For half a century, Lynn’s School of Dance, now called the Power Elite Dance Academy, has been molding the children of Globe-Miami and the surrounding areas into dancers. Perhaps more importantly, along the way, the studio has taught the area youth to be independent, self-confident, and given them the gift of expressing themselves through dance.
“Dance is a sport that builds kids up, and the studio is a place where kids can come that’s safe…where they can forget their problems and heal their body, mind, and soul through dance. That’s why we have continued here for so long,” says Tina McCarey, who not only owns the dance studio with her husband Mike, but who has been at the studio for all fifty of those years. Tina’s mother, Lynn Cluff, opened the dance studio in May of 1970, and at age four, Tina was among the first students to attend. Lynn had danced as a child and opened a small dance school in her basement in California before moving to Globe and opening Lynn’s School of Dance in the old YMCA building in Miami.
Shortly after she opened the school, Lynn’s enrollment swelled from 50 to 350. A year later, Suzanne Lederman, a prima ballerina from New York City who happened to be vacationing in Arizona, fell in love with the area and decided to move there, becoming one of the school’s longest-tenured teachers, along with Donna Fountain.
Over the years, the studio underwent various changes—a new location, the addition of gymnastics, jazz, and contemporary dance in addition to ballet and tap—but through it all, Tina continued with dance and gymnastics at her mom’s school. After graduating, she helped her mom run the studio while traveling with Tempe Dance Company, performing in Europe, Las Vegas, Chicago, and on cruise ships before getting married and settling in Globe, where she raised her four biological sons and two Russian “bonus sons,” whom she considers family. Tina bought the studio from her mom twenty years ago and has been running it ever since.
During its fifty years in the community, the dance school has provided the training ground for performers, teachers, studio owners, and hundreds of dancers, many of whom have gone on to pursue professional careers in dance. One of the school’s most successful alumni is Krystal Ellsworth, who’s appeared in numerous movies such as La La Land, Heartbeats, and Iron Man 2 and on TV series such as GLOW and the upcoming Indemnity, and Seasoned. Billy Sanchez, one of the school’s earliest students and the first male dancer, has performed on Star Search, with Arizona Elite, and stage shows in Las Vegas. Tina’s sister, Tara Lynn Cluff, performed in the stage show Annie Get Your Gun in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and West Side Story and Guys and Dolls in St. George, Utah, and danced as Mary Magdalene in the Mesa Temple Easter production for ten years.
To commemorate the school’s fiftieth anniversary, the school will be holding a two-day celebration befitting the grand dame she is. The festivities will begin on Thursday, May 20th at 6:30 p.m. at High Desert Middle School Performing Arts, with a recital by the recreational dance students, with performances by the company dancers interspersed throughout. Friday night’s performance (May 21st) will feature a show by the studio’s fifty-four company dancers, with several special tribute performances: one set to “The Wing Beneath My Wings” to thank Tina’s mom Lynn, Suzanne Lederman, and Donna Fountain for instilling a love of dance in those they taught; special solo performances by the company’s three graduating seniors; and an all-dancer finale, which past teachers are invited to join. The school will also give out scholarships totaling over $3,000 to deserving students. A reception will be held at Power Elite Dance Academy following Friday night’s performance, and all current and past teachers and students are invited to attend.
However, perhaps the most moving part of the anniversary celebration is the rare and poignant look back at how the dance studio has impacted the lives of its students. In preparation for the anniversary celebration, Tina contacted past students and invited them to submit a video stating their name, how long they’ve danced, and finish one simple but profound statement: Because of dance . . .
The response to Tina’s request has been amazing, and she gets choked up talking about it. “You don’t realize how many lives you’ve touched,” she says, adding, “I was meant to be a teacher. That was my calling in life.”
The videos will play before both performances and at the reception.
Deborah Dove is an award-winning freelance writer, editor whose passion is bringing stories to life.
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