Sue Casey-Murray Retires from JNDS


More than 40 dancers turned out to mark Sue Casey-Murray’s final Jazz 2-3 class at JNDS on Monday, December 29.

Inspirational choreography, a focus on technique and a welcoming atmosphere top the list of things dancers will miss about Sue’s Jazz 2-3 on Monday nights.

Sue Casey-Murray taught her last class at the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio (JNDS) on Monday, December 29. This marks the end of a 30-year career as a dancer, choreographer and teacher, and Sue’s many devoted students and colleagues are sad to see her go. At the same time, we want to wish her well and thank her for sharing her many gifts and talents with us. As JNDS Founder and Artistic Director Jeannette Neill and Managing Director Tommy Coye explained in a note announcing her departure: “Sue has been a valued and beloved family member of our studio and an important staple of our institution’s philosophy of dance education. She will be deeply missed, but we wish her all the very best in the future.”

Indeed, we will miss Sue dearly. And although we are sad that it is over, we should smile for the sheer joy it was to dance with her every week. Here are some of the things we love and will miss about Monday nights with Sue (and here’s to the hope that she’ll treat us to a master or class or two sometime down the road):

A warm welcome. Whether you are here for the first time or have been taking class for decades, Sue welcomes you with a smile. Newcomers are introduced and advised that warm-up is set and moves fast. An encouraging “everyone around you knows it, so follow along and do the best you can” sets you at ease.

Preparedness and professionalism. A full 90 minutes of dancing; that’s what you get when you sign in to Sue’s class. From her thorough warm-up to her full-length combos (always more than a minute, but sometimes approaching two), be prepared to move. This carries over into performance, too. If you have ever joined Sue for a JNDS repertory piece, you know that finishing early and having plenty of time to clean and feel confident in the movement is top priority.

Technique and “treats.” Sue’s class is a place to hone your technique. Whether through personalized corrections or class-wide advice, Sue takes the time to make sure you are working properly. She adds to that with a weekly “treat.” This is code for conditioning exercises meant to build a dancer’s strength—lengthy planks, mountain-climbers, and battements exercises that travel around the room are just a few all-time favorites.

A sense of humor. Whether she’s coining a new term (think “familiar friends” and “customize your class”) or stopping to admire a cute purse lined up along the back wall, Sue interjects a lightness that can’t help but enhance your enjoyment of class. Dance is work, but it’s also fun—something we never forget in Jazz 2-3 on Monday nights.

Friendliness and familiarity. Speaking of coining new terms, somewhere along the line Sue’s class became known as “the friendly class.” Dancers in the front always ask if those behind them want to switch spots—this is Boston, not New York, after all; you can leave your ego at the door here. A spirit of camaraderie and support permeates the studio, and has led to the forming of long-lasting friendships. As one long-time student described:  “I will miss the dancers in class who are now my friends. It’s a joy to watch them get married, have babies, go away and then come back.”

Weekly inspiration. Sue’s music and choreography is nothing short of inspirational, and it’s the thing that has kept so many coming back to class for 30 years. Her lyrical jazz style “looks good on all of us, from those who are 20 years old to those who are more than twice that,” as one student said. “Flying” and “floating” are words other students have used to describe her fluid, musical steps.

Sue has been an inspiration and support to so many dancers—from the young Boston Youth Moves students she taught for years to the devoted adults who have become her friends. We wish her every success in the future and are forever grateful for the time we had dancing together.

Check the JNDS class schedule online for an updated list of classes. For more information, call the studio at 617-523-1355.

JNDS Finishes Anniversary Year on a High Note

The studio’s annual Not! The Nutcracker! concert marks the end of JNDS’ 35th Anniversary celebration, with a promise of more great dance to come.

Orchestra Center F, Seat 106.  Front and center—a spot in the theater where dancers are rarely found. As a choreographer, I usually sit as far back as possible to focus on the technical aspects of the dance, or in the balcony to save money. But on opening night of the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio’s 2014 Not! The Nutcracker! concert, I was at the repertory show purely as an audience member and friend of the performers, ready to cheer and enjoy the dancing to come.

“Mission: Holiday Cheer” was Stephanie Heroux’s variation on Santa’s workshop, with futuristic hooded ninja elves preparing for a Christmas party. Full of props, humor, and a selfie at the end, it jump-started the concert with a bolt of energy and was a reminder of the Christmas extravaganzas in past NTN! shows.

