Team Work Makes The Dream Work: “Celebrating 20” and the Faculty of Joanne Langione Dance Center

The Joanne Langione Dance Center located in West Newton, MA is a very familiar name to the residents of the community. You won’t get very far before finding a connection or story tied to JLDC.

So how has the beloved Boston treasure, thrived for over four decades?

As the saying goes, it takes a village…and JLDC’s village of well-trained, professional faculty, each an expert in their own genre and passionate about sharing their love for dance, is one of the many secrets to their success.

“Assembling this dance community of outstanding teachers and mentors whose values for creativity, skill, confidence, health, and relationships shine throughout every aspect of our school is the hallmark of JLDC and creates for our students the joy, the power and the beauty of dance that lies within our walls.”- Joanne Langione

A Passion to Share Their Love for Dance

The female-led group of experienced directors in combination with the phenomenal talent of the faculty forms a powerful team. Each member brings their unique skills and background and comes together in perfect unison as if choreographed for the stage. 

“JLDC has taught me that when you work together as a team there is nothing you can’t accomplish.” – Meli Currie, Director at Joanne Langione Dance Center.

The JLDC team of faculty come to JLDC from many backgrounds and for many reasons, but what unites them all is their love for teaching the next generation of well-trained dancers.

For new faculty member Goldie Walberg, who performed professionally with the Kansas City ballet before joining JLDC, her “why” is simple.

“Upon finding Joanne Langione Dance Center, I was blown away by the facility and warm family-like community. My goal as a teacher is to make every student feel valued and appreciated. After spending time at JLDC, it didn’t take me long to realize this was the place I wanted to show up to every day.” -Goldie Walberg 

Lisa Giancola, Director of Early Childhood Dance has been teaching at JLDC for 8 years in addition to founding her own Boston-based dance company. She shares:

“The summer after I graduated from college, I found myself walking through the doors of this absolutely wonderful studio. I was in awe of the mission, the programming, the family and community I found myself in. Seeing the youngest kids’ eyes sparkle when they finally mastered their first position to the oldest kids being proud to have performed a combination really well, the joy that dance brings is priceless.” -Lisa Giancola

Amanda Conroy, Assistant Artistic Director at JLDC and award-winning choreographer was inspired by the teachers she had as a student and dancer which led to her path as both a teacher and choreographer herself.

“My dance teachers were the best mentors. They taught me that it is possible to have fun while working hard too. Teaching at JLDC allows me to instill this same idea in all of my student each and every day.” 

Celebrating Two at Twenty Years

This year, two beloved faculty members are celebrating twenty years as JLDC faculty. Having spent the last two decades together teaching, mentoring, and sharing students, Jen Synder and Rene Martin have become integral to who JLDC is as a school having touched the lives of so many (including their own daughters!)

What better way to capture the spirit of the JLDC family than to ask Miss Jen and Miss Rene to reflect on their time at JLDC!

What led you to become a dance teacher?

JLDC Staff_Rene MartinRENE: About 25 years ago, when I was dancing in New York City, I fell in love with two methods, Simonson Jazz technique and Pilates. I became certified in both and when I began teaching, I worked primarily with adults.

A few years later, my daughter, Ally, came along. The two of us eventually moved back to Boston where I started teaching Pilates at my family’s studio. A friend of mine from college, Miss Lynn, had been teaching at JLDC. She called me and said Joanne was looking for a Playdance teacher. I thought, I have a toddler. We play. We dance. This could be fun!

I sat down with Joanne for an interview that felt like I was talking to an old friend. I started teaching Playdance soon after. That’s how it began. Eventually, my experience working at JLDC led me to pursue a Master’s degree in elementary education and, eventually, a Master’s in arts education. I’ve always enjoyed learning about how people learn through movement and the arts. At JLDC, I have been able to combine my passion for arts and education with my love for dance and working with children. It’s truly been the best job ever.

 

JLDC_Staff_Jen SnyderJEN: I always admired my teachers while growing up, so when I was 13 I asked to volunteer as a demonstrator. I had to get up early and be at the studio by 8:45 every Saturday morning to demonstrate for 2 and 3 year-olds until my classes started. I was immediately hooked. Something about watching the shy little dancer who could barely leave her mom’s leg, to eventually running into class with a smile on their face was so beautiful to me. By the time I graduated high school those little babies were 8 years-old and I had such a personal connection with them. They had gone from barely walking to being able to leap and turn and entertain. Knowing that I helped them get there, and that I was part of their inspiration to keep going was so fulfilling to me. I was also drawn to teaching because of the choreography aspect. Creating a piece of movement to make a group of people feel something still excites me to this day. Helping kids get through hard times by letting out their emotions in a dance class seems like such a good way to spend my time. I know that sometimes when I was growing up I couldn’t talk through my problems or emotions but I could let them out in class with movement and it didn’t seem so vulnerable and I didn’t feel judged. I’m not sure what I would have done without dance to get me through high school’s ups and downs.

Why JLDC? 

RENE: If you walk into the main lobby of JLDC, you will see a sign that says “team work makes the dream work”. We truly are a dream team. I mean, let’s take a typical Saturday at the studio during the spring for example. If you spent the day observing, at-a-glance you would see dancers from the age of 2-18 and every genre of dance that we offer. But if you look closer, you would see a continuum of education that strategically builds from the rhythmic play of parent-child dance class to the mastery of skill and artistry of our graduating seniors. We aren’t just preparing our students for a spring dance recital. We are collaborating to instill a love for dance in all students while preparing them for the next level in their training. That doesn’t happen in isolation. We work together to figure out not only what each student needs but what we need as teachers to help our students be the best they can be.

