“Miss Melva! Miss Melva! Miss Melva!” A line formed of enthusiastic mothers, daughters
Many in line, however, had most likely received their earliest training with this extraordinary woman. Owner and Founder of the Melva Smith School of Dance, Melva is currently teaching her third generation of young ladies – ranging from elementary school students to teens. Her influence in their lives goes far beyond teaching ballet, tap, jazz, or the correct “port de bras.”
“I teach them how to be a lady,” she said with characteristic intensity and enthusiasm. “I teach them life lessons through dance.” For example, when they arrive, they say “Good afternoon, Miss Melva,” then curtsy. Their dance clothing is very proper – “no half-naked little girls with pop star influence,” says Melva.
She feels free to say to her students, “Do not say that! Do not do that!” “I teach them to be honorable people – good citizens.” That teaching, she said, came from her Baptist rearing and her mother, who taught her not to go on late dates or say anything bad about someone.
“I teach them how to be a lady,” she said with characteristic intensity and enthusiasm. “I teach them life lessons through dance.”
Such life lessons are taught in an atmosphere of sheer fun – for one can’t be around Melva without having fun. She gets into the very world of the young ones, sitting on the floor with them, going with them to the barre. Her buoyant personality is irresistible – which is one reason why all the teachers in her school are trusted, former students.
This Texarkana native first knew that she wanted to dance when she was little and spotted another little girl in tights and a tap costume. She started taking dance, then became a dance instructor and took an accredited course on how to teach.
Her own dance aspirations were cut short after only two years of Texarkana Junior College when she was given the opportunity to buy a studio. With her father’s help, she took it.
Her major contributions to the world of dance since have included teaching at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) on a graduate level and for eight years on an undergraduate level, and being on the board of The Richardson Children’s Theater for years.
The first recital she produced was Hans Christian Anderson. One comment afterwards was, “Your little people really know what they are doing.”
Her older people do, too. Former students include Miss Texas, former Kilgore Rangerettes, and hundreds of women and young women who live life gracefully, thanks to Miss Melva.
And all because of core values taught while she instructed her “corps.”
“We are ladies here!”
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