Miss Joan Miller trained the best — every ballet company in the United States has in some way been touched by Joan Miller’s reach. This was acknowledged at her 50th year Tribute. Likewise, Miss Joan only hired the best. Curt the company pianist went to off to play for the Royal Ballet in London and Kurt the head ballet teacher, and Miss Joan’s self-proclaimed right hand, is now head carpenter of the Kravis Center. Bravo!!
Miss Joan — an UNFORGETTABLE woman — saved every card (thousands of them); isn’t it incredible how someone so unforgettable thinks that we are unforgettable too? Even with Alzheimers, Miss Joan is enjoying her memories of her dancers — her only family.
This Letter by Annie Breneman is reflective of the thousands of letters Miss Joan saved over the last almost 60 years she ran the Palm Beach Ballet.
More THANK YOUS that are reflective of how LOVED and unforgettable she is….
“THE MOST ADMIRABLE PERSON I HAD THE GIFT TO KNOW”
~Hannah Huntoon (college essay –A+ and read out loud for the entire class)
I began my journey in the dance world at the age of 2. Starting with baby ballet classes and moving up each level, as I got older. Although I fell in love with dance from the moment I put my first leotard and tights on and slipped those tiny pink ballet shoes onto my feet, I never truly saw my talent or felt the pure joy of dancing until I was accepted into my first ballet company. At the age of twelve I auditioned for Palm Beach Ballet Company, a well-known elite dance company that made above average ballet dancers into perfect prima ballerinas. This company was owned and run by Miss Joan Miller who was the sole creator and backbone of Palm Beach Ballet. Through all my years of dancing in company’s, no single person made the kind of impression and difference in my career as Miss Joan did. Joan Miller to this day is the most memorable person who has been in my life, because, she is a woman who was so old and stiff I never thought she could teach ballet, let alone, teach ballet with the skill she did; also because she was one of the angriest and most judgmental ballet teachers I ever had and terrified me from the beginning of my first class with her and finally because throughout my three years at Palm Beach Ballet I became the best dancer I could be at that time in my life all thanks to Joan Miller who created me, inspired me, and furthered my career in endless ways. I look back now and know that she is the most memorable person from my life and I also know that I am one of the many dancers she made to be memorable in our audiences’ eyes.
Most adolescents feel uncomfortable around elderly people, especially those who have authority and power over them and personally I underestimated their ability to teach, specifically something as physically demanding as ballet; but Joan Miller changed my view on that the moment I took my first class from her. “Miss Joan was old” is an understatement, she was so old some of used to make up dinosaur breeds based off her name. Even a quick glance at her there was no denying that woman had been alive for a long time; she was shorter than the average person and thick, (not fat) but, thick like a solid block of a lady and believe me everything about her physical appearance was solid. You know what hair feels and looks like when someone uses a lot of gel? Well, picture that and then multiply it by ten! Miss Joan seemed to use so much gel and hairspray in her hair that touching it would cause your hand to bleed, like running it down the side of a cactus. Not only was her hair hard as a brick, it was always teased upward in the front, with a big black poof, water falling to the back into a pin straight block of gray/white hair. It reminded me so much of Cruella Devil from 100 Dalmatian’s that I swore she abducted puppies as her side job. All things aside the scariest and most threatening part of her physical appearance was her face, and the way her face made you feel.
There was a look Joan Miller gave her dancers while teaching class that the FBI would benefit learning and using when interrogating criminals. She had a stiff face like the rest of her body, but the emotion in her eyes could not be described with a single word and the closest description in the English language would be disgust. No one ever wanted to make eye contact with Miss Joan because that was always the look you would receive and it didn’t settle well while dancing. For ninety minutes every evening she inflicted fear into my body and it truly rattled my bones. I along with all the other past Palm Beach Ballet Company dancers will never forget Miss Joan’s “look” but I’m positive that we’ll never forget the strive to be the best it instilled in us.
Aside from the scary parts that made up Joan Miller, the most important part of her, that made her the person I admire most from my life is her ability to inspire every single dancer she taught. Not only did she make us fear for our dance careers, she made us want them 100 times more than we did before dancing at Palm Beach Ballet. She pushed me harder than anyone I believed ever could and my time at her studio made me a better dancer than I would be if I had gone anywhere else. Miss Joan gave every dancer the attention and pressure she felt they deserved and we all knew the more pressure she put on you the better you were becoming and the more she believed in you. She made me feel worthy of the praise I received from my parents and other audience members; even when I wished it came from her. The best part of getting compliments after performances, was when people went directly to her and had positive things to say about you.
Throughout my life there have been many influential and inspiring people in it, but without a doubt Joan Miller tops the list and will forever be the most admirable person I had the gift to know. As old and scary as her physical appearance was, and the fear I felt when she looked at me, the inspiration and pressure she put on me to make me the dancer I am to this day makes all of the fear I felt from her satisfying and so incredibly worth it. She is the sole reason I have had the career in dance I’ve been blessed to have and there is endless thanks I wish I could give to her.