Next up were two pieces by Elena Greenspan, the first for Boston Youth Moves Level 4 dancers and the second for the Contemporary 1 repertory group.  It has been a pleasure to watch both Elena and the BYM 4 dancers mature artistically over the past few years, and “Awaken” showcased that growth nicely. The story centered on a pair of friends going through a rough patch and made use of thoughtful, elegant partnering. “The Heist” showed Elena’s humorous side by depicting a group of thieves cautiously trying to cross the stage. Erik Fox’s lighting made the whole scene more believable with the silhouettes of buildings cast behind the dancers.

Jeannette Neill’s “Oxygen” was a complete throwback to the rep shows of the ‘90s—indeed, the cast included ladies who have been with JNDS since almost the beginning. Shimmering tunics, fluid arm movements, and Jeannette’s signature jazz technique all combined to create the image of mesmerizing divas floating on stage, a powerful reminder of what JNDS is all about. Ilya Vidrin’s “S/T #1” was also a throwback to the rep shows of the ‘90s with its stark, post-modern take on flamenco with a touch of Martha Graham for good measure. This piece also featured a central pair of dancers, but this time in a mentor-student type of relationship. It was a challenging bit of work for any set of young dancers, but BYM pulled off a compelling performance.

“Lilac Wine” opened with and featured faculty member Nikki Sell as a tormented soul. Both her dancing and the title of the piece brought to mind the notion of a French painter drunk on absinthe and surrounded by green fairies.  Indeed, Nikki had a set of lilac “fairies” join her onstage, all of whom gracefully performed a ballet- and modern-influenced set of lyrical jazz sequences. Closing the first half was SKooj Core-O’s “Hard Times” featuring the largest cast of the evening. True to its name, “Hard Times” was hard-hitting and dark but, nicely balanced by the rapport between the dancers.

The second half of the show brought us back to the holiday concert theme with another set of elves, this time with more humor and less edge. Nikki’s “Christmas Medley” had her dancers enacting the 12 Days of Christmas in leopard print tunics and Santa hats—and it even included fouette turns. For anyone familiar with JNDS shows, fouette turns are like rare beasts that seldom appear, much less performed in bare feet. Moving along to a darker place, SKooJ CorE-O’s contemporary piece “Cumulus” was another reminder of Martha Graham with its hooded stretchy dresses and dramatic phrases. One bit of fresh air was a lovely section of partnering between the lone male dancer with his female cast-mates.

“Monday Morning Adventures” was a cute and age-appropriate dance for the BYM Level 2 dancers and had the best use of chairs in a jazz dance that I’ve seen in a long time. Opening with a subway scene, the chairs shuffled around to form desks in a classroom. Kudos to Laura Vinci de Vanegas for making sure that her students had clean technique and never dropped character.

Next up was another piece by Stephanie that took place in a snowy winter landscape. Showing off the dancers’ technique, “Across the Miles” was a cheerful and heart-touching reminder of why we get together for the holidays, complete with scarves hand-knitted by the choreographer.

“ConART” marked the debut of The CONcept ARTists at a rep show; the group is led by Tarikh Campbell and JNDS faculty Sean Bjerke. JNDS has a long history of supporting local dance companies by providing them performance opportunities in rep shows, and the addition of a hip-hop company to that list shows the breadth of that support. The dancers had a chemistry and level of synchronization only attainable after a great deal of practice—visual proof that they were deserving of their title as first place winners at the prestigious World of Dance:Boston competition.

The last three pieces could effectively be called “the Jim Viera commercial-free radio block” of the show. One of the most versatile choreographers at JNDS, Jim’s work ranges from lively theatrical extravaganzas to flowy modern pieces to hi-energy classic jazz in character shoes—all of which appeared at this year’s show.  “Just for a Thrill” brought to mind a 1950s holiday cocktail party with its poufy dresses, heels, and whimsical ballroom dancing in the middle.  “Now We are Free” had the BYM Level 3 dancers wandering through a forest introspectively, spiraling around to the ground and back up again.  “Sing, Sing, Sing”—an old favorite with various incarnations over the years—had almost every classic jazz move one could ask for. Danced by BYM Level 4 in Christmas colors, this closing number had everyone in high spirits by the end—a fitting way to wrap up the studio’s 35th anniversary and an excellent beginning for the next year to come!

-Posted by JNDS Webmaster Eugenia Kim.

As JNDS begins its 36th year, the studio’s non-profit teen dance program Boston Youth Moves celebrates its 25th anniversary, kicking off the celebration with a series of guest artists in January and a 25th Anniversary Concert in March. For information on BYM, visit

JNDS Dancer Q&A with: Nic Nguyen

This busy physician still makes time for dance, and he shares his insight on one of JNDS’ newest classes: Contemporary with Tucker Knox.

