The Original Dance Moms

The "Dance Moms" of Dancing Classrooms Pittsburgh.  (left to right) Sally Rogalsky, Janet Yuhasz, Stephanie Murtaugh, Michelle Rone Cooper, Dr. Barbara Rudiak, Cindy Thomas  photo by Archie Carpenter
The “Dance Moms” of Dancing Classrooms Pittsburgh. (left to right) Sally Rogalsky, Janet Yuhasz, Stephanie Murtaugh,
Michele Rone Cooper,
Dr. Barbara Rudiak, Cindy Thomas photo by Archie Carpenter 2013

While the reality TV show , “Dance Moms,” is set in Pittsburgh.  They are not the original ones.

Dancing Classrooms Pittsburgh officially kicked off Mother’s Day weekend 2013 by recognizing our “Original Dance Moms.”  That’s right-our six dance moms pictured above were honored for their “unrelenting and never-ending support of Dancing Classrooms.”  Each “mom” played a key role in the evolution of Dancing Classrooms Pittsburgh.

After seeing Mad Hot Ballroom in the theater, Sally Rogalsky called her son, Mark, to encourage him to take his children to see the movie.  Needless to say he didn’t, but upon viewing it a year later, thought it would be a great addition to prevention programming that he oversaw in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

A phone call was then placed to Janet Yuhasz-Student Services Coordinator in the Pittsburgh Public Schools-where he told her about Dancing Classrooms and it’s virtues.  Hmm, something to think about.

One day during supervision, Mark raised the idea of a new and innovative addition to the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System’s prevention department.  What could it be?  Dancing Classrooms, of course.  Stephanie Murtaugh was given copies of Mad Hot Ballroom and Take the Lead (with Antonio Banderas) to watch and see what the program was all about.  After watching the movies, her interest was peaked, and the movement was on to bring this program to Pittsburgh.

Not too long after that meeting, a conference call took place, with McAuley Ministries and their executive director, Michele Rone Cooper.  The subject matter was not Dancing Classrooms  but Ms. Murtaugh was so excited about DC, that she told Ms. Cooper, who in turn got very excited about it-you could hear in her voice that this was something she was interested in helping with.

A meeting was set where the National Network Director for Dancing Classrooms came to town.  Potential funders, agency personnel, school personnel and others were invited.  Dr. Barbara Rudiak, an assistant superintendent for the Pittsburgh Public Schools announced that the district stood behind the program and would welcome it into their schools.  Dr. Rudiak had heard of the program years before, and had even brought along future teaching artists, Rozana and Terry Sweeney to this meeting.  It was also during this meeting, that Cindy Thomas, the executive director of Tobacco Free Allegheny, stepped forward and offered financial support of the program.

We felt that these six women should be honored for the roles they played in the creation of Dancing Classrooms Pittsburgh.  They are at every event, and they take every opportunity they can to tell others of the success of the program.  We would not be where we are today without them.

On behalf of the principals of the schools and their staff, on behalf of the teaching artists, on behalf of the Prevention Staff of PMHS, on behalf of the almost 3000 students in the Pittsburgh area  whose lives have been changed by Dancing Classrooms, we all say “Thank You, Partner.”

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