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Our Staff

Noncompetitive Dance Lessons in Lake Hiawatha, New Jersey

MLH dance staffOur Director, Karen Hale-Assante, is an active member of the Dance Educators of America, Associated Dance Teachers of New Jersey, American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, and the New Jersey Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance. Dancing since the age of 2, she is a veteran performer and instructor with an excellent foundation and D.E.A. Certifications in all phases of dance. Most recently, Miss Karen has been serving the NJ Dance Community as the President of The Associated Dance Teachers of New Jersey.

Our Faculty is comprised of well trained teachers with extensive credentials who are interested in developing the overall talent and ability of each student. They are always available to answer any and all inquiries you might have with regard to your dance education and training.

Our Office Staff is always available to assist you with any questions or concerns. We are extraordinarily proud to have the most knowledgeable, caring and mature office staff in the area.

Meet our staff
Miss Karen - Director

MLH Assante Headshot

Hi, I’m Miss Karen…I literally grew up at Mary Lou’s; it is my home away from home. I am honored to be able to walk in my mother’s footsteps in order to carry on her hopes, dreams, and traditions here at Mary Lou’s. Of course, I couldn’t do any of it without our wonderful family of dancers, parents, staff, friends, and alumni who I get to share the Joy of Dance with every day! I am truly grateful to you all! Dance Happy!!!

A day without dance is like a day without sunshine.
Miss Judie - Hip Hop, Jazz, Tap

MLH Wrobleski Headshot

I am a dancer and teacher at Mary Lou’s, where I have been fortunate to have spent most of my life performing and working with talented and passionate people. I enjoy physical demands and moving creatively – connecting body, mind, and spirit. I apply this pedagogy when I teach my preschoolers at a Head Start program in East Orange. I have been involved in early childhood education for many years, and am a certified teacher and Montclair State University alum. I am CPR and First Aid certified, and am also a certified dance instructor and member of the Associated Dance Teachers of NJ. I believe that in order to be an efficient teacher, we need to be a student too. I have taken many classes here at this iconic studio in Lake Hiawatha, and have also participated in many classes at Broadway Dance Center in NYC. I have been trained by master teachers though ADT of NJ, Monsters of Hip Hop, Company Dance, NJ Dance Alliance, and several other professional workshops. I hope to inspire my students of all ages to do what you love, to create, to move, to DANCE.

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
Miss Dawn - Musical Theater, Jazz, Tap

MLH Afandor Headshot

I have been dancing since I was 3, and have spent more than 30 years dancing and more than 15 years teaching at Mary Lou’s. I earned my B.A. in Theatre Arts from Drew University, where I served as the President of the Drew Dance Club. I have directed, choreographed, and performed as a dancer, singer, and actress in more than 30 shows at semi-professional, community and university-based theatres throughout the state. As a dance teacher certified by the Dance Educators of America and the Associated Dance Teachers of New Jersey, I am dedicated to advancing my student’s capabilities and self-esteem through sharing my love of dance. I am also proud to have my daughter enrolled at Mary Lou Hale’s!

There is nothing in the world so sweet as a smiling face and dancing feet.
Miss Bonnie - Acrobatics

MLH Gutwein Headshot

I started learning gymnastics at age 4 at Sussex Dance and Gymnastics in Hopatcong. By age 16, I was well on my way in helping others lean the great art of gymnastics through teaching. Prior to leaving Sussex Dance and Gymnastics in 1998, I was teaching a wide range of children ages 3-16. I first learned about Mary Lou Hale’s School of Dance through my former director, Joan Kressman, who was a childhood friend of our very own Miss Mary Lou. I became part of the Mary Lou team in the fall of 1998 and recently marked my 16th year here. I am Gymnastics Safety Certified, Rutgers Safety Certified, Cheer Safety Certified as well as Certified in Coaching Artistic Gymnastic Levels 1-3. I have also obtained my Re-Certification in First Aid and CPR as well as becoming certified in Competition Gymnastics Levels 4-6.

Gymnasts Defeat Gravity.
Miss Michelle - Ballet, Tap, Acrobatics

MLH Vallee Headshot

I have been dancing at the studio since 1991 taking classes in tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical, and hip hop. I have been teaching children’s classes and working as part of the office staff since 1998. I have an AS in Early Childhood Education and also took classes in jazz, modern, and ballet at County College of Morris. I have taken many workshops through Broadway Dance Center, Associated Dance Teachers of NJ, and the Dance Teacher Magazine Conference. I have most recently received my teaching certification and membership in the Associated Dance Teachers of New Jersey. In my spare time, I can be found relaxing on the beach or playing several sports including soccer, softball, volleyball, or bowling.

You don’t stop dancing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop dancing.
Miss Bernadette - Ballet, Contemporary, Pointe, Tap

MLH McCoach Headshot

I have been teaching dance for over 30 years. I have been a member of the New Jersey Ballet Company, understudied with Joffrey Co., worked with the North Jersey Operetta Guild, and performed summer stock in such musicals as Carousel, Cole Porter’s Can Can, Carnival, Gypsy, Lil Abner, South Pacific, the Boyfriend, and more. I am also a proud member of the Associated Dance Teachers of New Jersey. But the best years have been the last fifteen as a staff member here at Mary Lou Hale’s School of Dance!

