"Three qualities are required if one is to become and artist, One must have aptitude, or the ability to acquire mastery of the art; one must have tremendous love for one’s art in order to work on it with determination, effort and concentration, and one must have imagination and creativity to develop the art along new and unknown paths."
ReFLEX is but an evolution of FLEX, a school that served Sarasota and Bradenton for over 18 years, touching the lives of thousands of young people.
Many of the dancers who trained there have gone on professional careers, earning college scholarships and placement in some of America’s finest dance programs.
The school's students have gone on to dance in professional modern and ballet companies, on Broadway, in touring companies, as performers on cruise ships and in many other performance venues. Some have become teachers with dance studios of their own. Others have gone on to alternate professional careers, but insist that the confidence and self‐discipline they developed during their dance years enhanced their life forevermore. Many went on to professional careers in dance and theater, while others were talented enough to make a career of dance, yet chose to follow other paths.
What they share is the claim that their dance training was a significant contributor to their personal growth, and we are proud to share a few words of inspiration from them with our new generation of dancers today.
Darien Richie –
Actor/singer/dancer, has starred as a lead on Broadway in Les
Miserable, Little Shop of Horrors, Thoroughly Modern Millie and other shows. He's had roles on soaps and movies as well.
"Dance has helped me in my life giving me not only an edge in the audition process but by making me more at ease on stage and or film. That is all due in large part to the training both Ginny and Mark gave me a Flex. Not only do they make dance fun to do but the results are amazing for their students, I have been involved in this career now for 12 years and I have never felt like the choreography of any show would be to much for me to handle, cause when you are trying to learn dance with the caliber of students that FLEX trained, you learn quickly that this is a profession and not a hobby, although you have so much fun you forget that the exercise benefits are great as well.
There would be a huge mistake made by anyone who wants to be on Broadway to not prepare yourself the way Ginny gets you ready to take on the world of NY or anywhere for that matter.
As a actor on Broadway I have recalled my training from FLEX through many of my Broadway shows be it, Les Mis, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Little Shop of Horrors or my current project in London's West End, Ghost.
I can't thank my teachers and friends Mark and Ginny enough for prepping me for the world of Dance no matter where I perform. Your community will have another reason to love the arts if Ginny is there teaching kids the fun of Dance.
Learn more about Mary’s career at her dance website
"I'm going to dance for the rest of my life."
At age 12, during my second year at Flex Dance Studio, I told my parents exactly that. I hardly took a class before walking in to Flex, but Ginny East and Mark
Hendry both saw my potential. Long legs, big smile, and major
determination led me to their studio door and I haven't looked back
since! After my time with Flex, I went on to attend high school at
the Alabama School of Fine Arts. For college, I received both
Presidential Academic and Dance Talent Scholarships to Oklahoma City
University (OCU). I pushed through OCU's rigorous training, and 4
years later, received my Bachelor's of Science in Dance Management and
graduated with highest honors. During each stage of my life, I
remembered the many lessons I received at Flex. Ginny
instilled a sense that dance is more than just a pattern of
movements; it's a way of living.
I took that concept with me in to the real world and following my
graduation, I worked in Atlanta choreographing for the Grammy's Heroes
Awards. I've also worked with other choreographers such as Bubba Carr,
Cher's touring choreographer, and David Norwood, of Edge Performing
Arts Center and CEO of Phyzix Concepts. I moved on to perform with
Fee Hedrick Entertainment, Gaylord Entertainment's General Jackson
showboat, and with Stiletto Entertainment on Holland America Cruise
Ships. Once I had my heart set on dancing, it's just been a matter of
keeping up with my dreams and aspirations. I am grateful every day
for the training I received early on at Flex Dance because it gave me
the foundation to create the wonderful life I have now.
At five, Nicole Riley was selected to participate in the first KIDDANCE
youth education video, and she continued dancing at FLEX until she graduated and left for college. Though she would have been a prime candidate to dance professionally, she chose to attend Carnegie Mellon to study French and foreign studies, yet she continues to perform in a small dance company for the joy of it.
Ginny taught my first dance class when I was three years old, and I was her student until she moved to Georgia thirteen years later. Ginny is a strong, determined, creative woman who approaches everything in life with style and grace and is spellbinding to watch in motion – an excellent role model for young dancers. I started out unable to
control my flexibility, unable to stand still, uncomfortable with standing in the front of the class. But Ginny worked with me, initially teaching dances with colorful props that lowered my guard and helped me explore space and musicality in a way more natural
for a child, giving gentle corrections in class, and eventually choreographing my first solo and training me as an assistant dance teacher. As I advanced, I became more aware of the strengths and challenges of my body, built up the confidence to demonstrate in front of my peers without flinching, and developed a focus for what was really important as I danced. I recall Ginny telling us in class, as older students, what our artistic
goals should be as we worked through their imaginative, out‐of‐the‐box (sometimes literally!) choreography: where the accents should be, what the mood of the piece was, what exactly dancers try to accomplish with their movement. The dance school she ran (and certainly, any dance school she would affiliate herself with) was a caring, nurturing place that built well rounded dancers with solid technique and a
passion for the art. There was nothing cookie cutter about it.
