50 Years Of Fabulous

Pauline Baker Rodgers, better known to all as “Miss Pauline,” started teaching dance in 1960 for Ruth Barnes. In 1986, Miss Pauline began having her own recitals and shortly after the school became the Pauline Baker Rodgers School of Dance.  Over these last 50 years, Miss Pauline has positively touched the lives of so many children. She brings out the beauty of movement and dance in everyone she instructs.  Miss Pauline is a beautiful person, inside and out, and truly is someone a child can look up to, without  reservation.  She values every child’s self esteem; and not only teaches the art of dance, but helps children build confidence, strong bodies and moral character.  Her name is respected in the community and among her peers and students, not only because of her excellence in teaching, but because of the wonderful person that she is. A gala was held at the Casino in Lakemont on March 5th  to honor Miss Pauline’s “50 years of Fabulous”. 

Miss Pauline’s Autobiography

I started dance training when I was 9 years old.  My mother called the Chamber Of Commerce to find the best school.  She enrolled me at the Ruth Barnes School of Dance.  Miss Barnes’ sister, Kitty, taught me so that I could get caught up with the class.  I started in March and was in the June recital. A few years later my sister, Marguerite, joined.  Mother was a widow since my dad passed away when I was 7 and Marguerite was 4.  My mother had to take out loans to pay for our lessons and costumes.

I got pointe shoes at 12 years old.  I also started acrobatics. I did walkovers over chairs, backbends, and many other stunts.  My cousin, Donald Fusco, did partnering with me.  He pulled me up from a sitting position into an angel lift.  One time he pulled too hard and I flew over his head.  He caught my feet to break my fall and I landed on my hands into a walkover.  For Altoona’s Centennial we danced at the Jaffa dressed as Indians.  Later, Donnie’s daughter Carole started dancing, and then her 3 children.  Her son Josh danced with me in one of the past recitals

When I was 16, I had the lead in one of Miss Barnes’ shows.  I was Daisy in “Daisy Won’t Tell.”  I went to Pittsburgh and studied with Charles Dickson, one of Miss Barnes’ former pupils.  He was in the Sadler Wells Ballet Company and was ballet master at many companies such as Chilean, Bethesda, and Jackson.  I met Freddie Favorite in Pittsburgh.  He had a trio: 2 boys and a girl.  She broke her ankle doing a jete’ and he called me to take her place.  By then, I was married and had 2 girls, Connie and Mary Ellen, and I refused the offer.

After high school, I worked at the Bell Telephone as an operator for 10 years.  I started my girls in dance when they were 3 and 4 with Ruth Barnes.  I loved to dance, and when Miss Barnes asked me to help her in 1960, I thought it would be a good way to still be involved.  I quit the Bell Telephone and taught dance in Altoona, Cresson, and Hollidaysburg.  I taught for Ruth Barnes for 28 years.  During those years, she had many beautiful recitals.  Her pianist, Margaret Barry, designed the costumes that were made by dressmakers.  Miss Barnes stopped having recitals for 16 years.  During those years we danced with the Altoona Symphony at the Mishler Theatre, and at the Symphony Ball at the Logan Room of the Penn Alto.  We also had little picnics and “closings” instead of recitals.  We began dancing at the Blair County Arts Festival, and still are today which makes it about 35-40 years, maybe more.  I began having my own recitals in 1986, and then eventually took over the school in my own name.  My total years of teaching to date is 50 years.

Eventually Ruth Barnes was admitted to Garvey Manor.  She passed away at age 95, I think.  She would never tell her age.  People remember her cane and I still have it.

My two daughters, Connie and Mary Ellen, grew up with dance. They danced with me many times. We danced “The Nutcracker” with the Altoona Symphony Orchestra at the Mishler Theatre. I was the Sugar Plum Fairy, Mary Ellen was an Arabian dancer, and Connie was in the Waltz of the Flowers. We danced other ballets together such as “Sylvia” and “Coppelia.” We even danced together as a trio to “Morning Has Broken.” I also did choreography for a few Altoona Community Theatre plays.  Connie danced with me in “Funny Girl.” Both Connie and Mary Ellen danced in shows at Cresson Lake Playhouse during the summers.  Mary Ellen was in the Miss Central Pennsylvania Pageant in 1978, and won the talent award with a dance she choreographed. She also teaches dance at Altoona Area High School.  She was the advisor for the dance team there, winning a national competition in 1998. Mary Ellen is also assisting me at the dance school.  She started the competition team in 1998, and then the Corps de Ballet. When we first went to the competitions, we didn’t even stay for the awards.  Now, we have been winning first place trophies almost every year.  This has been a big accomplishment for our school. We are now members of the 2 oldest, largest, and most prestigious dance organizations: Dance Educator’s of America, and Dance Master’s of America.

Now Mary Ellen’s girls have a life filled with dance. Rachel made her stage debut when she was 2 years old.  Rachel danced with her brother, Daniel, and her cousin, Adam when she was 5 to “Good Ship Lollipop.” Rachel started helping teach jazz when she was 13. In college, she was on the Penn State Lionettes Dance Team, which also won national awards. She also taught for NDA, a national dance organization that instructs dance teams. She was awarded a top instructor award for NDA.  Rachel also has become a very talented choreographer, and has helped our school to become what it is now.  April went to Disney as entertainment her first semester out of high school.  She then went to New York in 2009 to study as an intern at Broadway Dance Center, and was an assistant teacher for the Rockettes Experience.  I am so proud of their achievements, and so happy that they are both currently teaching at the dance school, and I am still looking forward to even better years to come. 

My mother sacrificed to give my sister and me piano, dance, and voice lessons.  This all put me where I am today, and we’re still growing thanks to Mary Ellen.  My vision of the future begins with my two granddaughters, Rachel and April.

- Miss Pauline