Margaret Tracey

Since retiring from New York City Ballet in 2002, Tracey has become an admired and dedicated teacher and arts advocate. She served as the Director of Boston Ballet School (BBS) from 2007–2021 and was profiled in a 2009 issue of Dance Teacher Magazine. During her tenure at BBS, Tracey drew upon her teaching experiences, studies in psychology, and ties to community clinicians to initiate a comprehensive Wellness Program at BBS. She also created the Next Generation, a year-end performance showcasing pre-professional students, which has become an annual highlight that spotlights BBS as a leader in local and regional arts education. Her stature in the dance world brought BBS extraordinary access to the Balanchine and Robbins repertoire, enhancing the training and performance experience for students. In addition, Tracey committed to commissioning underrepresented voices in choreography by amplifying the work of women and BIPOC choreographers such as Jill Johnson, Lia Cirio, and Ja’ Malik, among others. Tracey further distinguished BBS internationally by establishing exchange programs with Canada’s National Ballet School, Paris Opera Ballet School, the Royal Danish Ballet, and Dresden’s Semperoper Ballet. And under her leadership, BBS also became a partner school with the prestigious Prix de Lausanne international ballet competition.

Tracey continues to dedicate her efforts as a dance educator with a strong commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access to champion change. She has served on panels for MoBBallet’s annual educational symposiums (2019, 2020, and 2022) and has worked with colleagues at Dance USA School Directors Affinity Group to share learning around culturally responsive teaching practices to better support faculty.  Tracey’s work as an international arts educator continues as she serves on the organizing committee for World Ballet School Day (2020 and 2021), and the 2023 edition of Assemble Internationale; an Olympic-caliber gathering of pre-professional students and directors from schools around the globe empowering young artists to develop their voices, hosted by Canada’s National Ballet School.

Born in Pueblo, Colorado, Tracey began ballet studies with her mother, Nancy Tracey, at age six. In 1982, she was accepted as a student at the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet (NYCB). At SAB, she was the recipient of an Atlantic Richfield Foundation scholarship (1982–85) as well as a Princess Grace Foundation award (1985–86) that cited her “exceptional promise and dedication to excellence.”

In 1986, Tracey joined the NYCB corps de ballet, launching a celebrated 16-year stage career. A principal dancer from 1991 until her retirement in 2002, she excelled in the Balanchine repertoire, appearing frequently in such core works as ApolloAllegro BrillianteBallo della ReginaConcerto BaroccoSerenadeSquare DanceSymphony in CVienna WaltzesWestern Symphony, and Who Cares?, among others. She was also featured in a range of Robbins’ ballets, including AndantinoAfternoon of a FaunThe Four Seasons, and The Goldberg Variations, and created a role in the choreographer’s Ives, Songs (1988). She originated roles in works by William Forsythe, Richard Tanner, Ib Andersen, Trey McIntyre, and Peter Martins, including his Les Petit RiensFearful SymmetriesZakouski, and his production of The Sleeping Beauty, in which she appeared both as Princess Aurora and Princess Florine. With NYCB, Tracey toured Europe and Asia, appeared in the PBS “Live from Lincoln Center” series, and danced the Marzipan Shepherdess in the 1993 film of Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.

As a Balanchine Repetiteur, Tracey has staged several of his works including, Concerto BaroccoTheme and VariationsScotch SymphonyRaymonda Variations, and Divertimento #15, among others in both professional companies and schools. And in 2011 she was recognized with a Jerome Robbins Foundation award for her distinguished interpretation as a Robbins’ dancer.

Margaret joined the Colburn School in fall 2023 to assume the role of Dean of the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute overseeing the Dance Academy and the Youth and Adult Dance programs.

Student Accomplishments, September 2021

Emma Lee (cello, MM ’23), Jonathan Wisner (percussion, PSC ‘23), Cristina Cutts Dougherty (tuba, BM ’19), Javier Morales-Martinez (Community School ’18) were 2021 London Symphony Orchestra Keston MAX Winners at Music Academy of the West. They will have the opportunity to perform with the the opportunity to perform with the London Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Sir Simon Rattle in 2022.

