By Karen Blackledge
DANVILLE — Nancie Wagner has been dancing since she was 7 years old.
“I would walk from the Fourth Ward to Mill Street for dance classes with (the late) Arlene Noss” where she learned ballet and tap.
“When I was in junior high, she said she wanted to teach me social dance and asked if I could get some of my friends so I got Ollie, Jack Curry, Bob Marks and Francis Moyer. That was my first introduction to ballroom,” said Wagner, who years later married attorney Ollie Wagner.
After 25 years, she will retire at the end of the year from teaching dance at Studio Brick, which is the former African Methodist Episcopal Church along Route 11. The building is for sale.
“The place was a total ruin. The walls were falling down. There weren’t any windows, any heat or lights. The ceiling was down. We totally redid it,” she said. Her late mother, Ethel Hinkel, was a great supporter of the project.
On the main floor, Wagner teaches ballet and jazz for all ages. She also gives private ballroom dancing lessons and private lessons for brides and grooms for their wedding dances. The downstairs is used for tap dancing classes.
Wagner teaches Monday through Friday and does private instruction on weekends.
She has even taught ballet to Danville High School football players, including their son, Ollie. “The coaches called me. They wanted them to learn to build their strength to protect against injuries. The guys loved it,” she said. The Wagners, who have been married nearly 50 years, also have a daughter, Cleo Weader, of Riverside, a son, Van Wagner, of the Danville area, and seven grandchildren.
“I taught the sisters ballet at Maria Joseph Manor” to improve their flexibility and relieve stress, she said. “They loved it.”
“As long as I own the studio, I will offer private instruction. Once the building sells, I won’t have a place, but if people want me to come to them” she will continue teaching.
“I never plan to stop ballroom dancing,” said Wagner, who ballroom dances with her husband in the Finger Lakes when they are in New York.
Her favorite ballroom dances are the waltz and tango. “There aren’t any I dislike,” she said of the foxtrot, swing, hustle, Latin dancing, rhumba, cha cha, samba, meringue and salsa.
At one time, Studio Brick offered classes in a variety of fine arts, including guitar, flute, piano and voice. Wagner also taught creative exercise.
Her students have performed for some time during Danville’s Spring Fling and the Geisinger Medical Center Telethon.
The studio still has yoga classes taught by someone else.
“It’s very bittersweet. I love my students. We have made such binding friendships,” Wagner said.
A home economics major, she continued dancing while in college.
The professional dancer has completed dance classes at Penn State, Mansfield University, Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts and Arthur Murray Studios in South Carolina, Connecticut and Harrisburg.
After her children were born, she volunteered to teach dance at area schools, Geisinger Medical Center and the former YMCA. In Danville schools, she volunteered with the gymnastics department choreographing shows and teaching swing.
She was paid to teach creative exercise and ballroom dance at Bloomsburg University.
“I was always looking for a place so I could stop traveling,” she said of her own studio.
“I love what I do. It’s definitely been a dream come true and I have loved every moment of it,” but added “it’s time” to retire.
“I am really sad to see the finer arts are not a priority and it’s very sad to leave my dedicated students.”
She plans to remain active and to continue ballroom dancing.
An avid animal lover, she also cares for three rescued dogs, including 17-year-old Ozzie and seven rescued cats.
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