By Gina Martinez
The Robert Mann Dance Centre, a staple in the Bayside community, is celebrating its 50 year anniversary this Spring.
Before setting up location on 214- 10 41st St. in Bayside, the dance center was in two previous Queens locations. In Bay Terrace and on 46th St.
Mann said “The Bayside Community has been very supportive of the dance center over the past 50 years. We started at 45-59 Bell Boulevard, In a single room studio with a smal reception and dressing room area. Within the first five years we needed more room and unfortunately there wasn’t any available so we moved to the Bay Terrace Shopping Center for the next five years. Then finally in 1975 I was offered a partnership in Fercala Corp. by my attorney, Gerald Goldfedder, who owns the building of our centers home on 41st Ave for the past 40 years.”
Mann himself has been a dancer since he was 8 years old. He began his professional dance career in his teens and then decided to teach. He was certified by the Dance Masters of America Inc., the oldest and largest dance teacher organizations in the United States. He has served as President of Dance Masters of America and the local New York City chapter as well. He is currently serving as the National Executive Secretary.
Tony Mansker, an instructor at the center for two years, speaks about what drew him to the centre. He said “Robert is such a huge name in the dance community, I came here because I knew it would be an honor to work for him.”
Mansker’s dance class features around 25 preteens dancing musical theater style moves to “The Nicest Kids in Town” from the Broadway hit “Hairspray” Their routine included front flips and shimmys as well as bell kicks. Mansker required students to repeat missed steps and gave out constructive critisism until the routine was perfected. He said “Other than working for Mann my favorite part is obviously the students. There are a lot of talented young competitors at this centre. I want to bring out the best in them.”
The centers greatest accomplishment has been the students themselves. Many of the centres students have been accepted into dance programs in professional schools such as LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts, Frank Sinatra High School of Performing Arts, Fordham University, and the famed Julliard School among many others.
Mann said “We pride ourselves on the accomplishments of our faculty and students. Our faculty has won many accolades for their dance teaching and choreography. Our students have won many national and regional titles, competitors and scholarships to colleges around the country,” he continued. “Many of our dancers can also be seen in every venue of dance or in their own dance studios using the strong dance foundation of the love of dance developed at our center.”
The 50-year anniversary celebration will be held in Queensboro Community College this Memorial Day weekend. It will feature performances from current students and will celebrate the center and owner Mann himself. As far as plans for the future Mann is optimistic “The Centre will continue to stick to the original promises made over 50 years ago, to provide the best, quality of dance education possible to the greatest number of students. Hopefully we will see our fourth and fifth generation of students attending classes.”