Conservatory violinist Fiona Shea (BM ’22) won the 2022 Dorothy DeLay Fellowship at the Aspen Music Festival and School. She also soloed with the Pacific Symphony in August 2021, performing Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1.

Community School pianist Lillian Feng was selected as a recipient of the 2021 Chopin Foundation Scholarship.

Music Academy pianist Daniel Wang (’23) was selected as a recipient of the 2021 Chopin Foundation Scholarship.

DeVonte’ Tasker (Dance Academy ‘18) will join the faculty of Ballet Arts Tucson, the official school of Ballet Tucson, to teach Modern, Theater Dance, and Hip Hop/Jazz Funk.

Conservatory harpist Anya Garipoli (AD ’23) was appointed Principal Harpist with the Venice Symphony in Venice, Florida.

Music Academy pianist Lindsey Yang (’24) was a finalist in 2021 Gina Bachauer International Junior Piano Competition.

Devan Jaquez (Conservatory ’19) has been named Principal Flute of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

Isabella Bertagni (Dance Academy ’21) has been accepted into the Professional Division of the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Justin Cummings (Conservatory ’18) has been named Principal Bassoon of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

Conservatory cellist Benett Tsai (BM ’24) was a semi-finalist for 2021 ABC’s Young Performers Award, one of Australia’s most prestigious awards for young classical musicians.

As a first prize winner of the International Music Competition “Grand Prize Virtuoso,” Music Academy flutist Nikka Gershman-Pepper (’26) performed in the historic Beethoven House in Bonn. Nikka also performed a solo concert with the LA Jewish Symphony and won first prize of Rising Stars Grand Prix 2021 – International Music Competition Berlin.

PBS SoCal and KCET will broadcast The Music Center’s Spotlight Virtual Grand Finale featuring Grand Prize Finalist and Music Academy student William Ju (oboe, ’22).

Modern dancer Tess McCharen (TZDI ’17) signed a contract with the Limon2 dance company.

Community School cellist Nathaniel Yue received first prize in the Young Artist Category of the Chicago International Music Competition.

Abigail Ullendorff (Dance Academy ’18) has been appointed the President of the student-run ballet company at Duke University, Devils en Pointe.

Music Academy clarinetist Noah Jung (clarinet, ’22) performed in Carnegie Hall with the National Youth Orchestra.

Leslie Carothers

As a former principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet, and as an international guest artist, Leslie has danced extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. She was featured on television in “Dance in America’s: A Night at The Joffrey,” televised on PBS, The Diana Ross ShowThe Merv Griffin Show, and others. During her many years as a leading dancer with the Joffrey Ballet, she danced a wide range of principal roles, in works by Sir Frederick Ashton, Jiri Kylian, Mark Morris, Ben Stevenson, Glen Tetley, and Twyla Tharp, amongst others. During her career, leading roles were created for her by Robert Joffrey, William Forsythe, Gerald Arpino, Dwight Rhoden, John Clifford, and many others.

In the Pennsylvania Ballet, Leslie danced the title roles in The NutcrackerSwan LakeCoppéliaGiselleThe Sleeping Beauty, and John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet, as well as an extensive repertoire of the ballets of George Balanchine.

Leslie served as ballet faculty and Dance Institute Director at the Colburn School of Performing Arts for almost a decade, and currently travels as guest teacher to schools across the United States and Europe, including the ABT William J. Gillespie School at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, the Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and the Finnish National Ballet School. She also teaches ballet, Pilates, and Zena Rommett Floor-Barre® classes in the Los Angeles area. Leslie is proud to serve as a mentor at the annual Floor-Barre® Teacher Certification Courses around the world, and on the managing board of directors for the Zena Rommett Floor-Barre® Foundation.

Dance Spotlight: Holly Lacey

This interview has been lightly edited for style, content, and clarity.

When did you start dancing and playing the violin?
I started with pre-ballet when I was in preschool, so three or four years old. And I started playing the violin when I had just turned five.

