Piazza Dance Company teacher, choreographer and co-owner Gina Piazza has been teaching since the age of 19, and is more passionate than ever about the art of dance. For Gina, teaching followed naturally out of a lifetime of studying dance and performing. But in the early years, as is the case with many young instructors, teaching was a means to get through college. It wasn’t until she graduated with a degree in an unrelated field that Gina came to the full realization that she was already doing the work that she loved. “Every day this job presents a new challenge with new problems to solve which require different roles…teacher, business person, artist, negotiator, mentor, employer, etc.,” says Gina. “The work is creatively intense, almost dizzying at times, but always fulfilling and never boring. “In the role of teacher I get to work closely with students, mostly young people. It’s a kick guiding them and watching them progress through each level of a task from awkward beginner to proficiency and sometimes, to artistry.” In the role of choreographer, Gina enjoys challenging her imagination and testing her creativity. “Choreography should provoke thought or pull emotion from the audience, or simply produce pure enjoyment. Choreography should make the audience feel something. This is the task of the choreographer, and how this is accomplished is the art of the work. I love this work!”
Gina has had many proud professional experiences. In 1994 she co-organized a two-week performance tour throughout Italy with Piazza Dance Company students and teachers. Of the numerous dance honors Gina has received, an outstanding moment was the winning of American Dance Awards $5000.00 Bill Como Memorial and the Diamond Award for Choreography for her entry “The Conversation”. The piece, now considered to be a classic, was performed by former students Amy Frankel (now a professional singer, dancer, actress touring with the smash hit musical 42nd Street), and Tania Garrant (now a popular PDC teacher with numerous and varied credits). Another recently graduated PDC student, Donnell Quaker captured consecutive titles of Junior Mr. Dance of Michigan, Teen Mr. Dance of Michigan, and Mr. Dance of Michigan with Gina’s choreography. Senior student and apprentice teacher, Angelina Grima, won the title of American Dance Award’s 2001Teen-Dancer-of-the-Year at the Michigan Regional competition with Gina’s upbeat Latin tap routine, ”Para Los Rumberos”. Most recently, the 2002 competitive dance season brought a variety accolades to Gina’s soloists, who finished consistently in the top 5 out of hundreds of solo entries, and to her junior and senior groups, which won numerous high score awards. “In any profession there’s no greater honor than being recognized by your peers,” says Gina. “They’re the group that really understands the blood, sweat, and tears that produce a successful work.”
But before she’ll take full credit for such accomplishments, she’s quick to point out that every teacher at Piazza Dance Company has had a hand in the successes of the other teachers and in the successes of the students they share. “What is so wonderful about this school is that we have this great team of teachers, each with their own specialty or areas of expertise. We have expert technicians, innovative choreographers, and teachers that specialize in everything from street dance to ethnic to children’s work. Our students, who have won awards for being well-rounded dancers, have benefited from this diversity.”
Gina points to the level and quality of the school’s long-time students as evidence that the Piazza Dance Company system works. PDC alumni are working professionally as dancers, teachers, and choreographers in such places as Hershey Park, PA, The Carolina Opry of Myrtle Beach, and in professional touring companies. Current and former students have won numerous dance scholarships and made appearances in a variety of dance-trade videos.
Gina is currently the director of Dance Masters of Michigan Petite Miss and Master Dance Scholarship Competition. (Dance Masters is the oldest organization of dance professionals in the United States). She has also been an adjudicator for The American Dance Awards, one of the largest, and most respected dance competitions in the country. Gina has most recently been invited to return as guest choreographer for the Creative and Performing Arts Program housed at Churchill High School in Livonia. In addition to her numerous dance credits, Gina has also earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a Master’s degree in social work.
Gina is proud to say that she is a life-long learner in her profession. “I agree with the old adage that says ‘Success is a journey, not a destination.’ After all, when you stop learning, you stop growing in your work. That’s not an example I care to set for students.”