Maureen Gibson: Dancer as Art
New Anderson Artists Guild member Maureen Gibson is a former professional ballet dancer and dance educator who moved to Anderson in January with her husband.
A Pennsylvania native, Maureen began ballet lessons at age seven with the Wilkes-Barre Ballet Company under Jozia Mieszkowski and Barbara Weisberger. She has many wonderful memories growing up in dance, but one performance dressed as a “yellow sunbeam” in spray painted shoes that crunched when she danced was not her vision of being a ballerina! Regardless, she loved to dance. “I liked the musicality, the ability to be someone else,” she said. “You are the art as a dancer, the canvas for the choreographer. Your responsibility is to express their vision.”
Through her high school years, Maureen attended regional ballet festivals and was accepted to spend summers training under several professional ballet schools. After graduation, she was invited to join The Joffrey Ballet in New York City where she danced for three years. “It was amazing and wonderful but also very difficult,” she remembers. “I received excellent training and performance opportunities, but one of the hardest elements in being a professional ballerina is not the training but to have great mental strength. You have to fit what they’re looking for.”
Wanting to travel to Europe, Maureen applied for and accepted a position as Ballet Mistress in Helsinki, Finland. Later she settled in Clearwater, Florida—she missed her family, and 20 degrees below zero was too cold!
A dance educator in Clearwater since 1986, Maureen and her husband Scott founded STEPS School of Dance and began a journey toward excellence and education. Maureen was “Repetiteur” for the children’s roles of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker for Miami City Ballet from 1990-2008, an honor given only to the most elite dance teachers.
In April of 2002, Maureen received the National Foundation for the Advancement in the Arts Award, recognizing her encouragement and support of students for exceptional artistic achievement. Selected from over 6,000 applicants, she was noted for having her students place in the top nine percent of the nation. As a winner, Maureen was also nominated for the NFAA's Coca-Cola Corporation's Distinguished Teacher in the Arts Award. She has also had the distinguished honor of sitting on the Judge's Panel for the Walker's Rising Star Scholarship Competition since 2003 and added the Dare to Dream Scholarship 2012 from the Hoffman Institute at Ruth Eckerd Hall to her Judging Panel resume.
Over the course of 30 years STEPS became one of Pinellas County’s most established and well-respected dance institutions. Under the directorship of Maureen, many STEPS students went on to professional careers in the dance industry. STEPS is now owned and operated by Lauren Ben Yaaqov, an alumna of STEPS, and continues to provide dance education in Florida.
After 30 years, Gibson and her husband bought a motor home and traveled out West, enjoying the freedom from running a business. After returning home, they sold everything and took to the road again, this time looking around the Deep South for a place to settle. While staying at an RV park in Anderson, they ventured downtown. “We went into restaurants and bars, and everyone was so nice,” she said. “The place had everything we needed. We bought a house and now Anderson is our home!”