Everything’s Better With MUSIC.
Miss Jackie - Jazz, Ballet, Acrobatics

MLH Sierchio Headshot

My Mom enrolled me in ballet at the age of 5. I can remember the excitement I felt every Saturday morning when I couldn’t wait to get into my dance clothes and get to ballet class. That excitement and enthusiasm continued as I danced and competed through my childhood and teen years. Today, I experience that same excitement driving to Mary Lou Hale’s, where I have had the honor of teaching Jazz, Ballet, Contemporary, and Fitness for the last fifteen years. Additionally, I am assisting Miss Bonnie in the Wednesday Acrobatics class! A former cheerleader and tumbler myself, this placement as assistant teacher to Miss Bonnie is the perfect fit! I am a graduate of National Personal Training Institute (NPTI), where I received a diploma in personal training and nutrition, and certification in personal training, first aid and CPR. My love of dance and enthusiasm for fitness come together in teaching each class, where I try to motivate students to reap the benefit of daily physical activity, as well as understand its role in enhancing their dance training and all around well being.

If you stumble, make it part of the dance!
Miss Gretchen - Office Manager

MLH Strauch Headshot

I never took dance lessons as a child, I just knew I liked to dance at parties or weddings. I didn’t know or care if I was good, I just liked dancing. About 15 years ago my girlfriend got me interested in going to a dance class she knew about in West Orange and I went there for 3 years. My girlfriend moved, so I stopped going there. Then about 10 years ago I was interested in signing up my daughter for a class and low and behold Miss Mary Lou found out that I had danced, and right there before I knew it I was signed up for a class too. As for getting my wonderful job at Mary Lou’s, I was waiting for my daughter to get out of her class when a little girl in the class lost a tooth. She was frantic because of the blood. I stepped in and calmed her down because my mothering instinct kicked in, I can’t stand to see a child upset or hurt. So the next week Miss Mary Lou asked me if I would be interested in being an assistant in the pre-school and combination classes. I said yes and I’m so glad I did. The teaching staff here at Mary Lou’s is so wonderful! We really have a wonderful relationship as co-workers. I’ve met so many wonderful parents and children through the years too. Being a mother is what I think gives me an edge in helping to teach and it’s been fun to watch all of the students grow up. Having two adults in the class for the little ones’ first years really helps them adjust in the class as well as being apart from their mom for the first time.

You’re never too old to start dancing.
Miss Meredith - Ballet, Tap, Acrobatics

MLH Giudice Headshot

I am a graduate of Montclair State University with a degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. I have been dancing since I was three years old and danced competitively in my childhood. After dancing at another dance studio, I found a home at Mary Lou Hale’s in 1996 and have been teaching here for more than 10 years. I feel that Mary Lou’s is not just a place where you take dance lessons, it’s a place that becomes a part of you and enhances your passion for dance. I am proud to be a member of the teaching staff here at Mary Lou’s and hope to influence young dancers the way that my instructors influenced me and helped me to develop my love of dance.

Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.
Miss Deanna - Tap

MLH Sanders Headshot

I have been dancing since the age of 3 and could not imagine my life without dance in it. I graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Dance and am a current member of Associated Dance Teachers of New Jersey. I have dance, teaching, and choreography experience in many forms of dance including tap, ballet and jazz. I love dancing and I love teaching others to dance. The enjoyment in watching a student learn and master a new step makes all of the hard work worth it. I have been teaching here at Mary Lou Hale’s School of Dance for eight years. I have taught at various studios, but none of them compare to Mary Lou Hale’s. We are more than a studio…we are family. I hope that you will consider being part of our dance family!

Dance like no one is watching.
Miss Gail - Jazz, Musical Theater, Tap

MLH DiDomenico Headshot

I am the founder and former owner/director of the Gail De Santis’ Dance & Performing Arts Studios. After running a successful dancing school for over 40 years, I decided to sell my business. I am honored to be a part of the dynamic, dedicated teaching staff at Mary Lou Hale’s. I met Mary Lou in 1991 and we became instant friends. We shared the same love of dance, teaching and sharing the joy and passion for dance and performance with our students. She invited me to be a guest teacher at her school whenever I had a few extra hours. I immediately loved teaching at Mary Lou’s and felt as at home there as I did in my own school. Everyone was and still is part of a big happy family. I am a certified member of Dance Educators of America, Associated Dance Teachers of New Jersey and a past member of Dance Masters of America and the Professional Dance Teachers Association. I am the President Emeritus of Associated Dance Teachers of NJ and the faculty coordinator. I have written a book called “The Teaching of Dance – Fundamentals for the Dance Educator”. I have studied all styles of dance and continue to study in NYC and at dance teacher workshops and conventions to ensure my students of the best possible dance education. In addition to choreographing and performing in my own shows, I have choreographed and performed in many High School Musicals, Little Theater Productions and charity performances and have taught Master classes for NADAA and the Orange Bd. of Education. I love teaching dance to all ages – beginners through advanced and am overjoyed when I can make a difference in their lives by challenging them to reach for higher goals. I adore performing and sharing the joy and excitement of dance. I doubt if I will ever stop dancing and still feel as delighted as a child whenever taking class.

Life is not a dress rehearsal.
Miss Courtney - Contemporary, Acrobatics, Ballet, Tap

Miss Courtney

I began my dance training at the age of 2 here at Mary Lou Hale’s and have been dancing ever since. I have danced and competed throughout New Jersey and trained extensively at Broadway Dance Center in NYC. Through Broadway Dance Center, I had the opportunity to perform in various locations in New York with the Arts in Motion dance company. Additionally, I have performed at Alvin Ailey with Naganuma Dance Company and at various charity events in the city. I am currently a dance major at the County College of Morris, where I will receive my A.F.A in the spring. At CCM, I have performed and choreographed for the CCM Dance Theatre and received an award for my choreography. I’m so excited to share my love and knowledge of dance with all of my students!

Dance is the hidden language of the soul.