Get to know this year’s honorees—Rose Marie Floyd, Earl Mosley, Barbara Allegra Verlezza and Tad Williams.
Rose Marie Floyd
Rose Marie Floyd Studio of Dance
Royal Oak, MI
Although Rose Marie Floyd attended Wayne State University to become a research chemist, she has spent the last 60 years instructing students in the science of Cecchetti technique. As the owner of Rose Marie Floyd Studio of Dance in Royal Oak, Michigan, and founder and artistic director of Contemporary Civic Ballet Company, Floyd has a reputation for consistently turning out professional-caliber ballet dancers. Past students have gone on to dance with New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the Joffrey Ballet, Netherlands Dance Theatre, Houston Ballet and on Broadway.
Floyd credits her ability to produce beautiful dancers to her grounding in technical training. She stresses quality of movement, musicality and impeccable technique as the keys to building a complete dancer. “A lot of times people are excellent dancers, but they don’t use their head or their arms,” she says. “Each part of the body should have expression. A good dancer should have the feeling of total coordination of all parts of the body.”
Floyd holds the Maestro Enrico Cecchetti Diploma, the most advanced placement offered by the Cecchetti Council of America. She has served as the organization’s president and is a permanent examiner. She has also spent the last 12 summers on faculty at England’s Cecchetti Teacher Summer Schools, produced the instructional video Ballet: The Tradition of Cecchetti and gives master classes and Cecchetti seminars at studios and universities across the country.
Litchfield Performing Arts
Earl Mosley doesn’t care if a student has the “wrong” body type, or how well a dancer can point her toes. He operates under what he calls the “I love you, I love me” philosophy, in which everybody in the studio matters. Throughout his teaching career, Mosley has been a father figure, sounding board, friend and mentor to thousands of students, ranging from dance professionals to children in poverty.“I always make sure when I teach class, I let people know I’m there for the person first,” he says. “The dancer is just icing on the cake.”
Mosley began his career at the North Carolina School of the Arts, where he was accepted with almost no previous training. He later danced with Ailey II, Gus Solomons Company/Dance and Ronald K. Brown/Evidence. Sylvia Waters, artistic director of Ailey II, recognized his ability to inspire and communicate with those around him, and offered Mosley his first teaching opportunity. He soon realized that teaching was his true calling.
Currently, Mosley serves as the artistic director of the dance segment of Connecticut-based Litchfield Performing Arts’ Project Poetry Live!, an integrated dance, music, poetry and visual art program for nearly 2,000 middle and high school students. Mosley’s involvement in PPL has spawned many offshoot series, such as Project Dance Live!, a program that gives 14 underprivileged children a chance to study dance intensively, and Greenhouse, part of the Litchfield Jazz Festival’s Summer Institute. Mosley has also been heading up his own dance company, Diversity of Dance, for the past six years, choreographing more than 40 works for them, and for companies such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre and Dallas Black Dance Theatre.
Barbara Allegra Verlezza
Kent State University
Barbara Allegra Verlezza is back in the college classroom: Having begun her dance career at the university level, she received her BS in education/dance as well as an MFA in dance from the University of Michigan. After a full professional performing career, Verlezza has returned to higher education to serve as a full-time assistant professor at Kent State University in Ohio.
In the years in between, Verlezza performed with May O’Donnell Dance Company, dancing as a soloist from 1979 until O’Donnell’s retirement in 1988. Verlezza also performed with Sophie Maslow, Norman Walker, Joyce Trisler Danscompany and Verlezza Dance, of which her husband, Sabatino Verlezza, is artistic director. She also served on the faculty of Adelphi University for 14 years, teaching ballet, O’Donnell technique and dance history.
A defining moment for Verlezza came when Sabatino won a choreography festival that paired him with a disabled dancer. After seeing the beauty of the dancer in the wheelchair, she and her husband moved out to Cleveland to work with Dancing Wheels, a professional company of dancers with and without disabilities. “There is a host of people out there who want to live the dance experience, and either have been told they couldn’t, or just haven’t been invited,” says Verlezza. “[Dancing Wheels] redefined this definition of who should be able to dance.”
At KSU, Verlezza teaches all levels of modern and ballet, as well as a dance appreciation course, in which 120 non-majors not only participate in a lecture, but also take a different dance class each week. Verlezza also choreographs for the Kent State Dance Ensemble, where she recently incorporated a wheelchair dancer in a piece.
Since their experience at Dancing Wheels, the Verlezzas have incorporated wheelchair dance into the repertory of Verlezza Dance, and have also brought dance to organizations such as The Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital for Rehabilitation and the Cuyahoga County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.
Osceola County School for the Arts
Last year, Tad Williams had the challenging task of building a dance program from the ground up, with colleague Nealya Brunson, at the fledgling magnet school Osceola School for the Arts. He has worked to develop a training program to give the Kissimmee, Florida school’s 6th through 12th graders a substantial foundation in dance and the basics of choreography, with a concentration in ballet and modern technique.
Williams teaches ballet at Osceola to students with a wide range of skill levels, academic abilities and experience. One of his taglines: “Even though talent is wonderful, dance is 80 percent work and 20 percent talent.” He believes that all students can successfully develop their abilities.
Williams himself first began studying ballet at Baton Rouge Magnet High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and then danced with Baton Rouget Ballet Theatre. He majored in ballet at Texas Christian University and danced with the Louisiana Ballet before completing his MA in dance education with K–12 dance certification at Ohio State University. Since 1990, Williams has taught in the Charlotte, North Carolina, public school system; Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC; Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, NC; and Olympia High School in Orlando, FL.
Williams has noticed an increase in the intensity and the seriousness of the students in this second year of the program. "I'm more excited about program this year," he says. "With their progress and their desire to go to the next level of dance, I'm challenged to renew and refresh myself as a teacher." He's added a senior concert, in addition to the annual fall and spring concerts, to the reflect the growing interest. DT
Photos courtesy of the teachers