And if you really want a snapshot of how our team work makes the dream work, be a fly on the wall backstage at a recital. My two favorite things about spring recitals are witnessing a baby get on stage for the first time (my eyes fill up just thinking about it) and the reaction of a first year teacher. Our new teachers can never believe how smoothly things run, or how prepared the dancers are, or my favorite reaction: “How the heck are there only three seconds between dances?”. It’s not an accident. It’s teamwork. Being a part of that team, and my beautiful babies. That’s my why.

JEN: Why I teach at JLDC is because of our commitment to making every child feel like they belong somewhere and that we as teachers and administrators are all working toward the same goal. Every dance studio is different and holds different things to be the most important to them. JLDC balances the social emotional well being of our dancers with strong technical dance training and artistry. The students here learn how to dance, how to love the art of dance, and make life-long friends in the process. I don’t see a downside to that!

What are the biggest takeaways from your experience as a teacher?

RENE: Follow your heart and do what you love. Believe in yourself. Believe in your students. Ask for help. Trust yourself. Find your voice. Know your students. Make time for play. You don’t have to be perfect to be amazing, but you do have to be brave. Teach with love. Respect everyone. Teach your students as if they were your own children. Never stop learning.

JEN: My biggest takeaway as a teacher is that I don’t know everything and there is always room for growth. The world is always changing and being able to work with children always keeps you in tune with the next generation. Being able to see the world through a 5 year-old, a 12 year-old, and an 18 year-old’s eyes really makes you think about the way you approach things. If you are willing to listen and adapt and work together so much growth can blossom. I also have been teaching for long enough that I have started to see my former students’ children walk through the studio doors. Another thing that makes me so happy to be a teacher here is the connection I have to so many families. I have gone from teaching a student to dance, to watching their college dance performance, to choreographing the 1st dance at their wedding, to seeing their babies walk into Playdance class. I feel proud to be present for so many big moments.

What are the core values/lessons you want to give to your students?

RENE: It is such a gift to be a good dancer, but it is important to be a good human first. Dance is what you do. Human is what you are. Dance is an expression of your humanity. You can be the best technician in the world but if you don’t allow your humanity to shine through, you’ve lost the artistry. And at the end of the day, people may or may not remember how many pirouettes you did in your solo, but they will definitely remember how you made them feel, both on and off stage.

To my youngest dancers, I would say this: Be kind, share, include others, be proud of yourself, be proud of each other, look at all you’ve accomplished, help each other, be patient, give a compliment, don’t just smile at the audience, smile at each other, work hard, and have fun. If we aren’t having fun, we aren’t learning.

JEN: I want students to leave class knowing the value of respecting people’s time, space and energy. When you walk into a classroom you should bring in the energy that you wish to receive from your teachers and classmates. You should respect the people that chose to teach you, and trust that the knowledge that they have learned from their years of training will be shared with you to make you a better dancer. Everyone in a room is responsible for creating a safe and happy place. If you show up for people they will show up for you. If you put in hard work you will get results. If you are there for your team your team will be there to support you. These lessons translate to a college classroom and then to a work atmosphere so if they are learned in a kind loving way in the dance studio the students will be set up for success when they move on from us to the next chapter of their journey.

Any advice you would like to share?

RENE: Trust yourself and find your voice. I’ve been told my teaching style is unique. Sometimes I think that means “I don’t understand what you’re doing,” or “I was never taught that way.” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I could easily teach the way I was taught, or I could aim to teach exactly like Miss Jen or Miss Meli, both amazing teachers and mentors. But at the end of the day, if I am not taking in everything that I’ve learned in life, all the juicy stuff that has made a difference for me and brought me joy, and molding that into my teaching style, I am not being my authentic self as a teacher. I’ve learned so much from my teachers and colleagues. Allow all of your experiences to help shape the teacher you are.

Also, teaching and learning are reciprocal. Of course we learn by doing and the more we teach, hopefully, the better teachers we become. But no two classes are exactly the same. We all have different strengths, needs, and gifts. We need to witness our students. See them and hear them for who they are and celebrate what they bring to the learning community. If I can’t mirror my students’ identities in my teaching, they can’t see themselves in the work we are doing. If I’m not learning from them, they aren’t learning from me. I know I am doing that when I witness their accomplishments, even the smallest bit of growth, and I feel it in my heart. We did that because we listened to each other. That’s a beautiful thing.

JEN: Show up, do the work, and find the joy in it!

 

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Shawn Mahoney

Shawn Mahoney began his ballet, tap, and jazz training at the Joanne Langione Dance Center and his early performing career with Jose Mateo’s Ballet Theatre in Boston, MA. As an apprentice, Shawn danced for American Ballet Theatre before joining Boston Ballet. At Boston Ballet, Shawn performed in Petipa, Balanchine, Kylian, Forsythe, Bejart and others. Shawn performed as a chosen member of “Tharp!”, a national and international touring company directed by Twyla Tharp. Ms. Tharp invited Shawn to be part of the creative and choreographic process for her Broadway hit “Movin’ Out” and performed in Tharp’s “Red, White, and Blues”. Shawn performed with the Suzanne Farrell/Balanchine Project, Sean Curran Company, Washington Ballet, and Bale Estado de Goias. As an educator, Shawn has taught internationally for Festa de Danca in Sao Paulo and Bermuda Civic Ballet. Currently, Shawn is on faculty at Emerson College, instructing dance classes to actors and musical theatre students and is a teacher and lecturer at Days in the Arts. Shawn founded Mahoney Agency, representing dancers for national engagements for the Nutcracker Ballet. Shawn is a sought out mentor for emerging artists and choreographers in ballet and contemporary dance.