TOLBERT YILMAZ SCHOOL OF DANCE
by Tara Gary
For decades now Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance has been an attributing factor to the arts and culture of the charming city of Roswell. If you have attended the Roswell Arts Festival, local festivals, and community events you have most likely seen a performance by the schools gracefully talented dancers. Attendees of the Roswell Youth Day Parade are sure to remember the tumblers tumbling and waving down the street announcing the schools whimsical float adorned with classic theatrical characters interacting as they throw candy to the eager crowd. The float has been a high lite and award winner of the parade for over 40 years now. A treat and annual holiday tradition for the community’s residents for over 30 years is TYSOD’s professional production of The Nutcracker, performed annually at the Byers Theater at City Springs. I remember taking my daughter to see the performance. She was enamored with the magical transition of each scene. The costumes, design set, music, choreography and dancers kept us both mesmerized. It was truly an experience to cherish.
Co-founded in 1979 by Nancy Tolbert Yilmaz and Mary Lynn Taylor, the original dance studio was located on Canton Street. Nancy remembers tag teaming the phones with Mary, while rotating the instructing of classes. In 1982 Nancy and her husband Tolbert Yilmaz opened the Dance Fashions Superstore on Canton Street in Roswell. In 1985 Dance Fashions SuperStore moved to the current location on Alpharetta Highway, just south of Holcomb Bridge Road. You can’t miss the huge blue sign above the entrance. The store is indeed a “Superstore” full of dance, cheer, and gymnastics wear, leotards, costumes, and dance shoes. In 1985 the Roswell Dance Theatre, a 501c3 nonprofit was founded by Nancy and Mary. The dance studio moved from Canton Street to a spot nestled behind the Dance Fashion retail store. It was there for decades until the space was no longer large enough to accommodate the needs of the ever-expanding student population. With such success I asked Nancy what inspires her most,
“The students who love love love what they are doing. I have been given the opportunity to watch them grow from a three year old baby ballerina to a young adult who has made her dreams come true. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to do a job that I absolutely love with some of the most gifted, hard working people there is”. “My greatest joy is to see the accomplishments of my students. We have dancers who are performing and working all over the world.
It is no wonder the dance school has leapt forward from its once humble beginnings of a few students in a small house on Canton Street to a brand-new spectacular state-of-the-art 24,000 square foot facility.
The new dance theater is located at the corner of Houze Road and Houze Way. 1000+ students, 29 faculty, 2 musicians, 10 staff members as well as the Roswell Dance Theatre, its resident performing arts company, will now enjoy the amenities of the new facility. As impressive as the dancers who are produced within its doors, the facility was mindfully created to enhance the ability for its students and faculty to reach their full potential of artistry. It includes 7 spacious custom-built studios with sprung floors, high ceilings, and state-of-the-art sound systems, a physical therapy suite, which is operated by Atlanta Dance Medicine, rooftop café with lounge seating, as well as a convenient costume shop. Studio 1, a.k.a. “the big theater” features productions with retractable seating, accommodating 202 people. However, post Covid 50 people with social distancing measurements in place. There is something for everyone with 130 classes available for Beginners starting as early as age 2 to Advanced Professionals. What more could a dancer or parent ask for? It makes me want to return to my youth and take up dancing again. With such attention to detail the facility also focuses on its top priority, the well-being and safety of each of its students. It is equipped with internal closed-circuit television, which is also a convenient way for parents to monitor their dancers. A designated carpool lane provides a safe and convenient drop off and pick up area alleviating the tension typically associated with picking up your child.
With safety being the top priority, 2020 presented itself with the need for major adjustments. After having an 8-month delay on opening the new facility, due to the heavy rain season, the studio was faced with a bigger obstacle, Covid-19. Although the school abided by the quarantine and COVID guidelines, canceling performances as well as closing their studio doors, their students were not forgotten nor was the faculty. The school kept all their staff during the quarantine without having to reduce their salaries. TYSOD provided virtual classes to their students. Focusing on continuing training, keeping the students engaged and conditioned was important to Nancy. The faculty taught more than 50 classes per week using Zoom. They even provided various videos on conditioning and uploaded past performances to keep the spirits and wellbeing of their students alive. I can only imagine the mental as well as physical outlet these classes provide to students coping through this difficult time.
As the community begins to re-open so too are the doors of the studio but this time the doors are to the state-of-the-art facility. In-studio classes have resumed and with that appropriate measures of social distancing have been taken such as marked spaces on the dance floors. Temperature checks are required before entering the building,, masks are required by everyone entering the building (all students, faculty and staff), hand sanitizer is given to each student and enter only/exit only doors have been established. If this is not enough, each studio is sanitized between each class with disinfectant. I asked Nancy her opinion about students returning to the studio,
“I think during these unprecedented times, dance and the arts are more important now than ever. Dance, if done safely, by following all of the precautions (mask, distance, temperature checks, etc.) is one of the best outlets of expression for children and adults. I’ve seen so many of our students who were so happy to be back in the studio and be able to see their friends and dance.”
I am happy the students are able to reconnect safely. I am sure they are thrilled to return to the new studio! We will hopefully be able to attend performances by these young, talented, artistic athletes very soon. Thank you to all the contributors of TYSOD. It is an honor for our community to have you.