Now I'm studying materials science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon, but the intense
workload can't keep me from dancing. I've been active in a student choreography club on
campus that puts on one show per semester and have the dance background I acquired under Ginny's and Mark's guidance to thank for the compliments I receive on my performances.
I have also been fortunate enough to take classes and do some shows with The Pillow Project, a local dance company. Dance will always hold an important role in my life, and it all began for me in the classes at FLEX!
Kim became a newscaster on network TV, (and don't believe her; she was one of
our most talented students, just a very humble one). She won the prestigious Miss Dance of Florida competition through DMA, and went on to compete at the national level in New York. Kim received recognition and scholarships in many dance endeavors and had plans to pursue a dancing career until her senior year when she opted to go to school for media studies instead.
She now is the mother of a toddler enrolled in her first dance class, having inherited her mother's enthusiasm and gift for movement, no doubt.
I wasn't Ginny East's most talented student, and I didn't become a professional dancer, but I can honestly say walking into Ginny's dance class changed my life. I was a terribly shy 10 year‐old with no self confidence. Ginny taught me that to know how to move my body was to know myself. I soon was able to look people in the eyes, my grades improved, and I woke up every morning thrilled to get to dance class. I continued dancing through college on the University of Florida Dazzler dance team, then started a career as a television journalist.
Before too long I landed a job as a national correspondent on the syndicated show Inside Edition. I interviewed celebrities like George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, and even sat in the hot seat live on Bill O'Reilly's show. In any high pressure situation – I never got nervous. I always thought to myself, "I danced on stage in front of hundreds of people… I can do this." It's a job I never would have had the confidence to pursue were it not for the lessons I learned starting at age 10 in Ginny East's dance class.
(After dancing at FLEX, Traci went on to get a BFA in Dance Performance from Southern Methodist University then moved to New York City and landed a six month contract onboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship that sailed all over the west coast of North America and Mexico. When she returned she was accepted into the Martha Graham Ensemble and received a full scholarship to the Graham school.
She performed solo and lead roles all over New York, New Jersey, and Spain educating children on the importance of the Graham legacy and modern dance. In 2007, she entered into the MFA program at New York University on a partial scholarship and in her second year, was awarded a Graduate Assistantship, a full scholarship plus a stipend, in video production for the dance department. While at NYU, she performed in works by William Forsythe (Frankfurt Ballet), and Ronald K. Brown (Evidence Dance Company) and was a company member of James Martin Music/Dance. Currently, she is a company understudy for CorbinDances, (artistic director Patrick Corbin), and pursuing a teaching career.
I began dancing at FLEX in 1989 and I was training in a once a week tap class for fun. Ginny saw potential in me during that year, and offered me a scholarship for the summer program so that I could try out different disciplines – ballet, modern, jazz, etc. I began to develop friendships with the girls in class, and I started to feel at home in the dance studio. Although my parents couldn't manage the expenses, I still wanted to continue my training. Ginny believed in me and found a way for me to continue on scholarship and I am endlessly thankful for that. FLEX was a place where I felt nurtured, guided, disciplined, inspired, and LOVED. The list could go on.
Now as a professional dancer, I see how learning to dance teaches you how to construct your life. In our practice we must be extremely disciplined, and that alone gives a sense of what kind of person we are. In the classroom and in rehearsal, dancing teaches us how to interact with other people in a unique way and how to trust them. Dance builds a community where that fragile thing called creativity is encouraged and harbored; a place that you can leave and come back to later and still feel like you are at home. Thank you Ginny for creating that place!
After dancing her entire childhood at FLEX, Jessica attended the dance program at Fordahm University in conjuction with the Alvin Ailey School of Dance in New York City. Upon graduation, she transitioned into fitness, serving as director for 2 major New York City fitness companies. Jessica is now known as a spokesperson for the fitness industry, and has been featured in several top work out videos, including the Women's Health series and in Woman's Health Magazine. You may have even seen Jessica featured on cereal boxes for Special K and Life.
From age 8 to 18, I spent endless hours at FLEX Dance Studios! With the guidance, mentoring and teachings of Mark Hendry and Ginny East, I learned lessons that extended way beyond simple dance steps. Along with learning the value of hard work, responsibility and the importance of self-discipline, I also fell in love with the art and movement of dance, thanks to their inspiration.