Dancer and JNDS student Nic Nguyen finds time to fuel his passion for dance despite his busy life as a primary care physician. Nic started out as a ballroom/Latin dancer many years ago and eventually expanded into other styles and techniques, including ballet, jazz, and contemporary. He credits JNDS with helping him develop a deeper study and appreciation for jazz and contemporary dance in particular—something he says helped him succeed as an aspiring professional, making it to Vegas Week in seasons 8 and 9 of the hit series So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD).

Nic takes class regularly with longtime JNDS faculty members Jim Viera, Sue Casey-Murray, and Stephanie Heroux, and has studied contemporary with Elena Greenspan and Sarah-Kay Jerome. He also counts Tucker Knox, one of the studio’s newest faculty members, as a key influence. Tucker—who attended The Julliard School in New York and is most recognized for his role as one of the top four male finalists in season 10 of SYTYCD—brought his unique and challenging contemporary style to JNDS over the summer and teaches Contemporary 2 on Wednesday nights at 7:30.

We asked Nic to talk a bit about his passion for dance, what JNDS means to him, and why Tucker’s class is worth checking out:

JNDS: Tell us a bit about your dance background.

Nguyen: I’ve been dancing for at least 15 years (probably more) and have been going to JNDS for the last seven years. The style I am most comfortable with is ballroom/Latin, which I started very early on, but I’ve trained in many other styles for the majority of my dance life: jazz, ballet, contemporary.

JNDS: Why do you dance—and why study at JNDS?

Nguyen: I love to dance and always thought I’d become a professional dancer someday, but a career in medicine called to me and I had to make a choice. I am now a primary care physician at Beth Israel Medical Center, but still make time for dancing. It’s a stress reliever and keeps me going! JNDS has been an integral part to my dancing.  It is here that my dancing really developed some versatility across dance styles. This was instrumental to my success when I made it to Vegas Week on SYTYCD seasons 8 and 9.

JNDS: You have recently discovered Tucker Knox’s contemporary class. What do you like about it?

Nguyen: Tucker’s class is great! His contemporary style is musical, emotional, and very technically challenging. He emphasizes lines, legs, and stretch while infusing isolations and musicality. His movement is very creative without ignoring ballet foundations. It reminds me a lot of choreography you would see from Travis Wall or Stacey Tucci. The class is fast-paced, but Tucker is very nice and takes time to answer a lot of questions.  I often leave class not only drenched in sweat, but feeling emotionally lighter, like a post-dance catharsis has happened!

JNDS Wraps Up Successful Summer

Powered By Dance teen program and first annual Jeannette Neill Children’s Program Dance Camp provide access to top-notch teachers and keep students’ skills fresh.

The Jeannette Neill Dance Studio hosted two successful summer dance programs in July and August, connecting young dancers with some of Boston’s most gifted dance instructors. The studio’s long-running Powered By Dance summer intensive for teens featured instructors from JNDS and its non-profit teen program Boston Youth Moves, as well as other area dance organizations. New to the program this year was JNDS faculty member Tucker Knox, who has trained at The Julliard School and was a 2014 finalist in the So You Think You Can Dance competition.


Tucker Knox (back row, center) taught Contemporary class during week two of JNDS’ Powered By Dance Program.


JNDS also hosted its first-ever dance camp for children ages 9 to 12. Run by Jeannette Neill Children’s Program Director Stephanie Heroux, the half-day, week-long program offered daily ballet class and a mix of styles classes, including jazz, musical theater and hip hop. The young students were treated to a modern class with BYM Artistic Director Jim Viera and got a taste of tap with Boston-area teacher Julia Fiske.

Information on Boston Youth Moves is available here. For more on the Jeannette Neill Children’s Dance Program, see our online brochure and class schedule.

JNDS Student Q&A with: Tana Chandler

Friendship, fun, and a passion for Jazz have kept this dancer coming back to JNDS for 34 years

Longtime JNDS dancer Tana Chandler credits Jeannette Neill’s “infectious exuberance” and her classic Jazz style as key reasons she keeps coming back to the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio. These days, Chandler is a regular in Jeannette’s Saturday 9 a.m. Jazz class, which she describes as a welcoming place full of friends and fun. In the newest installment of our Q&A series celebrating the studio’s 35th anniversary, she talks about what makes the studio so special and why she’s been hooked on Jazz since taking her first class with Jeannette 34 years ago.

JNDS: When did you start taking class at JNDS and what keeps you coming back?

Tana Chandler: I started in 1980! I was hooked from the beginning. Jeannette’s exuberance towards dance and her style are infectious. Plus, there are all my dancer friends—you know when you walk through that door, you are home.

