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Dance for the Love of it and to Give Back

Dance for the Love of it and to Give Back

By Melania Murphy – Guest Writer

Margie Krogel, 88, entered the Water’s Edge Assisted Living facility in Bradenton, FL, not as a resident, but as a member of the “That’s Dancing!” performance troupe. She, along with 10 dancers and a singer carried their costumes and makeup bags into their assigned dressing room to get ready for the Spring Follies show, Broadway to Hollywood.

“I feel so fortunate I can still do what I love doing. Teach dance and perform,” Krogel said, dressed in a red and black sequined jacket and white sequined top with a bow tie, black shorts and a black hat with white pearls. Adorned with false eye lashes, red lipstick, and a sandy brown and blonde highlighted wig, she could pass for 20 years younger. “Many people in the audience are my age, so I’m very lucky I can still dance for them … and fit into this costume.”

Krogel has been teaching and performing for over 75 years, and although she doesn’t manage her own studio anymore, she still loves to perform, and substitute teach a class when needed.

“I love to see the audience light up as we make our entrance on stage,” Krogel explained after the recital. “Looking back, I’m so glad I started my first studio in 1954 and followed my passion to teach tap, jazz, ballet, acrobatics and hula to neighborhood children.”  

Krogel grew up in Elmhurst, IL, 20 miles west of Chicago and began taking dance classes when she was four years old to straighten her pigeon-toed feet. In the summers of 1952 and 1953, Krogel and her younger sister joined the Avery Productions of Chicago dance troupe. The summer after graduating high school in 1954 she went to a dance convention and training in Chicago. Then she began teaching her own students.

“My teacher needed a dance instructor at a new studio, so I happily accepted her offer,” Krogel recalls, explaining instructors didn’t need a master’s degree from a college or university to teach dance back then. Instead, the standard of excellence in her part of the country was graduating from the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters.  

“It took me four summers to get my certificate from the Association and then I continued to go every summer to train from the instructors they brought in from all over the country, like Gus Giordano, Alan Howard and Ruth Page,” Krogel said. “Even now, I still love everything about dance – the people, the movement and music, the costumes and even the decorations. In my first studio I decorated a silver metallic Christmas tree with pink ornaments and placed it in the store window.”

Krogel no longer owns her own dance studio but continues to take lessons and substitute teaches for Bonnie Gray, who is the owner, artistic director and choreographer of “That’s Dancing! – Dance Education for Adults” based in Bradenton. The program teaches adults ranging in age from 55 to 88 (adding another year every time Krogel has a birthday) Broadway-style tap and jazz, and Polynesian dancing.

“Margie has been taking classes from me since 2012,” said Gray, who has been teaching for 45 years and is an award-winning choreographer and teacher. “Knowing she was a dance teacher has been very beneficial because she can jump in and teach a class for me if I’m sick or out of town. Her assistance allows me to be elsewhere with no anxiety.”

Gray explained that not all dancers can teach, so she has very few students she can recruit to lead classes for her.

“Teaching is its own skill,” she said. “Like any teacher, you have to have patience, humor, and a desire to share your time, energy and talents to be a good dance teacher.”

Krogel agrees that teaching takes a lot of patience, but it’s well worth it.

“When I see one student is not catching on like the others, I have to think of a different way to explain the movement,” Krogel said. “In a recent hula class, I noticed one lady couldn’t make the undulating hand motion. I told her to pretend she was petting a bunny – lead with your wrist and follow with your fingers. It worked. It’s so satisfying to see a student improve and become excited with their progress.”

After seven decades of teaching, Krogel has a lifetime of stories, but one lesson she learned early on in her career she still applies today.

“This little girl came into a 4/5-year-old beginner combination class – you know, all of them, tap, ballet, and acrobatics,” Krogel recalls from one of her first year’s teaching. “After the class, the girl ran to her mom crying. When I asked the mom what was wrong, she said the little girl had been begging to learn how to dance. The mom laughed and said, she took one class and is sad that she still doesn’t know how to dance.”

Krogel chuckled remembering the scenario but said she learned an important lesson from the experience that she still applies to her classes today.

“Everyone wants to feel like they’ve learned and accomplished something by the end of class,” said Krogel who now structures all her lessons around this model. “In between the warmup and cool down, I teach a little dance based on the students’ skill level. I break it down step by step and rehearse it over and over, so they have it mastered by the end of class.”  

Now dressed in her hula costume – a pink mid-calf skirt with white flowers and a white top embellished with a pink lei, headpiece and bracelets – Krogel reflects on why she enjoys performing in front of an audience.

“I really enjoy giving back to the community,” said Krogel who joined Gray’s dance company when she moved to Florida from Wisconsin. The all-volunteer ensemble entertains senior residents in independent and assisted living facilities, retirement homes, and at local events for Veterans Day, the December holiday season and springtime shows.

“This population doesn’t get out to live performances much anymore, but they still love the spectacle of costumes and glitter, plus familiar music, which may bring back memories,” Krogel said. “It’s fun watching their reactions. If the dance we are illustrating is funny, they laugh. If they’re veterans, some routines bring tears to their eyes.”

“I’ll continue to dance as long as I can,” she said.

Learn more about That’s Dancing! – Dance Education for Adults, visit the Dance Alliance of Bradenton website. (

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