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Robin Dawn celebrates 40 years

By Staff | May 22, 2015

Robin Dawn Dance Studio is celebrating its 40th year with a reunion show and reception Saturday, June 13, at North Fort Myers High School.

“Now I have second generation kids,” Robin Dawn Ryan said of her studio. “They want their children to have the same experience that they had.”

The reunion will include memorabilia, old records, pictures, jackets and different warm-up suits. She said anyone in Cape Coral that danced with her is welcome to attend the reunion.

A questionnaire is posted on www.robindawnacademy.com for alumni to take. All the responses will be put into a special alumni book.

The dance instructor was born in California before her family immediately moved to Indianapolis where she began basic training in gymnastics and dancing. From there her family moved to Venice because they vacationed often in the Fort Myers area.

“I was a ninth grader with nowhere to dance,” Ryan said of Venice. “I ended up going to Sarasota. For the next four years I did dance in a very small studio.”

While dancing in Sarasota, she choreographed routines for a high school dance team and taught at the YMCA, as well as did circus training in aerial and power tumbling.

She eventually moved to Fort Myers, so she could attend Edison, while working for a local gymnastic school and coaching kids to do solos in beauty pageants.

“One of the moms said, ‘You need to open a dance studio, we don’t have any,'” Ryan said, adding that she told the mother she was not ready.

One day following that conversation, she called her own mom expressing how unhappy she was at her job. Ryan said her mother had been pushing her to open her own studio.

“I was 18. If you come down I will open a studio,” she told her mom. “She came down at 7:30 in the morning. We drove over the bridge, down the street and she found a building by noon.”

The two traveled to Fort Myers City Hall to obtain a license not realizing that crossing the bridge meant that they were in Cape Coral.

“I went there and got my license,” Ryan said of the Cape Coral City Hall. “I was in disbelief, or not realizing what I had just done.”

The small studio started off with two dancers. By the end of the first year, she had 30 students.

Ryan decided to travel with the circus to Storytown USA in New York because she had a lot of debts to pay off. She said that summer she studied dance with a phenomenal tapper for an hour before her show started.

She returned to her dance studio in Cape Coral and began teaching 75 kids before deciding that she needed more training. Once a week, Ryan drove to Sarasota to become a certified teacher with Dance Masters of America.

For three years the young teacher traveled to New York for three or four weeks at a time to train. Some of her students traveled with her and they danced side-by-side learning more of their craft.

Jennifer Pertner, who now teaches tap and jazz for younger ages and a little of acro and tumbling, started dancing when she was 3 years old at the Robin Dawn Dance Academy.

“One memory that I will always cherish is when I went to New York City with Robin,” she said.

Although it was not her first time traveling to New York, the memory of riding on the subway, attending Broadway shows and taking classes in the city will never be forgotten.

“She exposed us to a lot of things that really opened our eyes to the world of dance . . . what was out there and available to do,” Pertner said. “She was always a good mentor and guided us to pursue whatever we wanted to do. We knew all the avenues and what was available.”

By the third year of opening the dance studio, Ryan hired additional instructors because her student base increased to 125 youngsters. That same year, she became certified with Dance Educators of America.

“I had done everything I had set out to do,” she said.

Ryan also became an ambassador for the Dance Teacher Summit. She is one of 25 instructors from the United States and Canada.

“My favorite thing to do is the Dance Teacher Summit,” she said because she is networking with others all over the country.

The influence Ryan had on Pertner continued as she danced through high school.

“When I was a junior she hired me to teach a couple of classes. I started teaching with her when I was 16. I’m 39 now,” she said.

Throughout the years, Pertner said she feels like she learned a lot of really good life lessons and confidence that allowed her to speak in front of people. After graduating from high school, she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. After teaching for a few years, Pertner decided to teach dance to the youngsters.

“I took her love of dance that she instilled in me,” Pertner said when she began teaching dance. “I want them to love dance as much as I did.”

One of the many life lessons she learned from Ryan, she now applies to her students.

“I think that Robin always had very high expectations of herself, the studio and dancers. That is something that she passed on to me. I have always held my students to very high standards. I really push to teach them to be independent and teach them to be the best in their age division, whether it be in shows, competitions or just in life,” Pertner said.

Ryan said her purpose of opening the dance studio was to help her students achieve their goal.

“Dance is one of those things that you never stop learning,” she said. “It grows in different directions and ways and genres,” she said. “You never stop learning. You might stop doing, but you never stop learning.”

The studio is open six days a week, with occasional private lessons and rehearsals on Sunday. Master teachers from different parts of the country teach at the Cape Coral studio, as well as 11 teachers that Ryan has hired for her studio. There are now more than 300 students.

“All of our teachers get very involved with their students,” she said.

Over the last 40 years, Ryan said the effect she has had on the kids are the moments that stick out the most. She said helping kids grow up to be what they want to be is very touching.

“I become very attached. I want to help them and see their enthusiasm,” she said.

Robin Dawn Dance Academy is located at 932 Country Club Blvd.