How did you decide to start playing the violin?
When I was four, I wanted to learn the flute, because that’s what I thought Hello Kitty played, but [when I tried it out], I couldn’t make a sound out of the flute. And then I tried the violin, and I was able to make a sound. My mom had my great-grandfather’s violin from Indonesia, and I discovered that it was something I could actually do.

What’s it been like doing both dance and music at the same time?
It’s been a little complicated, just because they’re two big commitments, but I really love them both. Having both of them now at Colburn has been a lot more efficient than having them at two different locations and commuting through LA traffic.

You study with a few teachers at Colburn. How is that?
For Modern Dance, I have three teachers: Tamsin Carlson, Yuka Fukuda, and Chard Gonzalez. They are all amazing and they each focus on different modern dance techniques like Cunningham and Horton. Each of them also has different approaches to teaching and notices different things about the way each dancer dances and how we can improve. So all of that together [makes us better dancers overall].

As part of the Modern Dance program, we also continue to take ballet with Ms. Gillespie who has also been wonderful. I am really grateful for Tamsin as our Modern Dance chair; not only is she an amazing dancer and teacher, but she leads the program with such positivity.

I’ve been studying with Joanna Lee, one of my violin teachers, for a long time. She’s seen me grow from eight or nine years old to now, 14. So she’s put up with me for five years and has been there for every step of my musical development. She’s one of the most energetic and dedicated people I know. I’m really, really grateful that she has stuck by me.

Studying with Ms. Batjer has been amazing. I feel so fortunate to be part of her studio because I have been able to see the huge development her students have all made and all their amazing successes, which she genuinely cherishes; it really inspires me. I really look up to her and try to remember everything she teaches me. Every time I come out of a lesson, I feel like I have learned and gained so much more knowledge to make me a better violinist and artist.

I also study music theory with Kathy Sawada which has really enhanced my interpretation of music for both violin and dance. Ms. Sawada has been wonderful and I’ve learned so much, despite the fact that all of my time with her has been during the pandemic.

What has it been like at Colburn in general? Has it been different from other places you’ve studied?
Colburn has so many opportunities, especially the concerts that they hold and the artists they are able to bring in. For dance, we had somebody from the Cunningham Trust come and teach us official Cunningham repertory.

Actually, the Modern Dance program at Colburn is really unique because of the partnership Colburn has with the Cunningham Trust. Being able to dance official Merce Cunningham repertory is very rare for dancers my age and is only made possible because of this partnership.

What did you learn from the Cunningham Trust?
In the fall semester, Cunningham Trust stager Marcie Munnerlyn came in and staged a piece for our Modern V class from Merce Cunningham’s repertory, Changing Steps. Filmmaker Heather Seybolt then created a film based on all of our dances that we did; we were all really proud of it.

What have been some other notable experiences at Colburn?
Right before the pandemic, I performed Corelli’s Concerto Grosso as one of the three soloists for the Colburn String Orchestra in Zipper Hall, which was a highlight.

Seeing and meeting Ray Chen last year right before the pandemic was also memorable.

Even during the pandemic, I was able to play in a master class with Almita Vamos, which I was very grateful for and which I found very helpful to hear her perspective on my playing.

What have you learned from those experiences with guest artists?
The modern dance techniques, like Cunningham and Horton, are so unique. It’s not really something that I’ve learned anywhere else besides Colburn. It’s freer than ballet, which I previously studied, and doesn’t have as many rules, which is so interesting. I also find it fascinating to watch, and having guest artists come really expanded my exposure to this art form.

For music, with the master classes, you’re constantly working and improving your techniques. Having somebody else objectively evaluate your performance and give you feedback is really beneficial.

When did you make the switch from ballet to modern?
I did ballet all the way through pointe, and then I learned about the Modern Dance program from [Associate Dean] James Fayette. I actually did modern dance at Colburn and ballet at another studio simultaneously for a year, before deciding to focus on modern completely.

