Appreciation: ‘She Really Did Make the World a Better Place’ Students Share Wonderful Memories of Joyce Sartorelli

They are poised and confident women today with personality and warmth to match, devoted parents, good citizens in their communities and exemplary role models.

What these women share is a lifelong relationship with the amazing owner of an immensely popular Chelsea dance studio – Mrs. Joyce (DeAngelis) Sartorelli – who died on June 23 at the age of 80.

Mrs. Sartorelli taught dance at the Broadway Dance Studio for many years. But she, like all teachers dedicated to their profession, soared beyond that vital role. For Joyce was a mentor, a friend, a supporter, an inspiration to all who walked through her doors each week.

Six of Joyce Sartorelli’s former students – Stacey Kowalski Gurska, Bridget Fitzpatrick Mendez, Ana Rodriguez Lanzilli, Marisol Rordiguez Cabrera, Kelly Atkins Trickett, and Sara Donarumo – gathered last week to reflect on their years of dance training at the studio and the important messages about self-confidence, commitment, dedication, and teamwork that Joyce instilled in them and that they have carried forth in their own lives.

Their memories were warm and genuine, recalling all the good times they had at Broadway Dance Studio: the recitals, the modeling and scholarship pageants, the rehearsals, the First Night Out appearances at Washington Park, the shows at the Topsfield Fair and at malls and citywide events, the trips to Disney World, the dance exhibitions at the Jack Satter House and the nursing homes that brought joy and smiles to so many seniors so often.

Starting their Careers in Dance

“I started dancing for her when I was eight years old and I taught dance with her all through high school and in college,” recalled Stacey Gurska, wife of well-known Chelsea Fire Capt. Michael Gurska.

Sara Donarumo and Kelly Trickett were students for their entire dancing careers together at Broadway Dance Studio from 1992 to 2000. Bridget Mendez started dance at the age of five in 1991 and continued through 2000, beginning her lessons – like the others – at Joyce’s studio in Cary Square before the move to Sagamore Avenue.

Marisol and Ana Rodriguez are sisters, arriving at Broadway Dance Studio after beginning in dance at the Antoinette “Toni” Barry Dance Studio in Revere.

“Toni and Joyce, way back in the day, knew each other from dancing tap and when Toni announced her retirement, Toni actually suggested for us to go to Joyce’s studio and my sister and I saw their Poodle skirt routine and that’s how we came to Joyce’s studio,” said Marisol.

Like Stacey, Marisol and Ana Rodriguez went on to teach at Broadway Dance Studio while they were students in college.

The key Ingredients to Joyce’s Greatness

What made Joyce Sartorelli such a phenomenal dance teacher?

“I feel she instilled morals and values in us that went beyond the dance studio,” said Kelly Trickett. “She really taught us respect, to respect people who are older than us, but more than that, she taught us to respect everybody that we met – she was big on seniority.”

Stacey Gurska said Joyce Sartorelli taught her “loyalty, leadership skills, confidence, to be involved in community service.”

“She taught us how to be ladies,” said Sara Donarumo. “She really taught how to act not just in the studio but out in public.”

“I think as much as she taught us to do all that – I think when we were all in our most difficult stages which is the high school stages when you are being rebellious – Joyce never gave up on us,” said Ana Lanzilli. “It was difficult, maybe, to understand what your parents were trying to say to you, but Joyce had a way of being able to guide us in a way that showed us how to go through these times we were going through, but at the same time to see the light at the end of the tunnel and guide us in way that we knew she was there for us. Being a teenager, sometimes you don’t make the right choices, but even though you weren’t making the right choices, Joyce was there for you.”