I know that my life would have taken a completely different direction had I never walked into their studio as a child. I am so grateful for their teachings, and would highly recommend taking advantage of any opportunity a person might have to study and learn with Ginny and Mark!
After leaving FLEX, Jill moved to New York City. She graduated from The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Manhattan, where she studied advanced techniques in dancing, acting and singing from some of the top directors and choreographers in the country. She returned to Sarasota 8 years later to open Stage Door Studios.
"When I moved to Sarasota in 1987, I had no friends and no aspirations. I was an eleven-year-old girl who needed to find a way to "fit in".
When I walked through the doors of FLEX, I knew I was home. Ginny East and Mark Hendry were true inspirations and mentors to me. They not only taught me how to dance and how to teach dance, but they taught me how to be a strong and confident woman.
After FLEX, I moved to New York City on a scholarship to the prestigious American Music and Dramatic Arts Academy. I worked on stage and on films with notable actors such as Al Pacino, Kim Basinger, and Matthew Broderick.
I recently moved back to Sarasota, FL and opened my own thriving dance studio called Stage Door Studios. If it wasn't for walking into FLEX 20 years ago, and being mentored by Ginny and Mark, I don’t know where I would be. I've loved every moment and wish my mentors all the best!!"
After fourteen years dancing at FLEX, Erica graduated and is now attending USF for a degree in education. When her workload permits, she continues to dance in college
performances for personal gratification. She hopes to keep dance in her life always.
I first walked through the doors of FLEX when I was three; I grew up dancing. Looking back, it made me the person I am today. I walked out of the doors fourteen years later, and every day, I long to go back. The only bad thing; there is no place like FLEX; no studio could ever live up to the place FLEX has in my heart.
Since leaving, I have met many new people, but nothing compares to the relationships I built over the fourteen years with the other dancers and instructors.
Throughout my time at FLEX, I learned a lot about myself. I gained self confidence with the many competitions and recitals, made some of the best friendships I think I'll ever have, and had two of the best mentors ever, Mark and Ginny. I looked up to them more than anyone else in my life. I will always remember them for the great opportunities they presented me.
I can't imagine how my life would have been without them both; they gave me the gift of dance, something that no one can take away from me, and something that I will always be grateful for.
After years of dancing at FLEX, Becky Hunniford graduated and went to college to earn a degree in math. She is now working on PhD. in Tropical Metrology.
I enjoyed dancing so much while growing up, from when I was in elementary school all the way through high school. When I was younger it was a time to have fun with friends. As I grew up it was not just a hobby, but it was life.
I was more naturally gifted at ballet, but when it came to taking class each week, jazz was what I looked forward to the most. Ginny and Mark were the best teachers I could ask for, always challenging me to push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of. I am a more timid person and their classes always put me out of me comfort zone, but in a good way. They forced me to overcome my lack of confidence in my abilities and made me a better dancer. In addition to being challenging, their classes were always fun and a great release. I loved coming to class, leaving life’s problems at the door, and enjoying an hour of dancing with friends.
The Hendry's not only knew me well as a dancer, but also as a person. They knew just as well as my parents that I needed to break out of my shell, and they helped me to do that little by little each year. I am so grateful for all of the years I spent in class with the Hendrys because the experience molded me into the person I am today. Although dance is no longer a part of my daily life, the confidence and diligence I gained from it has stayed with me and will continue to stay with me throughout my life. I have so many wonderful memories from dance that I will always treasure- I miss it every day!
Michelle is not only a lead Radio City Music Hall Rockette, she is Line Captain and Choreographer for the Radio City Rockettes. As a Rockette, Michelle has performed in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, The Today Show and The Tony Awards, just to name a few. Other TV and movie credits include Saturday Night Live, MTV Music Awards and Uptown Girls. She has performed in off Broadway productions of Sugar Babies and No No Nanette.
I thought I knew everything about dance until I came to FLEX and met Ginny.
Mark and Ginny helped create the dancer I am today. I wouldn't be where I am today without their personal attention and guidance. I am forever grateful to them for all they've done for me personally and in dance too. They pushed me to be the best I can be. Their talent and dedication to dance and the arts is inspirational. They are both creative choreographers and teachers who want to help each student reach their highest potential. That might mean explaining things in many different ways so all in the class can learn. Not only did they teach me to dance, they taught me to teach as well.
From them I learned that no matter what level you are, dance should be fun!
Dance has helped instill in me a sense of self worth, self-dicipline, creativity, body awareness and self esteem. Not to mention gave me an awesome career! I love dance and think it can enrich any person’s life.