I found myself drawn to modern dance because it was like a whole new dance world that was different from ballet, even though my ballet training continues to be essential for modern dance, like the basics.

How has your ballet training been essential to modern dance?
I started modern at level three, so I didn’t start from the very beginning. When I started, I found that a lot of the steps and balances, and the phrases—the way you put them together—are kind of based on ballet, but different. While the basics may be similar, modern dance challenges the structured nature of ballet in a way.

How about music and dance? Do either of those influence the way you approach the other?
I think learning music influences the way that I’ve approached dance because they’re different art forms and they each tell a story. And while the technical aspect is very different, they really complement each other and they’ve both helped me develop artistically.

I think when you’re dancing, you’re telling a story and your movements have to show that story. When you’re playing violin, you also have to show them a story, but in a different way, because you’re helping the audience visualize it with the music and trying to draw out specific emotions.

What are you looking forward to when we go back to campus in the fall?
In terms of dance, I’m definitely looking forward to the studio space, because there’s just not a lot of space for dancing in my bedroom at home. I am also looking forward to being able to learn again from the other dancers in the studio and pick up on what they’re doing and draw inspiration from them.

For violin, there were so many things we could not do in person. We weren’t able to do orchestra or chamber music this year. I really enjoy both of those, so I’m really looking forward to that.

For both dance and music, I also think just being able to perform again in front of a live audience and in an actual performance hall will feel amazing.

Despite the pandemic, I feel that I’ve still grown a lot, technically and artistically, and my teachers deserve a lot of credit for that. I also am very grateful to our Dean, Jenifer Ringer, because she really pivoted [Trudl Zipper Dance Institute] (TZDI) to online classes immediately and kept all of us engaged throughout the pandemic, and even coordinated a TZDI-wide Nutcracker!

Do you have any idea what you might want to do with music and dance in the future?
I think the next four years of high school would be important for me to decide on how I can build a career in both music and dance or the arts in general. There are so many great role models at Colburn to look up to. All of my teachers have had really successful careers in the arts, so it’d be incredible to do the same.

Dance Spotlight: Micah Miko-Levine

This interview has been lightly edited for style, content, and clarity.

When did you start dancing?
In first grade. I was part of my school’s musical theater productions, and that opened me up to jazz specifically. Then I started doing some musical theater productions in Pasadena, and then I found out about Colburn and that’s when I became much more serious about certain styles of dance.

Why did you start dancing?
I always found musical theater so exciting. It was a way that I could let out all my energy and not have to be contained. When I was really little, I’d always lip sync. Then I was actually able to get into musical theater and do [it] in real life while people are watching and listening.

As I’ve grown, I’ve seen how happy it makes people that watch it. So that just brings me to life even more, seeing people so engaged by this art form. Knowing that I’m making people feel things and connect is something that I find really beautiful. When it comes to musical theater, it just excites me inside, and I know it’s exciting others.

It must be a different experience now without that energy from in-person performances.
It’s definitely interesting to bring to life what you’re doing, but only see people on screen. I use my imagination when I’m doing it, and I can easily sort of feel myself enter the stage, but it’s definitely very odd because then you come back to reality. You’re like, “Oh, I’m the only person in this room, but I just have to work with what I got.”

But I really enjoy it when I get to work with somebody else and they split us into smaller groups. It’s still really lovely, and I feel so happy to be able to do it even in my room because even with technology, I’m still dancing and I’m still getting all that energy.

How did you decide what genre you wanted to focus on?
I’ve always been intrigued by the jazz world, I think because I grew up watching lots of musicals and I love Fosse technique. I was always so jazzed up about it when I watched it. That style just feels the most exploratory and intriguing to me.

So that’s what I like the most, but I definitely believe in taking ballet classes. I think that’s a great grounding to your style. Like I said, I’ve gotten more interested in tap with Ms. Denise [Scheerer] and that has opened me up to a whole new world of expression with rhythm.

What has it been like getting more serious about tap, especially over Zoom?
It’s really funny because I started when we were in-person, and it was really great to hear everybody at the same time, especially with something like tap where it’s all sound. Being in a room full of people made it really nice to be able to hear one another and be able to make sure you were getting everything right.