Respect Yourself and Respect Other People

Marisol Cabrera said, “There was no other person that could make you feel so special like Joyce could. But it wasn’t just about being special, you would walk in the studio and Joyce would have an environment for you that made you feel so good about yourself  – she wanted everyone to be respectful of themselves, first and foremost. I remember her saying that, ‘if you can’t respect yourself, you can’t respect other people.’ She’d make it a point that we’re all here representing the studio, representing yourselves, you have your parents – she wanted to make sure that all of us knew that. But at the end of the day, we were all a Broadway Studio family and she would say that, that’s what we’re here at the studio to be: a family. You were a part of something.”

 Bridget Mendez said that Joyce Sartorelli had a way of making you work hard “and she taught you how to earn it.”

“You didn’t just get to wear a frilly skirt during class, everybody had a black leotard, the tights, and the appropriate shoes for class,” said Bridget. “When you got to be an assistant, you got to wear shorts. It’s just those simple little things, it was a life-skill that ‘nothing was going to be handed to you’ – you had to put in your work and earn it. And it was something that set me up for life, something as simple as that. You worked for something and you earned it.”

Ana recalled that Joyce could be “extremely tough, extremely fair, but you felt completely loved all the time.”

Marisol said though she and her sister participated in different styles of dance and had different levels of ability – “The reality is that Ana was a heckuva better dancer than I ever was.”

“Make sure you put that in the story,” interrupted Ana graciously. “It took Marisol 46 years to say that.”

“But Joyce always made it a point to find what you did well,” continued Marisol.

A Relationship for a Lifetime

“And as we got older, started out own lives, and became parents – to the day Joyce Sartorelli passed on, we maintained such a close relationship with her and a bond with her,” said Ana Lanzilli.

Bridget said Joyce’s meticulousness to detail was notable – “whether it was a Christmas gathering, a tea party, a reunion, – no matter what we did, Joyce played bingo. And there would always be prizes to be won and it was organized, and it was fun – Joyce had a way of putting so much effort into everything that she did.”

 Despite the difference in ages among the six ladies, they all struck a common theme: we were all a family then and we are still a family now and Joyce Sartorelli made a positive impact in our lives.

“I think Joyce helped shape us into the women that we’ve become,” said Sara.

“Joyce was a mentor,” said Marisol. “You respected her. Taking me from as a kid into my teenage years, into college, in to getting married, into being

a mother – think of all those different phases of my life, and think of the relationship that I had with Joyce and what you’d share – I could talk to her and I always still had the level of respect for her. I admired her. When I was a kid, I looked at her almost as a super being, she held this recital and how did she get these 200 girls to unite and excel together?

“And then as a mother and a wife, in a different relationship, I realized that Joyce Sartorelli was still my mentor,” said Marisol reverentially. “And the way she would talk to you in that very confident, deep voice.”

Bridget said her mother and other parents learned valuable perspectives from Joyce as well. “When I told my mother that Joyce had died, she said that she learned a lot from Joyce, and she’s not the same person that she is, prior to meeting Joyce. So Joyce also affected beyond just her students. It was teachers, parents, grandparents or anybody that had any sort of relationship to a dancer – she also greatly impacted those people, too.”

‘Like Performing in a Broadway Show’

“Joyce empowered everyone,” said Stacey Gurska. “She believed in all of us. And she ran her recitals like a Broadway show. Everyone had to wear white gloves for the last number. It was a major New York production.” Marisol remembered Broadway Dance Studio’s modeling shows at a packed Wonderland Ballroom, “and Joyce would introduce you and you just felt so amazing on the stage, being a part of such a spectacular event and to have your own moment individually.” Later in her career, Joyce would join with other dance teachers and hold workshops, instructing  classes about public speaking, etiquette and protocol in social situations. Everyone in the group agreed that Kelly Atkins Trickett’s remarks were incredibly touching and heartfelt when she offered this beautiful, parting tribute to Joyce Sartorelli: Said Kelly: “I’m sure there a lot of songs that make us all think of Joyce, but for our first dance recital the closing song was, ‘Make The World A Better Place’ – and I listen to it over and over again so I knew every single word, and I will always think of Joyce when I hear that, because Joyce really did make the world a better place.”

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