JNDS: Jeannette’s 9 a.m. Jazz class on Saturdays is a particularly popular class. It’s full of regulars, but is also a welcoming place for newcomers. Why do you think it appeals to such a broad range of dancers?

Chandler: We all love to dance. We help each other out. There are no DIVAS among us!

JNDS: Jeannette’s style is classic Jazz—something it seems is becoming increasingly difficult to find elsewhere. How important is this to you in your study of dance?

Chandler: It’s very important. Her warm-up and style just feel right for my body. I have never been injured in her class.

JNDS: What advice would you give to someone taking Jeannette’s class for the first time?

Chandler: Take it one “step” at a time. Relax and have fun. If you stick with it, all will become clear!

JNDS: So many JNDS students talk about the studio as their dance home and point to the lasting friendships they have made here. How has this aspect of JNDS and the 9 a.m. class affected you?

Chandler: The studio and the 9 a.m. dance class have been a constant in my life for over 34 years. Jeannette has been such an inspiration and friend to me. At times it probably saved my sanity, if not my life, through some difficult times. Not to mention that my training at JNDS gave me the tools to teach for over 12 years, and to perform. I also met one of my best friends, Lorrie Wilkins, at the studio, along with many other fabulous people. We have gone through marriages, divorces, illnesses, childbirth—and no matter if happy or sad, we felt supported, loved and excited to dance.

JNDS: Do you have a fun fact about yourself or the 9 a.m. class you’d like to share?

Chandler: Tough question! There are so many good times and memories. Hmmm … when the old studio wouldn’t have heat first thing in the morning and Jeannette would have us walk then run around in a circle before the warm-up … when I took so many classes, I actually had a “spot” … when Dwight and Desmond from Ailey would come to teach master classes … the Rick Atwell warm-up (to this day if I hear that music I start doing grande plies in the supermarket) … leg warmers, giant scrunchies, bandanas, thong leotards with dance belts … I could go on and on!

JNDS Celebrates 35 Years of Performance

Spring Repertory Concert honors the 35th Anniversary of the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio and pays tribute to the legacy of the studio’s late co-owner and artistic director J. Allen Collier

Students, faculty, and staff of the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio recently presented their Spring Repertory Concert, this year honoring JNDS’ 35th Anniversary. The annual showcase of Jazz, Contemporary, and Hip Hop dance featured performances by new and longtime JNDS students and faculty, Boston Youth Moves, BYM alumni, and special guests from the Boston Community Dance Project.

In addition to honoring JNDS’ 35th anniversary, the concert was dedicated to the memory of J. Allen Collier, co-owner and co-artistic director of JNDS, who lost his two-year battle with melanoma on April 22. Allen will be honored with a memorial service at Boston University’s Tsai Performance Center (longtime home of the JNDS Repertory Concerts) on June 21. The Spring Repertory Concert offered an early tribute to Allen’s life by continuing the JNDS tradition of enriching Boston’s dance community with vibrant and diverse choreography from some of the region’s most talented dance professionals.

Here are some highlights, in pictures, from this year’s show:

PreShowWarmupDancers gather onstage and in the house for Jeannette’s pre-show warm-up—a body/mind ritual for Repertory Concert performers.

JeannetteRepJeannette Neill’s Tuesday evening Jazz class opened the show with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Jeannette created the piece in 1987 and reprised it in honor of the 35th Anniversary Spring Concert.  (photo courtesy of Liz Martin)

NikkiBYMIVIn one of the most intense pieces of the evening, BYM Level 4 presented Nikki Sell’s “Under Pressure.” Nikki is on faculty at BYM and JNDS, teaching her Modern-influenced Jazz style.

Saturday9amThe fabulous ladies of Jeannette Neill’s Saturday 9 a.m. Jazz class made a special appearance at the Spring Repertory Concert, performing a Tango piece representing classic “Jeannette” style. The Saturday 9 a.m. class is one of the studio’s longest-running classes.

IMAG2357Lorrie Wilkins and Leslie Beyer are both longtime students and friends of JNDS.  Lorrie came all the way from Florida to perform in the 35th anniversary show!

BYMIIBYM Artistic Director Jim Viera presented “Noonday Sun,” performed by BYM Level 2. This was a debut Repertory Concert performance for many of these young dancers.

ElenaGroupElena Greenspan (second from back right) with the cast of her Modern-influenced Contemporary piece, “It’s Written in the Air.”

JimmyGroupJim Viera’s fabulous Friday night Jazz class presented “Don’t Stop The Dance,” an ‘80s-inspired Jazz piece set to music by Bryan Ferry.