But being at home and doing it virtually has been a very different experience. I’m definitely able to learn because Ms. Denise is there and she’s doing it, but it’s just a different experience to not hear other people with you while you’re performing.

I always have to remind myself to look up and perform, instead of looking down because the computer screen’s down at my feet. You can normally use your peripheral vision and look at people next to you, but now you’re looking down at a screen.

I definitely feel that I go into my own zone when I’m tapping by myself, which can be really therapeutic. I know what I’m getting wrong because I can hear it. It’s very meditative too.

You recently recorded something for Sweets from the Nutcracker. What was it like working on that?
It was really interesting. I was able to set up a whole space when I did tap in my living room, and I had my dad film it. I had my earbuds in, so it was really bizarre to not be able to hear other people while performing. I was still able to hear the music, but it was odd.

I wouldn’t love to do it for years and years and years. I much prefer being in-person, but it was nice to see the end product and know that we all did this and we all had to go through this together, but that we were still able to bring something beautiful and show people.

Before The Nutcracker, you also worked on the Musical Theater video from last summer. How was that?
We did “The New World” from Songs for a New World. It was the same sort of idea that we did with Sweets from The Nutcracker. We each individually recorded pieces, but we got to be a lot more experimental with it. We did these outtake ideas where you are looking out a window or lip syncing. That was something that I think brought a whole new level to the sort of film that we made. It was really lovely because you got to see so many people doing their own thing in the final result.

It feels very individualized and personal to be in class practicing and to do your own recording. But when all the pieces are brought together, and I got to see that final product with the music and with all of us singing, it was really, really heartfelt, especially because we don’t get to have that so much now. I was so happy when I saw the final result.

What have you learned from dancing at Colburn in general?
What’s really great about Ms. Denise is that she’s had so much experience and because of that can choreograph really, really well; everything she’s choreographed for us has been really awesome.

I haven’t had much experience outside of Colburn, but I can’t imagine it being any better than it is. It’s been very prestigious, and I’ve been able to really get challenged in ways that I wasn’t in other places. I’ve been able to get to a higher level and go to classes that are for people older than me, like being in Musical Theater for High School and not even being in high school. I’ve been able to grow and excel in dance and just learn so quickly and have these teachers that are just so excited for me to keep learning and to keep challenging myself.

Musical Theater 2020

Micah Miko-Levine Performs "The New World" in Musical Theater Summer Workshop 2020

Fall Registration Begins for Community School and Trudl Zipper Dance Institute, Featuring New Online Programming

Over the past few months, as we have pivoted and adjusted to our collective new reality, Colburn has remained dedicated to providing the best possible online education for our students. As we transition to an online Fall semester, the School will continue this commitment. Academic leadership and faculty have spent countless hours exploring best practices in online learning, investigating new resources, and planning a variety of unique opportunities for students in each unit to create the most enriching, rewarding, and effective learning experience for all our students.

As the Fall semester begins for the the Community School of Performing Arts and Trudl Zipper Dance Institute, students will benefit from new online offerings to help them perfect technique, build musicianship and artistry, and develop new ways of learning throughout this challenging time.

Community School of Performing Arts

Community School students will be able to continue their private lessons and group classes (early childhood, instrumental group classes, jazz workshops, chamber music, and drama) remotely. Students who register for private lessons prior to August 31 are eligible for special incentives including no payment plan fees, the same tuition fees as last year, a $25 loyalty discount for continuing students, and a sibling discount.

Students can also take advantage of new classes for the fall, including gap year packages for students planning to defer their undergraduate studies; a master class series with celebrated guest artists; and new online group classes. Additional classes will be announced as they are confirmed.

One such class is the Music Production course taught by Brian Langsbard, which teaches the basics of Logic Pro X, recording, engineering, and mixing—especially valuable for students who may want to share recordings digitally.

