BY RUTH RICE
Georgia Milne’s passion for dance has not dimmed since she was enthralled by her first dance teacher at age 9 or 10.
Milne has been in the business of dance for 43 years as student, professional dancer and teacher.
She owns and directs Dance Unlimited at 1302 Graham Ave., Windber.
Her passion and vision for her dance studio and students are clear.
“Our goal is to make dancers strong in technique, teach the art of entertainment and set them free with their own voice and artistic license to be the beautiful dancers they were born to be,” Milne said.
Dance Unlimited teaches ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, modern, hip-hop and acrobatics to students ages 31⁄2 to college level. Weight training with aerobics is available for students and adults.
Adults also can take zumba, a workout to Latin music.
“It’s fun, fast and furious,” Milne said. “One hour is supposed to burn 1,000 calories. We’re up to 45 minutes.”
All classes except one aerobics class are held in the evening.
Milne’s studio draws students from Westmont, Central City, Shade, Forest Hills and Richland in addition to Windber.
“Not every child wants to be a professional dancer,” Milne said.
“Other benefits of dancing include learning teamwork and a way to carry yourself with poise, and just the love of dance and being with friends.
“I’d say about 20 percent of my students become professional dancers. For some of them, if they weren’t here, they would be out there (on the streets).”
Milne believes in starting dancers at young ages.
She begins with technique for children from ages 4 to 7. Her students gain a new level of strength in each subsequent age group: 7-11, 11-14 and 14-16.
“When they graduate from high school, you see a developed dancer,” Milne said. “It takes 10 years to develop a dancer, and it takes a lot of ballet. These are true dancers.”
While Milne might sound like a dancing drill sergeant, she said she and her students have fun.
“When I critique, I always say something positive, too. You have to have a vision of what you want to do,” she said. “I want to give away what I’ve learned. It’s rewarding to see kids develop.”
Milne considers her studio to be of medium size. It has 120 to 130 students, 20 classes and four teachers, including her.
Milne teaches all advanced classes except modern dance.
Assistant director Deanna Bopp teaches hip-hop and junior tap and jazz. Stephanie Daniels is the weight trainer and aerobics instructor.
Cathy Snitzer helped Milne on the business end and with instructing 4-year-olds when the studio was in its previous Windber location.
Milne is thrilled that one of her former students, Trista Newcomer, is returning to teach at Dance Unlimited.
Newcomer will teach beginner and intermediate ballet, intermediate lyrical, all levels of modern dance and children’s and adult zumba classes.
She recently graduated from Slippery Rock University with a bachelor’s degree in dance.
“Dance Unlimited is my home,” Newcomer said. “I am honored to work alongside my dance mentor, Georgia Milne, who taught me everything I know – and not just dance, but life. Georgia doesn’t just prepare you for the dance world, she prepares you for the real world. I only hope I can be the best role model to my students as she was to me.”
Milne has been at her current location for 15 years.
She had spent two to three years at another Windber location before finding the building she wanted for her studio.
The interior was gutted to the studs, and Milne’s husband, Melvin, designed and built the studio.
Milne is proud that good morals prevail at her studio. There is no profanity in her students’ speech or in the lyrics of the music used.
“You can’t have an attitude,” Milne said. “I think we have a good atmosphere. I don’t like backbiting. If anyone has a problem with anything, they can come to me.”
When Milne came to Windber 20 years ago, she didn’t intend to teach dance.
With her husband the director of operations for seven restaurants, she had moved three times in one year, from New York to New Jersey to Johnstown. She also had recently given birth to her daughter, Heidi.
Milne was asked to teach aerobics, then dance, at the Windber Community Building. She started with 12 students, then increased to 32 with no outside advertising.
By the time her studio moved to its current location, she had 70 students.
Milne’s advanced students have won top honors at the New York City Dance Alliance Competition, where students also can take classes from instructors who have coached contestants on the hit television show “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Her two daughters are dancing in her footsteps.
Heidi received a scholarship for dance to West Virginia University’s College of Creative Arts, and 8-year-old Haley took classes in New York.
Milne started her dance training with the Linda Butcho Dance Studio in Waynesburg, Greene County, when she was 9 or 10.
“When I saw (my teacher), I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Milne said. “When I found dance, I found a part of my life.”
While she loves dance, Milne is not sorry she had a second career as a nurse to fall back on.
“I encourage my students to go into other professions and minor in dance,” Milne said.
“I hope I can stay in dance as long as I can. I hope my health stays good. I try to stay in shape with power walking.
“I want to be the best teacher I can be. There’s so much more I want to do before I quit.”
What: Dance Unlimited.
Where: 1302 Graham Ave., Windber.
Classes: New students accepted until Oct. 15.
BY RUTH RICE
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