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Burbank Leader
Garri tradition keeps on its feet

Twenty-year student Megan Baade given studio's reins from founder's daughter, Marybeth Costanzo.

By Joyce Rudolph

MAGNOLIA PARK — Megan Baade has large tap shoes to fill as she succeeds Marybeth Costanzo as owner of Garri Dance Studio.

Baade started ballet and tap classes at Garri when she was 2, and now the 22-year-old is picking up the baton from Costanzo and carrying on the tradition Costanzo's mother, Peg E. Bell, began in Burbank in 1958.

"I want to create a noncompetitive, nurturing environment where all my students can feel comfortable, and they can express themselves creatively and artistically," Baade said, adding that those were the values instilled by the founder.

From age 7 to 18, Baade took private classes with Joanne Parada, who continues to teach at Garri. While at John Muir Middle School, Baade was on the dance team and later enrolled in the dance production class at Burbank High School.

"As soon as I got out of high school, I stopped by Garri to say hello, and Marybeth said she was looking for a jazz teacher," Baade said. "Peggy passed away when I started teaching there."

Baade's responsibility increased, and she became the studio manager. During the holidays in 2002, she took a break and joined the "Here's to America" show, touring Eastern Europe — Bosnia, Kosovo and Germany, "to boost the morale of our U.S. troops," she said.

"I was inspired to do this by Miss Peggy, who had performed for troops with the USO shows," Baade said.

When Baade returned, she and Costanzo discussed her taking over the studio when Costanzo retired. Baade purchased the studio in January, and Marybeth and her husband, Carl Costanzo, have moved to Arroyo Grande, near Pismo Beach.

Carl Costanzo is a 30-year veteran of the Burbank Police Department.

The couple are enjoying retirement, but miss the people left behind in Burbank, Marybeth Costanzo said.

"I must know about three generations of Burbank residents," Marybeth Costanzo said. "I miss the people at the dance studio. Thank goodness for e-mail. I keep in contact with people that way."

Costanzo said she believes her family's studio has been left in good hands.

"I'm very proud of Megan carrying on the tradition originally started by my mother," she said. "I think she'll do a great job, but she has big tap shoes to fill."

Baade has already made some physical changes to the studio, painting the inside and hanging modern signs outside the building. She's created a new class schedule, brought in "very energetic" teachers and hired office staff.

The studio offers ballet, jazz, hip-hop, tap, Pilates, creative movement, salsa, swing, belly dancing, and exercise classes for moms. Baade has placed a heavier emphasis on entertaining community groups. Dancers have already appeared at the Belmont Village assisted living center and St. Francis Xavier Church's Olde Time Country Fair.

Prospective students are invited to open houses at the studio from noon to 2 p.m. Sundays in September.

"I want to stick to the traditions Garri has started, provide community entertainment for seniors and the Burbank community and really help these kids to learn to appreciate the other people in their community," Baade said.

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