Music lovers will be able to take a new Music Appreciation and History course for adults: a four-week lecture series on Beethoven and the Ninth Symphony taught by Music History Chair and A Serving of Beethoven host Dr. Kristi Brown-Montesano.

In addition, string players can also choose from two levels of Violin Sight Reading and Musicianship and two levels of String Workshops for Violin, Viola, and Cello. These group classes are designed to give students the feeling of community while providing them with the necessary skills that will enable them to evaluate and analyze their own musical progress. Additional classes for advanced violinists will be added soon.

Registration begins on August 1 for returning students and August 15 for new students.

Trudl Zipper Dance Institute

The Trudl Zipper Dance Institute has outlined three goals for students in the Colburn Connected virtual dance program this fall: engagement, progression, and inspiration. Even in the students’ at-home studios, the study of dance is productive and meaningful. There are many ways to keep students connected to their Colburn family in their dance technique and in their personal artistry while staying safely at home.

Engagement: Each upper-level student will receive private lessons to assess progress and set achievable goals for the semester. Class sizes for all levels will be small to increase the amount of personal attention each student receives.

Progression: Each individual student will be made aware of their technical goals for the year and will work with their teachers to accomplish those goals. We will support student progress by increasing their strength and stamina with cross-training opportunities and helping them to create an optimal home studio learning environment.

Inspiration: The faculty and staff of the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute will work to inspire students by adding film and choreographic projects for all levels that will provide the students an outlet for their creativity, keep them dancing, and help them develop their artistry in new ways.

In addition to the 100+ dance classes offered each week in ballet, modern, tap, and musical theater, Colburn Dance is including new “Plus” classes to supplement our students’ dance training and physicality. Students will be able to take master classes with notable professional artists, create solo dance videos and audition videos for advanced students, and take cross-training classes and wellness lectures.

In particular, a new Artists of Influence curriculum series will be offered to enhance students’ historical knowledge, highlighting dancers of color. Later in the semester, all dance students regardless of genre will be able to participate in a new winter film, recorded remotely. The working title is Sweets from the Nutcracker, performed to the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, arranged by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.

Registration begins on July 28 for returning students and August 10 for new students.

Bertha Suarez Blankenship

A native of Cuba, Bertha danced professionally in principal roles for over 14 years with the Ballet de Camagüey and the Ballet Nacional de Cuba under the direction of both Fernando Alonso and Alicia Alonso, before defecting to the United States in 1994. Since arriving in the US, her career has been focused on performance and instruction, primarily through the operation of her southern California studio, The Blankenship Ballet Company. She also performed in Miami under the direction of the late Fernando Bujones. She teaches dance as an art form that comes from the heart, based on Russian and Cuban ballet principles.

Dance Spotlight: Ryan Edge

This interview has been lightly edited for style, content, and clarity.

How did you start dancing?
When I was very young, I went to a birthday party, and at that birthday party people were playing a video game called the Michael Jackson Experience. So I got introduced to Michael Jackson through that, and I fell in love with his dance and his music. So, that’s how I got into dance in general.

For tap specifically, I watched a lot of Gene Kelly movies. After falling in love with dance, I started to like tap too.

What about musical theater?
Like the Gene Kelly thing, I watched a lot of movie musicals. At first I didn’t really like singing or acting that much. I was mostly focused on dance until I was put into my middle school play, which was West Side Story, and I had a ton of fun with that. And that’s how I fell in love with musical theater.

How has it been at Colburn?
I love it here at Colburn. I’ve a ton of fun, and I’ve been very happy here. It’s great. I am also very honored to have been awarded a merit scholarship because without that, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be at Colburn, and I probably wouldn’t be dancing as much.

You take lessons with Denise Scheerer. How is that?
Denise is a really great teacher, and she’s really like a mentor to me. Her way of dance has impacted the way I dance. She made it more fun, and she made me want to do dance as a career when I’m older.

What are some things that you’ve learned from her?
First of all, I learned timing because that’s a big deal in tap. But also, to just be chill about it. Don’t be like so hard, just be calm about it, do it lightly, and make it look good.