SkoojContemporarySkooJ CorE-O’s Contemporary dancers presented the fluid and physically demanding “Liberation.”

SueGroupSue Casey-Murray presented a cast of 14 dancers in “Every Moment,” a lyrical Jazz piece set to music by Avril Lavigne and Joy Williams. Sue retired from JNDS Repertory choreography two years ago—presenting her last piece at Not! The Nutcracker 2012—but was persuaded to come back with this special piece in honor of the studio’s 35th anniversary.

JimmyBYMIVBYM Level 4 danced Artistic Director Jim Viera’s “Sound of Invisible Waters,” a final performance for the group’s graduating seniors.

1stTimersFirst-time Repertory performers Ju Hyun Lee and Kate Brandel danced in Brittany Alexis’  “Upgrade U.”

AlexisGroupBrittany Alexis with the full cast of her upbeat, energetic “Upgrade U” jazz funk piece.

BYMIIIThe BYM Level 3/Intensive dancers were mesmerizing in Elena Greenspan’s “Love and Purity.” Elena teaches Modern dance in the BYM program and offers Contemporary dance in the JNDS adult program.

NikkiGroupNikki Sell (center, front) stepped in for an injured dancer in her Modern Jazz  2 group.  They performed “The Wing and the Wheel,” a piece that celebrated love and friendship.

LilGroupLil Carter’s Jazz dancers performed with characteristic high energy in “That’s Clutch,” set to music by George Michael. Lil is a longtime JNDS faculty member, teaching Jazz on Wednesday evenings.

BCDPGuest Performers from Boston Community Dance Project offered a moving performance in “Sinking Desperation.” BCDP was created in 2011 by JNDS faculty member Sarah-Katrina Jerome (SKooJ CorE-O).

BoysIIKit Pang, the show’s assistant to the director, and dancer Corey Baker offer a glimpse of the energy and excitement backstage during Saturday evening’s performance.

BoysIJohn Messina and Mckhelan Alcindor get ready to perform “Onward March,” a crowd-pleasing, military-inspired Hip Hop piece choreographed by SKooJ CorE-O.

SkoojHipHopThe cast of SKooJ CorE-O’s “Onward March” offer a pose straight after performing onstage.

BYMAlumniA handful of young and talented BYM alumni made their way back to the Tsai to perform Jim Viera’s “Wack Wack!” in honor of the 35th anniversary.

MostRepsEmily Paquin celebrated the 35th anniversary by performing in four pieces – the most performed by a single dancer in the whole show: Stephanie Heroux’s “Surrender” and “Thank You,” Brittany Alexis’ “Upgrade U,” and SKooJ CorE-O’s “Onward March.”

StephanieGroupBYM, JNDS, and JNCDP faculty member Stephanie Heroux (center, front) presented two pieces in the show, “Surrender” and “Thank You,” pictured here. “Thank You” closed the show and paid tribute to Allen Collier, JNDS, and the gift of dance.

Calling All Teens: JNDS Powered by Dance Summer Dance Intensive

Summer program at the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio immerses young dancers in ballet, modern, jazz, and more

Designed for teenagers, the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio’s Powered by Dance Summer Intensive is a rewarding and enriching dance program featuring some of the nation’s most gifted dance educators, many of whom are on the faculty of the renowned Boston Youth Moves [BYM] program. It’s a great way for young dancers to work on improving their technique, challenging their skills, and expanding their scope of styles. The program is open to teen dancers ages 13-17.

Additionally, should your teen discover that he or she is ready for the next step in their dance education they may want to consider inquiring about the BYM pre-professional training program that runs concurrently with the school year.  BYM offers early placement in the program for students attending the Powered by Dance intensive.

Below is a sample of the schedule for Powered by Dance. Registration is still open, so don’t miss your chance to dance with us at JNDS this summer.

July 21st – August 8th, Monday – Friday


9:30 -11:15 Ballet

11:30 -1:15 Modern

2:00 – 4:00 Styles


9:30 – 11:15 Modern

11:30 – 1:15 Ballet

2:00 – 4:00 Styles


9:30 – 11:15 Ballet

11:30 – 1:15 Modern

2:00 – 4:00 Styles

Styles class may include Jazz, Theatre Dance, and Hip Hop. Tuition is $405/week or all three weeks for $1100, plus a $35 non-refundable registration fee.

JNDS Dancer Q&A with: Christine Hamersley

It’s never too late to begin studying dance—and Jeannette Neill’s Jazz 1 is the perfect place to start, says longtime JNDS student and performer Christine Hamersley

In our ongoing effort to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio, we asked some longtime students to talk about one of the studio’s longest running classes: Jeannette Neill’s Jazz 1 on Saturdays at 9 a.m. This class has served as the starting point for many adult students looking to begin or expand their dance studies, and it also is a place where many longtime dancers come to refresh their technique.

