions. I’m not 100 percent against it, but I don’t think it’s the best thing for every studio, and I don’t think it’s the best thing for every student.
LESSONS HER STUDENTS TAUGHT HER: To listen to them. Listen to everything they have to say, and be honest with them.
FUN TIMES TEACHING WITH DANCE OLYMPUS: Traveling with Jules and Art Stone, and everybody else, was always enjoyable. We always had to have three breakfasts: one at the hotel, one at the airport, and one at the next hotel.
ADVICE FOR HER YOUNGER SELF: If I had to do it all over again, I don’t think there’s a single thing I would change. You take the good with the bad, and the bad with the good, and it’s all made me the person I am today.
DO YOU KNOW A DANCE TEACHER WHO DESERVES TO BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT? Email your nominations to email@example.com. Please include why you recommend this teacher, plus his or her contact information.