Julie LaMancuso: Choreographing her way into the hearts of dancers

By Lauren Kirchmyer

As a young girl, Julie LaMancuso frequently came up with dance routines in her living room and put on shows in her garage for her neighbors to watch as they sat in her driveway. “I can’t remember a time where I didn’t want to be moving and creating.”

She was enrolled in her first dance class at David DeMarie when she was three years old and continued dancing there for 15 years. As time progressed, she continued to find herself dancing around and creating movement, just as she did as a little girl, and decided to major in dance at the University of Buffalo after graduating from Williamsville East High School in 2008.

The dancer decided she wanted to give choreography a try, but second guessed everything she did. “It is so hard to put so much of yourself into your work because you are never in control of how it is received,” she explained. “It is like putting a piece of yourself, your mind, your soul out on stage.”

While working on achieving her degree, LaMancuso was simultaneously teaching recreational (non-competitive) dance classes at David DeMarie. She was asked to be a substitute teacher for a tap technique class, but the studio’s director approached her one day to see if she would be interested in teaching the senior team an extra routine during that class time instead.

The routine, “Dog Days,” competed at various competitions across the country. To her surprise, the routine she was asked to choreograph on a whim gave her the title “America’s Young Choreographer of the Year” at the American Dance Awards Nationals in Boston in 2011.

“It was the first award I had ever won for my first competition piece in my first year of teaching … which is a little crazy now that I think about it,” LaMancuso said about her victory.

In the four years that have passed since then, LaMancuso has realized that instead of second guessing herself, entrusting a little piece of herself to her dancers is one of the most rewarding things she could do.

“My favorite part about my job is creating art and being able to share it and instill the same passion I have for dance in young artists,” she said. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”

“Our girls love working with her,” said Mary Alice Dietz, who invited LaMancuso to choreograph pieces for her students at Mary Alice’s Dance Studio. “She is a fun and vibrant energy in the classroom.”

The connection LaMancuso has with her students has allowed her choreography to flourish and receive praise at numerous competitions throughout the country. Most recently, her piece “Not With Haste” from Mary Alice’s Dance Studio received a national showmanship award, placed sixth overall out of all national senior groups and was nominated for “National Senior Critic’s Choice” at the New York City Dance Alliance nationals held in New York City earlier this month.

“We were so happy that Julie’s dance was chosen to perform at the senior gala,” Dietz said. “NYCDA only selected nine routines and you had to be a top score. It’s such an honor. ’Not With Haste’ is an artistic and creative piece. The movement beautifully translates our dancers’ passion to the stage.”

That passion and beauty is exactly what LaMancuso is looking for from her students. Her ultimate goal is for her dancers to learn the competition dance experience has nothing to do with competition and awards, but everything to do with discovering who they are.

“The process of learning and creating choreography, maintaining and cleaning it while allowing it to grow, working together in collaboration with their teammates and in-house teachers to make sure each piece reaches its fullest potential … those experiences are the real prizes,” she shared.

The little dancing toddler creating movement in her living room has transformed into an accomplished choreographer doing what she has always loved to do, while passing her passion down to all of her students along the way.

“I know my career will change and evolve as long as my life does, but I am excited to see where it takes me. I just know I will never stop creating and sharing.”