Christine Hamersley took her first JNDS class on Saturday at 9 a.m. 24 years ago, and she keeps coming back for Jeannette’s best-in-the-business warm-up, fun music, and classic jazz combinations. Here are Christine’s insights on how this classic jazz class led to an in-depth study of dance that she continues today.

JNDS: When did you start taking Jeannette’s 9 a.m. Jazz 1 on Saturdays, and what keeps you coming back?

Hamersley: I took my first Saturday 9 a.m. with Jeannette class in 1990.  That’s 24 yrs ago! Soon after, I took her Level 2 at 11a.m., 2 hour classes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday for as many years as she had these classes until and including today.

I danced in Marblehead for 10 years and was looking to improve my technique and to try different styles and teachers. I kept coming back for Jeannette’s consistently excellent warm up, her fantastic music (Aretha Franklin, Oleta Adams, Tina Turner, Patti LaBelle, M People, and more), her challenging combinations and wonderful style. With Jeannette’s guidance, I was building dance strength, increasing my stretch and range of motion, having a fabulous opportunity to perform in 13 Repertory Shows, dancing three jazz and musical theater pieces in a show. I was having fun and making terrific, lifelong friends along the way.

I also keep coming back because JNDS always keeps me challenged. I’ve gone on to study with Jimmy Viera (jazz and musical theater for 10 years), Sue Casey Murray, Carlton Jones, Adrienne Mincz, Jimmy Raye, Lisa Simon, Andy Taylor Blenis, Tommy Coye, Lillian Carter, Billy McLaughlin and Nikki Sell. I’ve taken the JNDS Summer Festival Intensives and Master Classes with Lynn Simonson, Michael Owens, Betsy Haug, Ailey dancers, and more. I’ve taken open classes at Steps and BDC in NYC. All of this would never have happened without Jeannette’s teaching and guidance…and it all began with her Saturday 9a.m. class.

JNDS: This is a class that’s full of regulars, but is also a welcoming place for newcomers. Why do you think it appeals to such a broad range of dancers?

Hamersley: Jeannette has a wonderful way of making everyone feel welcome. She’s a Master teacher and a beautiful dancer. We’re so fortunate to learn from her. She keeps everyone safe with her warm up, by watching students carefully and making appropriate corrections. The exercises follow an easy pattern so a newcomer can learn the dance vocabulary and work on their technique. Jeannette’s terrific music makes it fun.

JNDS: Jeannette’s style is classic jazz – something it seems is becoming increasingly difficult to find elsewhere.  How important is this to you in your study of dance?

Hamersley: Jazz style has taught me to carefully observe lines, syncopated rhythms, isolations, a low center of gravity, and parallel feet. It’s taught me to use plie to full effect to move correctly. This can be helpful in modern dance and in dancing to any current popular music. Jazz is so important to anyone who wants to be a well-trained dancer. The roots of jazz are in African and Indian dance, combined with famous jazz choreographers such as Bob Fosse, Jack Cole, Gwen Verdon, Gus Giordano, Jerome Robbins and many others. Jazz is required for dancers on Broadway, in musical theater, dance companies, competitions, and dance reality shows. It’s a very important style and vocabulary that will always be classic.

JNDS: What advice would you give to someone taking Jeannette’s class for the first time?

Hamersley: I would reassure them that the warm-up faces front and repeats. It’s easy to follow. Jeannette drills you on jazz basics and builds your core strength and stretch. Jeannette’s class would prepare any newcomer to eventually go on to other teachers and styles. The Saturday 9a.m. class is a great place to begin. Your dance technique will build over time. There are advanced dancers at this class, but a newcomer is welcomed too. Your single pirouette is just as appreciated as other’s doubles and triples. I tell them everyone is very friendly and nice. We all make mistakes you just have to keep trying.

JNDS: So many JNDS students talk about the studio as their dance home and point to the lasting friendships they have made here. How has this aspect of JNDS and the 9 a.m. class affected you?

Hamersley: JNDS is my dance “home” and the dancers I have met here are kindred spirits. We all love the studio and teachers, the movement, music, discipline, and challenge. The Rep shows brought us together too.  After losing my husband of 20 years to cancer, I got to know three of the BYM students by giving them rides from Duxbury. One was Haley Bobseine, who began BYM at age 14. I drove her to class two to three times a week for four years while she advanced to BYM level 4. We stayed in touch through her college years and after too while she has lived abroad.

