Photos of the Month - April 2021
Although we LOVE all of our participants at I LOVE DANCE, we select a few to highlight each and every month.

Additionally, we LOVE meeting Celebrities and people whose achievements and creativity qualifies them for special recognition.

We hope you'll check each month to see who we feature -- all deserving a huge round of applause!

BRAVO and THANK YOU to those whom we are delighted to show our extra appreciation...

Until we are actively producing Competitions again, we will be featuring a "Quote of The Month" as well as featuring inspirational content on our Facebook posts.

    April 2021
    Quote Of The Month
    Elaine Stritch
    February 2, 1925 – July 17, 2014

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    A brash, sharp-tongued, incorrigible actress/singer who led a six decade career that contained many highs and lows, veteran Elaine Stritch's raucous six-decade career certainly lived up well to the Stephen Sondheim song lyrics "I'm Still Here." A popular, magnetic performer, she stole so many moments on stage she could have been convicted of grand larceny. She approached her octogenarian years with still-shapely legs, a puffy blonde hairdo, a deep, whiskey voice and enough sardonic bluster and bravado to convince anyone that she would be around forever.

    The Detroit-born (February 2, 1925) Elaine Stritch was the daughter of a B.F. Goodrich executive, of Irish/Welsh heritage, and the youngest of three sisters. Educated locally at Sacred Heart Convent and Duschesne Residence Finishing School, she prepared for the stage at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School where fellow "school mates" included Marlon Brando. She made her first appearance at the New School as a tiger and a cow in a 1944 children's production entitled “Babino," then followed it the following year with the part of a parlor maid in The Private Life of the Master Race.

    Elaine made it to Broadway in October 1946 in Loco at the Biltmore Theatre and after that, she finished off the decade appearing in six other popular theatre productions.

    From the 1950's on, Elaine would become the toast of both Broadway and (later) London's West End, earning award-worthy acclaim on both continents over the years. Starting with a tour of Pal Joey in 1952, she followed this success with such shows as Call Me Madam, On Your Toes, Bus Stop (Tony-nom as waitress Grace), The Sin of Pat Muldoon, Goldilocks, Sail Away! (Tony-nom, and also London debut); Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The King and I, The Grass Harp, Wonderful Town, Private Lives, Mame (as Vera, then Mame); Company (Tony-nom as Joanne); Small Craft Warnings, The Gingerbread Lady, Show Boat (Drama Desk Award); and A Delicate Balance (Tony-nom, Drama Desk Award). Through sheer personality alone, her cacophonous singing voice miraculously took classic songs and put her own indelibly raucous stamp on them.

    She appeared in a couple dozen of movies over the years and several television roles and made appearances on several anthology series (Kraft Theatre, Goodyear Playhouse, The Alcoa Hour, The Dupont Show of the Month) and as Ellen Burstyn’s mother on The Ellen Burstyn Show (1986).

    In 1973, Elaine married English actor John Bay and moved to London. While there, she appeared in a number of plays/musicals and played an American authoress in the British comedy series Two’s Company (1975). When she returned to America in the early 80's, she returned alone.

    At age 76, a razor-sharp Elaine captivated audiences in a candid one woman musical stage memoir that would win her the Tony, Drama Desk, Obie, Outer Circle Critics and New York Drama Critics awards. Elaine Stritch at Liberty (2002) also chronicled her notorious private life and combative nature. Add to that a fair share of Hollywood gossip all cleverly packaged up with raw wit and show-stopping patter songs and you had quintessential Elaine Stritch. Truly one of a kind, she would eventually be inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1995.

    Other memorable TV appearances included her Aunt Polly in the mini-series Pollyanna (1973); a 1984 continuing role on the daytime soap The Edge of Night (1956); the role of Ouisar in the TV movie version of Steel Magnolias (1990); and three Emmy Award-winning portrayals -- as a guest on Law & Order, for the 2004 TV documentary of her one-woman triumph, and for a recurring character on the hit sitcom 30 Rock (2006).

