Palm Beach Post: Feature Story (2016)

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Miss Joan Miller

Local ballet troupes hold benefit to aid dance teacher with Alzheimer’s

Miss Joan Miller and Carissa Kranz
Carissa Kranz, (left), 31, a former principal dancer with the senior ballet company of the Palm Beach Ballet Center, with her former teacher and mentor Joan Miller enjoy a few minutes of exercise in Jupiter. Kranz, now a lawyer, brought Miller into her home after she fell on hard times because of Alzheimer’s. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Students of Joan Miller, once the doyenne of the Palm Beach County dance world, have an opportunity to help their destitute former ballet teacher, who has Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, Saturday at a performance to raise money for her care.

Dance schools from throughout Palm Beach County and as far away as Orlando will perform at “A Love Affair: An Evening of Dance to Honor Joan Miller.”

For more than 50 years, Miller was the self-sacrificing, demanding teacher and director of Palm Beach Ballet Center whose students danced on Broadway and in the world’s more famous dance companies.

Miss Joan Miller
For 18 years, Joan Miller taught the basics of ballet. A task, she notes, that has exercised her vocal cords more than her limbs. (C.J. Walker / The Palm Beach Post 1976)

Many of those who didn’t dance professionally say the discipline and rigor learned in Miller’s classes was essential to their career success.

In half a century of work, Miller trained thousands of students. If promising students couldn’t pay, she gave them classes for free.

Miller, who never married, never had children and who mortgaged her house to maintain her Lake Park studio, lost everything in 2013 as Alzheimer’s took her memory.

Last year, one of her former star pupils found Miller warehoused in a nursing home, wearing an ankle monitor to restrict her movement.

Carissa Kranz, a 32-year-old attorney, had received free instruction when her family couldn’t afford ballet classes. Now she’s repaying her debt to Miller.

Last year, Kranz gave Miller a home in her Jupiter condo. She arranged for day care and health aides that allow Kranz to keep her Miami/Jupiter law practice going while caring for Miller’s increasing health issues.

Kranz also makes frequent appearances as a law expert on HLN’s Nancy Grace show and occasionally on CNN.

Saturday’s program includes performers from Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, Bak Middle School and Dreyfoos Schools of the Performing Arts, Art Stage, Ballet Palm Beach, the Dancer’s Edge and The Dancer’s Space.

Kranz says Miller’s increasingly fragile health requires a hospital bed, wheelchair and a lift chair.

Saturday’s fundraiser was organized by Penni Greenly, who opened Southern Dance in Boynton Beach with Miller in 1982, before Greenly became sole owner.

“Miss Joan’s legacy is everywhere in Palm Beach County,” Greenly said last year. “Most of the dance studios and school dance programs in Palm Beach County were touched in some way by her. She was their foundation.”

Greenly expects to raise more than $5,000 from the performances, which will go to the Palm Beach Ballet Trust to pay for Miller’s care.


This article originally published on The Palm Beach Post.

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