I wanted to get to know other adult dancers, too. I organized a group (Dance Affinity) to support the “Celebrity Dance Series of Boston.” We each bought a six-show subscription and met before the concert at a restaurant nearby. We started with four people, and seven years later we had 14…all dancers from Jeannette’s wanting to support the arts. It was so much fun. The “Dance Affinity” group has now become a Facebook Group of 115 dance friends, mostly from Jeannette’s.

JNDS: Do you have a fun fact about yourself or the 9 a.m. class you’d like to share?

Hamersley: I knew at a very young age that I loved to dance, but didn’t have the opportunity to study dance. I danced some in high school and college, but it wasn’t until I came to JNDS in my 30s that I was able to immerse myself (while working full time at Swissair) in serious dance training. I even studied ballet with Leo Gerard at Jose Mateo’s studio for five years. But, it was Jeannette’s teaching and encouragement made this all possible.

JNDS Dancer Q&A with: Anne Marie Cuozzo

After 22 years and 44 Rep Shows, dancer Anne Marie Cuozzo calls the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio “the best find ever”

There are not many dancers at the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio who can claim to have performed in more than 40 of the studio’s twice yearly Repertory Concerts—Not! The Nutcracker! in December and the Spring Repertory Concert each May. Aside from faculty, there probably aren’t any at all, come to think of it. But at 44 shows and counting, longtime student and performer Anne Marie Cuozzo likely holds the title of longest-running rep performer.  She has danced a variety of styles in that time, but is probably most recognizable as a core member of Jim Viera’s jazz group that rehearses on Friday nights during rep season.

We asked Cuozzo to share some of her thoughts about the studio and what it’s like to perform in a rep show, in honor of JNDS’ upcoming 35th Anniversary Concert, to be held May 23 and 24 at Boston University’s Tsai Performance Center. She recalls some of her favorite theater dance performances and some classic pieces from Not!The Nutcraker!

Cuozzo’s insights offer a look at something that is much more than a performance for the serious students that call JNDS their dance home.

JNDS: How many JNDS Repertory Concerts have you participated in?

Anne Marie Cuozzo: I came to Jeannette’s quite by accident. I had never danced at a studio before—disco clubs back in the ‘70s and ‘80s were fabulous though, loved to dance. A friend of mine wanted to start taking classes at Jeannette’s so she asked me to go to the rep show with her so she could check out the choreographers. Then she asked me to go try a class with her. I figured what the heck, give it a try. She hurt her back and didn’t show up, but 22 years and 44 rep shows later, I am still dancing and thankfully going strong! I love to dance, and as a beginner Jeannette’s studio was so welcoming. I always felt so encouraged to keep trying and learn more.

JNDS: What years, seasons, and choreographers have you performed with?

Cuozzo: My first class at the studio was in 1992 with a very pregnant Andy Taylor. She was a fantastic teacher, but once she had the baby I had to find another class. A friend suggested Jimmy [Jim Viera]; she said I’d love it. I took Jimmy’s jazz class and six months later I was signing up for the rep show. And I have been performing ever since. Once Jimmy started teaching musical theater, I HAD to do those reps, too. I tried other classes and reps, including Billy McLaughlin, Jeannette, and Sue Casey—all amazing. The rep shows are so much fun and always challenging. Everyone is welcome, encouraged to do their best and to just have fun. That’s what I love about the studio; everyone can be a part of this great show.

JNDS: Do you have a favorite year, season, choreographer?

Cuozzo: Oh, that’s hard. There have been so many. I absolutely loved the 15th Anniversary show. It was amazing, and so long it took two tapes (yes, tapes) to record the show. Jimmy did a jazz piece where we were all dressed up to go to a cocktail party, pink champagne glasses and all. Well, on Friday night that pink champagne glass popped right out of my hand and landed somewhere on stage. The audience laughed, and luckily someone kicked if off stage. I hung on to it for dear life on Saturday night.

Jimmy’s musical theater reps were always a treat, especially when [JNDS faculty members] Tommy Coye and Michelle Chasse were part of it. There was a rep where we even had to sing and one where we were nurses operating on teacher Lil Carter.  Musical theater reps were always so creative and loved by the audience.

I forget which Not! the Nutcracker it was, but Jeannette did a piece to a Christmas song called “Santa Baby” with pink wigs and all! She needs to reprise that piece. OMG, I don’t want to give away the ending but I will: those wigs lit up with Christmas lights! And at the end of many a Not the Nutcracker, we loved when Jeannette came out dressed as a Christmas tree, red pointe shoes and all!

