The PALM BEACH BALLET CENTER & MISS JOAN
Sadly, after an incredible 57 years of training some of the world’s most accomplished ballet dancers and Broadway stars, the Palm Beach Ballet Center closed its doors. The least we can do is honor the woman behind it all…. There is not and never will be another Miss Joan!!!
Miss Joan Miller was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As Miss Joan’s memory began to fail her, her studio was taken from her, her home was foreclosed on, her cats were confiscated, and medicaid placed her in a depressing nursing home facility that feels like a hospital-prison. She is now wasting away with three roommates who are practically bed-ridden and can’t feed themselves.
Miss Joan is still quite mobile and lively. So how can this be her fate? Because she has no family to stand by her and no money to help.
Unfortunately Miss Joan’s unwavering dedication to us and commitment to the arts has not served her well in “retirement.”
For more than half a century, Miss Joan rehearsed thousands of dancers all hours of the night, holidays, and weekends. She didn’t miss a beat: for many years Miss Joan single-handedly picked the costumes, sets, and scenery; cut the music; choreographed the dances; taught intense technique class; ran all rehearsals; called the lighting cues…she did it all. She so selflessly gave us her time and her life; never once taking a vacation, and often sleeping and eating all meals at the studio. Every show, production, and full-length ballet with Miss Joan’s name on the program was a professional masterpiece.
Miss Joan never married, she never had children, she is an only child, and her parents are dead. Despite being an orphan under the care of a social worker, she told me that if she could go back and do it over, she wouldn’t do it differently — except she did say (with a smile) that she would maybe yell at us less! Miss Joan’s tough love and discipline was something to be respected and appreciated. She never expected anything from us that she wouldn’t expect of herself. No excuses, if you had potential, she wanted you to reach it, like a parent would a child.
We are her family and we cannot abandon Miss Joan now because she no longer serves us.
As many of us remember, Miss Joan took care of her father in her own home until he died at 94 years old in 2004. Now, because Miss Joan so selflessly donated her life and talents to her dancers, Miss Joan has no family to stay at home to take care of her at 73 years old. She has no one to fight for her — no next of kin — and she does not have the capacity to fight for herself — though we all know she wasn’t one to give up.
It is our responsibility to get Miss Joan into a decent living situation where her medical needs will be attended to. We can get her into a nice assisted living facility at a subsidized rate — a place to live that is comfortable, home-like, pet friendly, where we could all visit, where the staff is attentive, and where the activities will keep her stimulated and on her “toes.”
Miss Joan always gave her all to us and never accepted anything but the best effort from us; she gave us everything — and she has now lost everything — her home, studio, animals, and part of her memory (she still remembers a lot, including who everyone is). We all need to give her a little something, even though she would not ever ask for the assistance.
Words cannot begin to express what she gave to so many of us, and no amount of money could repay our debt to her. Miss Joan is worth it. It would be so wrong for us to abandon her cause now.
What Miss Joan lacked in money, she made up for with her rich accomplishments
“Over A Half Century Of Excellence” and a “dance icon” as Dance Magazine so gracefully said.
“In every corner of the South Florida dance world, someone, at some point, has taken classes at Palm Beach Ballet Center under Miller’s direction. Her students have gone on to many prestigious schools such as the [Bolshoi Ballet in Russia, Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham, Boston Ballet, Ballet Florida, Joffrey Ballet, and Ballet Metropolitan in New York to name a few. Besides producing outstanding dancers for companies around the world….Miller trained well-known Broadway stars who have performed and/or starred in Dancin, Wicked, Moving Out, Fosse, Cats, Chicago, A Chorus Line, Grease, Billy Elliot, The King and I, and the list goes on. Her dancers can be found dancing and acting with Disney, with Cirque Du Soleil, on Broadway, on Cruise lines, in world class ballet and modern companies, and in movies. Miss Joan has established her own] signature level of professionalism for which [she] has become renowned. Her touch reverberates through other studios [ ] where former students-turned-teachers have moved on to open their own studios or teach elsewhere.”
Under Miss Joan’s direction, her school performed in Santo Domingo in 1974, and after a spectacular performance her popularity soared. Throughout the years, Miss Joan and her students were invited to perform for such prestigious events as the Super Bowl (1976), the Orange Bowl, for the Archdiocese of Miami for Pope John Paul I (over 80,000 people attended), for Herme de Wyman Miro’s International Society of Palm Beach gala (for nearly two decades), and other charitable events like the Heart Ball (2013). Miss Joan’s reputation was so stellar her students also performed for Miami City Ballet (1992), danced with American Ballet Theatre in Palm Beach (where the guest artist and principal ballet dancer of ABT was one of Miss Joan’s former students), danced with the Vienna City Opera Ballet at the Breakers Hotel (2002), danced with the Royal Ballet at the Kravis Center, danced for her own non-profit she founded “The Children’s Ballet Theatre,” and among a wealth of other accomplishments, most ironically, Miss Joan and her students performed for A Love Affair to benefit Alzheimer Day Care Centers (2012) and, from the beginning of time, she always had her students perform in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
If you loved dance and were committed — by golly Miss Joan was going to make sure you had every opportunity to dance — whether you could afford classes or not. If she was going to put on a production, no expense was spared on costumes, music, scenery or talent — you were in for a real professional treat. Those who knew Miss Joan during the days of the Palm Beach Ballet Center know of the countless nights she slept at the studio, the thousands of costumes she sewed, and the endless professional productions and full-length ballets she put on for the community. . . .for free. . . .for love.
Miss Joan is a true artist in the purist sense and her legacy lives on through the students she trained throughout the last half century. She gave the world so much, if not directly than indirectly through the almost six decades of students she trained who are now sharing her gifts with others. Miss Joan’s reach went far beyond Palm Beach County, and far beyond herself and her own years of dancing professionally with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York. Just google “Joan Miller Palm Beach Ballet” and see the catalogue of professional dancers and instructors around the country who owe their careers and livelihood to Miss Joan, and who proudly state they “trained under the direction of Joan Miller” in their bio– knowing her name alone establishes all credibility to their own artistic ability.
Miss Joan still talks about all the dancers she turned out and her ‘hall of fame.'” For those who aren’t familiar, Miss Joan plastered her studio walls with photos of all the professional dancers she raised along with newspaper articles of all our accomplishments. She was such a success that she ran out of wall space showcasing our successes. Those photos and articles have since been torn down and placed in a pile in her home, which is about to be taken by the bank. On Mother’s Day, I tried to make a ‘wall of fame’ by her hospital-type bed to remind her of who she is and what she has accomplished. I intend to digitize the original wall of fame for posting here in her honor in the near future.
With your help, I can make sure Miss Joan retires with dignity. Fighting the system (which she has fallen victim to) is an uphill battle. Miss Joan is a legend and people want to help. I am committed to her cause. She deserves to be in a place where she feels well taken care of, loved, and at home. A place where we can create her wall of fame with the pile of posters that are soon headed to the dumpster.
For thousands of students and families, Miss Joan will never be forgotten. She raised so many of us to be who we are today — she mentally and physically molded us.
Please donate whatever you can afford.