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The Good Stuff by Shelley Bennett

Jillaine and Sofia, 14 years of teacher and student

by Shelley Bennett

Another weekend, another milestone for the Bennett family.

On Friday and Saturday we celebrated Joan Zuehlke and her dance studio with “50 Years of Magic”, a Disney-themed recital. The two nights went by in a blur or hair spray, sequins, and dance shoes.

Our tribute to Joan, organized by Jillaine Singleton and Kayla Millar, included a choreographed life story set to Disney tunes, fun old pictures, and several alumni who took the stage once again. There were also many of Joan’s friends, colleagues, and family members, including sons John and Doug, in attendance.

Dancers, past and present, surround our beloved dance instructor Joan Zuehlke

As the pictures clicked into place, the audience was treated to scenes from Joan’s flamenco dancing, when she met her husband Fred, their sons growing up in Burney and later Susanville, her training in the Cechetti ballet method and tap, opening the studio, and a succession of past dancers turned dance teachers.

I get teary eyed every time I watch it and just let them stream down my face during the actual performance. As one of Joan’s students in the early 70s, I was officially the “oldest” alumni in attendance.

My contribution to the slide show was from 1984. I was in 8th grade and thought I was super cool because my friend Andrea Casillas and I were chosen to dance the Tarantella.

The photo captures me receiving a rose from Joan on the stage at McKinley school.


Joan’s Studio of Dance is so much more than a place to learn how to dance to me. It was my childhood. Where I met my friends, became confident, expressed my creativity. It helped me face feeling awkward. It was an escape.

Now it’s become my family.

Chalise, Hayley, teacher Jillaine, Sofia, Hannah, Renee, and Joan

Which brings me to the second part of the celebration: the seniors. My daughter Sofia and her classmates Renee Delgado, Hannah Matchniff, Chalise Robbins, and Hayley Trevizu have all been dancing since they were preschoolers.

From tiny fairies, sweet mermaids, and cute clowns to tap-dancing orphans, can can girls, and flappers, they have danced all over the world, on Broadway and in the movies, through Cinderella, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland, and in an enchanted Toy Store and a circus.

With this year’s Disney theme, they each chose a villain to portray. As the Evil Queen from Snow White, Sofia’s sassy facials and attitude were evident in each step she took onstage. Renee’s strength was shown in her complex and hard-hitting hip hop as Hades from Hercules.

Hannah’s jazz dance as the over-the-top Yzma was free-flowing and filled with fun. As Malficent from Sleeping Beauty, Chalise performed a haunting lyrical number with grace and composure. Hayley’s portrayal of Dr. Facilier mesmerized the audience as she leapt and turned around the stage with poise and confidence.

Together, their Villain Dance was my favorite of the night. The choreography was difficult, yet they made it look easy. They each showed their individual strengths and personalities, but as a whole they were a force. It was the perfect balance of give and take.

In the wings, they were there for each other. Cheering for whoever was onstage, helping with quick changes, dancing and getting hyped for their next dance, just laughing and enjoying their last recital.

These five young women have all accomplished so much. They are high-achieving students, competitive athletes, giving community members, and leaders. They have all been accepted to top schools and will continue to do great things as teachers, doctors, nurses, and musicians.

And they will always be my Dancing Queens.

Remember when news was ‘newsy’? When you read about weddings, family events and engagement announcements in the newspaper? If you have something that might be newsworthy, please submit it to shelleybennett24@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to include it here in “The Good Stuff.”

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