JNDS: What brings you back to perform year after year? Is it the process, the performance, or something else?

Cuozzo: It is the process, the performance, and so much more. I have had the chance to work with so many amazing people and have made the most incredible friendships through the years. The dancers are from all different ages, backgrounds and stages in life, but the thread that pulls us all together is dance. Through performance, Jeannette has given us a chance to learn more about ourselves and bond with fellow dancers. The teachers and choreographers are amazing; they challenge us to be our best, to make mistakes and shake them off, to get on stage and forget about the steps and just perform and have fun. The best compliments I have heard after performing are, “you all look like you are having so much fun.” And we are.

JNDS: How would you describe the show itself, in terms of professionalism and the quality of the choreography and dancing?

Cuozzo: Through the years, I have invited people to the show and have heard them say, “Oh, you have a dance recital.” I usually nod and just tell them they will enjoy it. After the show I always hear, “that was amazing!”  People love the show because of its professionalism, the quality of the choreography, dancing, lighting and staging.

JNDS: What about the level of commitment involved in the show. How much time should a dancer expect to give to the process?

Cuozzo: It is a commitment, but if you love to dance it doesn’t feel like a commitment at all. It is the joy of just getting to dance more, getting deeper into the heart of a song and exploring the choreography that the teacher has asked you to bring to life. It’s just a couple of hours more a week. The week of the show is a bit more intense, but it’s the excitement leading up to the show: getting on stage to mark the piece, then rehearsing with lights, then the show! Everyone is excited downstairs in the dressing rooms knowing there is a packed house. Dancers run around getting dressed, putting on make-up, practicing in the hallways and then hearing “places everyone!” Your heart skips a beat as you wait in the wings to go on, but you look at your fellow dancers and without any words you know you are all ready, the audience is going to love it.

JNDS: What advice would you give to a dancer who’s thinking about joining his or her first Rep cast?

Cuozzo: If you love to dance, RUN to sign up!

JNDS: This year is the 35th anniversary show. How do you feel about that?

Cuozzo: Wow, I am so honored to be a part of it. I just have to say to Jeannette, Jimmy, Allen and Tommy—I know it hasn’t been easy, but you have given so many people a chance to dance and be happy. That can never be captured in a simple thank you, but THANK YOU!

JNDS: Do you have a fun fact about yourself that you would like to share with others?

Cuozzo: Oh gosh, I didn’t start dancing at the studio until I was 35 years old and it was the best find ever! Shh, don’t tell anyone how old I am.

More information on the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio’s Repertory Concerts is available on the JNDS website.

Don’t Miss Out on Summertime Fun at JNCDP

Fun workshops for kids ages 3 to 12 and a week-long dance camp for 9- to 12-year-olds are on the agenda at the Jeannette Neill Children’s Dance Program this summer

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Parents, it is almost that time of year again: summer vacation. Not sure what to do to keep your little ones entertained? JNCDP offers special workshops throughout the summer so that your child may continue to learn, grow, and explore with us throughout the year.  And because these classes are open to the general public, it is a great time to invite friends and family to share the nurturing experience that you and your child have enjoyed this year in JNCDP.  Each workshop fills up quickly, so register early to reserve your spot. Here is a quick peek at what we’re offering in summer 2014:


Oh, The Places You’ll Go! (creative movement & arts and crafts): Ages 3-4; Mondays: June 2, 9, 16, from 4pm-5pm

Jazz It Up! (jazz & street funk): Ages 5-7; Mondays: June 2, 9, 16, from 5pm-6pm

Hip Hop: Ages 8-12; Mondays: June 2, 9, 16, from 4pm-5pm

On Broadway! (musical theatre dance styles culminating in a performance): Ages 9-12; Thursdays: June 5, 12, 19, from 4pm-6pm

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Oh, The Places You’ll Go! (creative movement & arts and crafts): Ages 3-4; Monday, Wednesday, Friday: August 11, 13, 15, from 9:30 am -10:30am

Jazz It Up! (jazz & street funk): Ages 5-7; Monday, Wednesday, Friday: August 11, 13, 15, from 10:30 am-11:30am

Summer Dance Camp (week-long, half day camp offering various styles): Ages 9-12; Monday-Friday: August 11-15, 9:00am-12:30pm

Please contact JNCDP Director Stephanie Heroux with any questions or for more information.  We encourage you to spread the word about these summer workshops to friends, family, and communities outside of JNCDP.  They are a great way for your children to continue dancing throughout the year, and for new and prospective students to try our program before registering for the 2014-2015 school year.  All forms and schedules are available online at

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Happy Spring! See you in June!