How did she inspire you to pursue dance as a career?
At first I was just like, “I’ll just do this for fun.” And then because of Denise’s work, I fell in love with dance even more, and kind of had ding moment like, “Oh. This is what I want to do for a living. This is exactly what I should do.”

What do you do in your tap and musical theater classes?
For tap, I actually have four tap teachers, and each one of them has a different style of tap and a unique way of teaching and of tapping. So through tap, I learn a lot with their techniques, and the way they teach, and it’s a lot of fun.

Musical theater is also a lot of fun. Half of it is dance, and half of it is singing, and then in both of those you learn acting. And the teachers there are also great, and they help you a lot with what you’re learning.

How does tap help you with musical theater or the other way around?
They both help each other. Not a lot of people do tap in musical theater at least nowadays, so it’s kind of an advantage for musical theater.

The way that musical theater helps with tap is that the dance style in musical theater is mostly jazz. Jazz requires more flexibility, and you get better with turns and stuff. That really helps with tap as well with your upper body.

What’s the piece you’ll be performing for this?
It’s an a cappella piece taught by Joseph Wiggan, who’s one of my tap teachers. It’s a lot of movement, and a lot of stretching out because that’s something Joseph really works on, expanding yourself.

What are some challenges specific to doing it without music?
It’s difficult especially with a group of people, because with music you can hear the time or the beat, and so you know what step goes where. But without music, it’s hard to keep in time with everybody else. You have to time it in your head. Sometimes we rush or slow down a lot.

Are you performing this with the ensemble anytime soon?
We did it last year for a performance, and this Thursday we’re doing a community service thing where we go into an elementary school and we tap for kids. So, we’re doing that piece there.

That’s so cool. Why do you guys do that?
I think it’s getting kids to start thinking about what they want to do when they grow up, and tap might be one of them. We’re kind of just like, “Hey. Here’s something you might want to look at, and start trying and see if you like it.”

How do the kids like it?
They love it. Usually the kids try to tap, but they’re like stomping their feet everywhere, or they’re just like amazed like, “Whoa. They can tap. That’s so cool.”

What’s the importance of the arts in your life?
It’s a great way of learning and trying new things. It impacted my life in that it brought me a whole lot more joy. I’ve had so much fun with it, and it’s brought me strength into who I am. And I think that’s what art, or performing arts, does.

Ryan Edge tap dancing

Ryan Edge Performs Tap

The monthly Saturday Spotlight series highlights our outstanding students, faculty, and staff from across the school. Read other spotlight interviews.


Johnnie Hobbs III

Johnnie Hobbs III is a filmmaker and tap dance teacher. His directorial efforts include Pan African Film Festival Best Film Nominee Nostalgia, short film drama starring Dule Hill (The West Wing, Psych), Chloe Arnold (Syncopated Ladies) and Jason Samuels Smith. Winner of Best Short Film at The Cleveland Urban Film Festival, NOSTALGIA has been shown on Aspire TV, and SHORTS HD Channel. Johnnie has since directed and produced five other short content works. In addition, he has directed motion capture pre-visuals mocap company, House of Moves.

A long time tap dancer and performer from Alaska to Guatemala, Johnnie teaches as an Adjunct Dance Professor at AMDA LA, Hussian School, as well as the Colburn School and Edge Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles. He recently provided choreography for Kelly Marie Tran’s 2021 MISCAST performance for MCC Theatre, from The Book of Mormon. He’s been an Artist in Residence at University of Colorado, guest speaker at Broadway Dance Center, Temple University, Santa Monica College, and Art Institute of Philadelphia to name a few.

Janet Edmunds Cohen

Janet is a California native with more than 30 years of performance, commercial, choreographic, and teaching experience. Trained by prominent teachers in Southern California, she received a teacher’s scholarship from the Anglo-American Ballet Foundation, which ignited her passion for teaching ballet to all ages and levels. She has partnered in creating several dance education programs for schools in the Los Angeles area. Many of her students have gone on to dance with prestigious dance companies throughout the United States.