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Behind the Curtain

NDEO Members Thank Their Dance Teachers
By Shannon Dooling-Cain
Posted on 4/28/2021 11:48 PM

Each year, NDEO celebrates Thank A Dance Teacher Day on the first Thursday in May. This annual celebration of dance education and the teachers who make it possible began in 2014. On Thank A Dance Teacher Day, we honor the special relationship between dance students and their teachers, and the lasting bond that is formed between them. We recognize the dedication, passion, and endless care shown by dance educators around the world, and the constant investment they make in their students. We raise awareness of the value of dance education and the impact that dance, when taught by a qualified and compassionate teacher, can have on students’ lives.  

We invite all those whose lives have been touched by dance: dance professionals, educators, hobbyists, and enthusiasts, current students and former dancers, and families of dancers past and present to recognize a special dance teacher on social media using the hashtag #ThankADanceTeacherDay on May 6, 2021.

Amy Bramlett Turner with her students from the Hot Springs Dance Troupe of Hot Springs World Class High School

Recently, we asked our members - who are amazing educators in their own right - to tell us about a dance teacher who touched their lives in a special way. Here are a few of their responses:

I am thankful for my dance teacher, Andrea Pierkowski, because she instilled a level of professionalism and integrity in me. As a young dancer, I was shown the importance of strong technique, humility in my talent, confidence in craft, dedication, creativity, and the importance of appropriate movement and costuming for various ages. She is still my teacher and mentor today and supports me, my students, and my dance program. She is truly a gift and I am so thankful for her leadership, heart, and faith she put in me.” - Amy Bramlett Turner, Hot Springs School District Grades 7-12 Dance Director, Arkansas

Ann Green Gilbert's workshops made an impact in my early years of teaching to open windows of best practices for early education and beyond. The imagery she provided was astounding and eye opening. Thank you for your continued sharing of information that is open, full of life, inspirational and enriching.” - Hilarie Neely, Owner/Director, Footlight Dance Centre, Idaho

I owe a lot to my mentor and friend, DaVonne Miller. I started dancing with her when I was four years old. She instilled a love for dance in me, and God used her tremendously in my life. I danced in her company, taught in her studio, and we are still very close. There aren't many teachers out there who have an impact in their community the way she does. She loves people, and is a beacon of light to all who interact with her.” - Amanda Van Meter Burch, Director/Choreographer, Central Florida Choreographers Collaboration, Florida

“I am so thankful for my first dance teachers, Liz Limons Shea, Debbie Whelan, and Susan Koff, who scooped me up as a sophomore at Penn State University and introduced me to dance for the first time. Today I work to pass on their legacy by making dance accessible to anyone with a passion and interest, and willingness to work hard. Liz, Debbie and Susan - you made a difference in my life! I will forever be grateful to each one of you.” - Kevin Warner, Professor, Appalachian State University, North Carolina

“I am thankful for my dance teacher, Lori Axelrod, who instilled my passion for dance. She has been an inspiration to me for my entire life, and the reason I am a dance teacher today. Lori always focused on sharing the gift of dance throughout the community as we performed for our local breast cancer foundation benefit, as well as a specialized school in our community for students with emotional and development delays. … I will be forever grateful for her mentorship and friendship as we still work together today to collaborate on projects throughout our community. She continues to be an inspiration to me, even now, through her community work.” - Kellianne Floyd, Lead Dance Teacher, Spartanburg School District 1, South Carolina

Photo of Kiri Avelar by Paula Lobo

“I will never forget the lessons I learned from Spanish Dance Artist, Educator and Choreographer, Sandra Rivera, as I witnessed her teaching at the Ballet Hispánico School of Dance over the course of many years. She was a founding company member of Ballet Hispánico, and had returned to the school to teach in the pre-professional program. In her classes, each technical drill imparted so much artistry and imagination. She made the art of Spanish Dance come alive to her students. While I was so focused on the "discipline" of the class, Ms. Sandra remained steadfast on the artistry of storytelling, and relied on that to keep attention and order in her classes. She always made this historical and traditional art form relevant for the diverse student body she served in New York City, and engaged students in the inquiry of their place within the learning process.” - Kiri Avelar, Deputy School Director, Ballet Hispanico, New York

“I am thankful for two undergraduate dance professors, Susan Douglas Roberts and Susan Kirchner. Together, they taught me how much was possible in dance and how to be a truly impactful, lifelong teacher. Each has given me opportunities and mentorship post-graduation that have been critical to my development and maturity. They have led me to realize that teaching is the opportunity to be in lifelong relationships with your students. I don't think they realize how much I look up to them still! Susan and Susan, I love you both more than you know. How grateful I am for you both.” -
Leah Cox, Associate Professor, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas

“Over the course of my life time I have had numerous master teachers I that I would love to thank, Nanette Charisse, Edward Caton, Pauline Konner, Helen McGee, Vera Blaine, Lucy Venable, David Howard, Finis Jhung, Anne Green Gilbert, and Jody Arnhold. But if I had to single out one teacher/dancer that impacted my performance in the most powerful way I would say thanks to Judith Jamison, who personally taught me her solo “The Lord’s Prayer” from Mary Lou Anderson’s Mass back in 1972. She taught me how to use my energy and attention to space in a way that completely changed my movement style and to her I am forever grateful.” - Karen Diaz Ensanian, Author, Guest Lecturer, and Workshop Facilitator, New York

Photo of Gomathi Manoj with her Guru Mrs Padmini Radhakrishnan by FotoLaya

“I am truly indebted to my first Gurus - my parents who introduced me to the world of performing arts. I am grateful to my present teacher & guiding force - Guru Mrs. Padmini Radhakrishnan who is an everlasting beacon of guidance to all her students. She helped continue my passion in my art form - Bharatanatyam & make it a profession for life. Her values have helped steer my course of life right from training days as a teenager into adult life and beyond. She is an inspiration. One important lesson she taught is - adaptability is important for an artist & also to push oneself beyond boundaries to showcase the best always. Today I say to her - You opened up a world of possibilities for me with your love and care. Dance holds a special place in my heart and life. I eternally seek your blessings in my journey of dance!” - Gomathi Manoj, Artistic Director, Soundarya Natya Kalalaya, New Jersey

“I am thankful for Margot Parsons because she not only taught me to dance, but also taught me to find my identity in the field. I learned from her that paying close attention to your dancers in all ways, physical, emotional, and spiritual is crucial to having an impact in your choreography. She made a lasting impact in my life by always being there for me throughout any kind of difficulty or triumph. She came to as many of my performances and events, even of my students, that she could. She encouraged and assisted me in all my dance efforts. I would tell her that because of her, I have continued to love the dance.” - Kathy Hassinger, Director/Dance Currents Inc., Massachusetts


At NDEO, we are thankful for our members. We are honored that you choose NDEO for the resources, support, and opportunities you need to advance your career and benefit your students. We are grateful for the dedication that you show to your students and the impact that you have on them, every day. We value your commitment to dance education, and for your support of our organization as we work together to advance the field and advocate for dance education for all. 

Don’t forget to thank your dance teachers, past and present, on May 6, 2021. Use the hashtag #ThankADanceTeacherDay to say thank you on social media. Check out our Facebook event to sign-up, see sample thank you messages, and more!

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