    A diabetic, it took stomach cancer to finally slow this woman down at the end, dying at age 89 on July 17, 2014, at her Michigan home.
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    April 2021
    Sweetheart Photo Of The Month
    Sweetheart from Seattle, Washington
    Shelley Merziotis (née DeBoer)

    Shelley knew she wanted to dance ALWAYS and at 5 years old began lessons with Debbi Halfhill of Debbi’s Dance Etc located near Seattle, Washington. They both now live in Las Vegas and teach at a Dance Studio owned by another former Sweetheart, Heather Gordon of Heather’s Dance Life.

    Shelley says, “Debbi Halfhill was my Dance Teacher, my Mentor and now my lifelong friend that gave me this career in dance.”

    And what a career it’s been!

    “I grew up loving every minute of dance classes, recitals and I LOVE DANCE. I knew then that I wanted to dance professionally. In 1991, I was selected as an I LOVE DANCE Sweetheart - and again in 1992 and 1993. We came together for two weeks to work with Miss Kim McKimmie herself and put together a fabulous show in Las Vegas following I LOVE DANCE Nationals. The Sweethearts were an incredible dance group comprised of the most talented dancers from across North America.”

    Representing Debbi’s Dance Etc, Shelley DeBoer and dance partners, Lori Albright and Heather Shanahan went on to be well-known as “Sparkle X3” performing on the popular television show, Star Search, and made it all the way to the semifinals.

    So, upon graduating from high school, she auditioned to be a performer on Norwegian Cruise Lines and started professional dance life as a cruise ship performer, seeing the world dance by her while travelling around the globe. Next stop, Las Vegas with “Mystique” where she was hired as a dancer and acrobat and landed a world tour ending in New Zealand. Back to Las Vegas, she performed once again on the Las Vegas strip, this time with the legendary “Folies Bergére” at the Tropicana Hotel. After two years with “The Folies”, she moved on to a lead dancer position with opening a new show “Imagine” at the Luxor where she danced for three years until the show closed.

    The next opportunity came when an acrobat position opened up for “Siegfried and Roy” and Shelley got the job. She was a part of that amazing show (even doing some magic with them!) for another three years. During that time, she met Tim Merziotis and they would soon marry, and have two daughters. She says , “I am currently a mom and wife. I have a great husband and two terrific girls that are 12 and 14 years old and they are always busy with cheerleading and soccer. Life keeps me busy and I love every minute of it.”

    Shelley’s long and impressive career of her dancing days are full of memories that she says she will cherish forever along with the many great friends and those “once in a lifetime” performing experiences.

    She says, “I learned so much being a Sweetheart!  Especially being able to pick up different dance styles and choreography quickly, which helped me along the way in my career. I always have flashbacks of my Sweetheart times.  As a professional dancer, and with every show, the excitement of being on stage with the makeup, costumes, lights and music always reminded me of my Sweetheart days. Living in Las Vegas, going to dinner and shows, or just walking through Caesars Palace reminds of my Sweetheart days and how much fun we had.”

    Those years of the Sweetheart program were a memorable time for Shelley as well as Kim McKimmie who says, “I am certain that every Choreographer that ever had the pleasure of working with Shelley found her to be not only a spectacular, well-trained dancer and acrobat, but a dancer with an enormous professional work ethic - a real Sweetheart!
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    April 2021
    Teacher Photo Of The Month
    Buffalo, New York
    Pictured: Kim McKimmie and Ronda Copeland
    Ovations - The Ronda Copeland School of Dance
    Ronda Copeland, Director

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    April 2021
    Celebrity Photo Of The Month
    Kim McKimmie with Li Cunxin

    Kim McKimmie has been fortunate indeed to meet Li Cunxin twice! First, in 2003 when he published his autobiography,
    Mao’s Last Dancer. The book received rave reviews worldwide and was awarded the Australian Book of The Year. The second time was when Mao’s Last Dancer was adapted into a feature film in 2009 and she attended the movie premiere in Sydney, Australia. Kim says, “What a night - and what a beautiful, beautiful movie. The movie is currently showing on Netflix and I encourage all ILD fans to watch it and to read the book!”

