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Homage to Mario Melodia 

June 11, 1930 - Sept. 28, 2008 

Linda Belans, Ed.D.

(That's me in pink tights at his right shoulder.)

Mario was a larger than life character who intuitively found just the right balance between a riotous sense of humor, keen wit, and no nonsense perfection.


He taught me humility and confidence as I struggled hard in class to perfect the arabesque and triple pirouette. He taught me how to rise to any challenge through the demands of performance. Mario always told the truth because he thought it was ethical and kind to tell students when they weren’t rising to their level of excellence. He fostered our self-esteem, not by telling us that everything we did was wonderful, but by setting expectations extremely high, then pushing us to attain them. 


And we did.

I learned respect and guided practice from him. When a student couldn’t master a dance step, he would say, “You’re smart. You’ll get it.” Then he would come up beside the struggling girl, take her hand, and with vigor, patiently teach the step until she got it. It was understood that while he was engaged with one student, the rest of us were expected to perfect our own work.


And we did.


Then, he would watch us fly across the long diagonal to make sure we learned the sequence. He would say, “Good! I knew you would try your best to get it.”

He encouraged our individuality and voice. When it was time to perform he would say, “I don't care if you make a mistake; make it big and with conviction. Make it your own!” 


And we did.


We climbed 3 flights of stairs to learn to dance, and in the process, discovered who we were, and who we could become.

Author, States of Being: Leadership Coaching for Equitable Schools

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