    His bio from his website: “Li Cunxin (pronounced “Lee Schwin Sing”) is a remarkable man borne of a remarkable story. He has published a remarkable book about his extraordinary life. In his runaway best selling autobiography,
    Mao’s Last Dancer, Li recounts his determination, perseverance, vision, courage and hard work, and in particular, the sacred family values and integrity that he learned in poverty-stricken China, which has driven him to become one of the best dancers in the world. He tells of how the sixth of seven sons born to peasants grew up worshipping Mao Zedong before defecting to the United States.

    Li was born into bitter poverty in rural Qingdao, China. Certain years the peasants in his village even ate tree barks to survive. Despite the harsh reality of life, his childhood was full of love. The love of his parents gave him hope and courage. One day, a delegation from Madame Mao’s Beijing Dance Academy arrived at Li’s commune school to find suitable children to study ballet and serve in Chairman Mao’s revolution. At first they passed Li without taking any notice, but just as they were walking out of his classroom, the class teacher hesitated, and suddenly tapped the last gentleman from Beijing on the shoulder and pointed. `What about that boy?’. And that boy was Li.

    And so began Li’s remarkable journey. He was 11 when he left home to begin a seven-year harsh training regime from 5:30am to 9pm, six days a week at the Beijing Dance Academy. Once he found his passion, he worked hard and gave his all. He would practice his turns at night by candlelight, and hopped, one-legged, up and down stairs with heavy sandbags tied to his ankles to build his leg strength at 5am in the mornings when others were still asleep.

    With incredible determination, resilience, perseverance and vision, Li graduated as one of the best dancers China has produced. He was discovered by Ben Stevenson, one of the world’s most respected teachers, choreographer and the Artistic Director of the Houston Ballet as part of the first US cultural delegation to communist China. Li became one of the first two cultural exchange students allowed under Mao’s regime, to go to America to study.

    In a dramatic defection, Li was subsequently locked up in the Chinese Consulate in Houston. This created a standoff between the Chinese and the American governments. Even George Bush senior, then US Vice President intervened. FBI agents surrounded the consulate in Houston, and negotiations between Chinese and US diplomats had begun. His defection was the headline story in America. Twenty-one hours later, Li walked out of the Chinese Consulate as a free man.

    He then danced with the Houston Ballet for sixteen years and became one of the best dancers in the world. He guest performed around the world with some of the best ballet companies and won two silver and a bronze medal at three International Ballet Competitions. While dancing in London, he fell in love with an Australian born ballerina with a major ballet company in England, Mary McKendry. They married in 1987, and in 1995 moved to Melbourne with their two children where Li became a principal dancer with the Australian Ballet.

    At age 35, Li started to plan his next career after dancing. He enrolled in accounting and financial courses. In 1997, he began his study at the Australian Securities Institute by correspondence with a view to becoming a stockbroker. For his final two years with the Australian Ballet, he rose at 5am to start ballet training, then racing to the stock exchange by 8am to work as a stockbroker until noon. By the time he joined the rest of the Australian Ballet dancers for rehearsals, he had already put in a full day’s work. Li became a successful investment adviser and senior manager at one of the biggest stockbroking firms in Australia. In 2012, Li followed his dance passion and became the fifth Artistic Director of Queensland Ballet in Australia.

    The book,
    Mao’s Last Dancer, stayed on the top 10 Bestseller List for over one and a half years and it is in the 56th printing. It has been published and sold in over 20 countries. The blockbuster film won several international prestigious awards.

    His is an unique story of determination, passion, integrity and love. His journey filled with dreams shattered and revitalized. It is an empowering tale with so many lessons.”

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Quote of the Month

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Sweetheart of the Month

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Teacher of the Month

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Celebrity of the Month

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2021 ILD Season
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2021 ILD Season Schedule
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